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franciscan - September 1999

© The Society of Saint Francis, 1999

Community Routes


Franciscans were involved in a very worthwhile collaboration in mission in a parish recently. After a year or so of shared planning, Desmond Alban, Beverley and David Furniss TSSF first led a preparation weekend for the Mission, in the parish of S John’s South Bank, Middlesbrough. The Mission Week itself, in April, was then led by Revd Stephen Cottrell of Springboard, the Archbishops’ initiative for evangelism. The team he led included the three Franciscans, local people and visiting team members, several of whom had first been part of a Home Team for a mission in their own parish. The collaboration was a very positive experience that made an impact on the life of both the church itself and the Urban Priority Area in which it is set. The Franciscans will return in October for a weekend to encourage further the ongoing growth and mission of that church, with Father Stephen and Desmond Alban visiting at other times too. There was much to learn from how other evangelists approach this vital work, but most encouraging of all was seeing people welcome the gospel and respond to it’s message. Alnmouth Friary itself also played it’s part, as a venue for early planning, reflection and team building.

Franciscan First?

The church claiming to be the oldest Franciscan church in this country (which would make it older than Greyfriars in Canterbury) is in Lincoln. Paschal recently presided at the eucharist there, possibly the first Franciscan to do so since the Reformation, with Harry, local TSSF and Roman Catholics also involved in the event.

Francis, lost and found

Sister Helen Julian writes:

 ‘I’ve always said hello to him as I come across the road,’ said one sister, ‘I’m really going to miss him.’ The statue of Francis with arms outstretched had stood at the foot of the convent steps at Compton since we moved from Dalston, where he was in the cloister garden. In November last year he disappeared, presumed stolen. We reported his loss to the police, and told all our local visitors and guests, hoping that someone might spot him. But as the months went on, we began to accept that he was gone for good.

Then, in April, one of our regular celebrants rang up. ‘Have you lost a statue of Francis?’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Well, I think I’ve found him.’ Two days later he turned up, opened the boot of his car, and put Francis back in his usual place. He had been damaged during his time away, losing his hands, and had been found just in time, in a trailer on his way to the tip. Now we hope to be able to afford to have him restored, so that he can once again greet sisters, and visitors to the house.

Crossing Offa’s Dyke

Nathanael has moved to Alnmouth after twenty-seven years of ministry in Wales. Now 70, he reflects on a quarter of a century of SSF’s presence ‘the other side of Offa’s Dyke’.

When, at the request of the SSF Chapter, I moved from Alnmouth to begin new work for the Society, I didn’t think that I would be in the Principality of Wales for such a long period of time. I was following in the footsteps of earlier SSF brethren, who ran hostels in Wales in the 1930’s at Brecon and Blaenau Ffestiniog. The SSF house in Llanrhôs – namely Ty’r Brodyr – enabled SSF to serve the Church in Wales for eleven years. Even after its closure in 1983, I was asked by the SSF Chapter to stay on in Wales, find somewhere to live, and continue our ministry. The Bishops invited me to move to Swansea and I remained there for four years. So, in order to be attached to a community house, I then moved to Glasshampton. For the next seven years, I crossed and recrossed Offa’s Dyke to continue work in the Principality. As I had been ordained in the Church in Wales and served a curacy, I then felt it right to offer my last few years of ministry as a parish priest. So in 1995 I moved into the Rectoral Benefice of Dolgellau where, for the past three years and eight months, I have served as an assistant Priest.

It has been a rewarding experience in many ways, and a privilege and pleasure to be a Franciscan presence in Wales, where the Third Order continues to grow.

One hopes and prays that one day, and in God’s good time, a First Order presence will once again serve the Church in Wales from the Welsh side of Offa’s Dyke.

A New Creation

The life-professed brothers of the European Province met again for the two days of their annual General Chapter at Hilfield Friary early in June. Along with some community business and the presentation and discussion of reports, the brethren enjoyed the company of Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop Protector, who also led a Bible Study on A New Creation, the theme of the Chapter.
Another highlight of the Chapter was the 1999 Franciscan Lecture, given this year by Bishop Rowan Williams. In his challenging talk on the subject of Poverty, the Bishop first described the practice of a lyric or romantic poverty in which one may renounce secular means for meeting one’s needs, while yet ‘expecting God to provide’ and adequately meet these same needs. He then contrasted this ‘dramatic or heroic poverty’ - a ‘performance of the ego’ - with a poverty in which one was essentially powerless, unable to ‘make things right’. Rather, one was ‘living beyond the dramatic’ in a truthful awareness of the ‘ordinariness of life’, and acting ‘aptly’ from within this honest ‘attunement’ to the real world.

Philippe Yates OFM was also a guest: he is vice-principal of the Franciscan Study Centre at Canterbury.

On the final day, the feast of Corpus Christi, Angelo presided at the eucharist, as it was the thirtieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

Be praised, my Lord ...

Brother Matthew writes:
When the Recreation Room at Hilfield Friary was recently renovated, our friends John and Kirsten Glazebrook suggested that a weaving be installed, not one ‘off-the-peg’ but one that was designed in consultation with the community and worked on together at the Friary.

The result now hangs there in four parts: its inspiration is Francis’ Canticle of the Creatures. Reds, yellows and oranges predominate, giving a primæval sense of creation. Brother Sun is depicted on the first – life-giving energy. The last depicts lightning – power, strength and energy. From first to last, God is the same – the source of all being! The second weaving is of fish and flowing rivers. On the third weaving is Sister Moon. Running through all four are three stripes of blue and grey: layers of rock, the beginning of all life, the holy Three.

Those who worked the tapestries felt that they had an experience of art as meditation, art as prayer. Thanks be to God!

Birmingham SSF Update

Two years ago, SSF brothers moved from Gillott Road to pioneer a new ministry on an outer estate of Birmingham. There they occupied two flats. On the Tuesday in Holy Week the brothers moved out of St Damian’s House to a flat above St Clare’s House. This means they now have adjacent front doors and are on one site, instead of two flats on different parts of the Ley Hill Estate.
The new flat, with its new chapel, used for the first time at the Easter Vigil, was blessed and dedicated by Brother Damian on Thursday 15th April. The brothers were delighted that so many people came and joined in the celebrations, which included a barbecue. Over fifty people came for all or part of the time.

The brothers continue to work closely with the Barnardo’s Project on the estate, and help out with various youth clubs on Sundays and Mondays. Alan Michael is a governor at one of the local schools and does some work at the local secondary school with youngsters with behavioural problems. He liaises with professional bodies who work in the area and is very active in supporting local families, most recently in connection with a murder on the estate. He is also involved in the setting up of a Summer Youth Project.

Three novices have now completed their year’s urban training: Christopher was attached to St Michael’s, Bartley Green and also part of the Chaplaincy team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, gaining experience in a number of different departments. Oswin Paul gave classroom support at Bellfield Infant & Junior Schools and had a Parish attachment at St Gabriel’s, Weoley Castle. Martin Philip was a part-time Chaplain at Birmingham Prison and gave classroom support at Ley Hill Primary School, which is on the estate.
The brothers are grateful to local clergy who come and preside at the daily Eucharist, and also to parishioners, neighbours and friends who give generous support.

Community of Communities

Brother Martin writes:

This hitherto annual event has now come to an end. It first came into being after the celebrations at Lincoln in 1983 which commemorated the ninth centenary of the birth of Gilbert of Sempringham, a Lincolnshire saint. He had been the only Englishman to found a new religious order in the middle ages.

At the time of this centenary, Oliver Fiennes was Dean of Lincoln. He and Brother Kenneth CGA worked out a plan enabling members of different religious orders (Anglican and Roman Catholic) to live together as a community during the summer months, sharing a common life and serving the Cathedral, both liturgically and pastorally.

The project continued year by year. Many sisters and brothers (including several from CSF and SSF) participated. However, the Cathedral Chapter has decided with regret that its resources must be employed in other ways and the Community of Communities now no longer exists.

Round Up

Christine James made her profession in life vows on 8 July at Compton Durville ... Nicholas Alan made his profession in first vows on 24 April at Glasshampton ... Sue made her profession in first vows on 10 April and Rowan Clare on 24 July, both at Compton Durville.

Philip Bartholomew was ordained priest at Hilfield on 26 June by the Bishop of Salisbury.

In October, it is anticipated that five men will begin testing their vocation to the First Order, at Glasshampton.

Francis has returned to Australia after a year in the UK ... Jason Robert has returned to the US Province, where he will become Novice Guardian, after a fruitful year living in the Edinburgh house ... Nan has returned to the house at Brixton, and begun work at a local nursery school.

The following anticipate moving in September: Augustine Thomas and David Alban to Birmingham ... Carol to
Brixton ... Christopher to Hilfield ... David Francis to Glasshampton ... Desmond Alban to Birmingham ... John Francis to Plaistow ... Jonathan to Gladstone Park ... Judith Ann to Newcastle-under-Lyme ... Martin Philip to Stepney ... Moyra to Birmingham ... Oswin Paul to Alnmouth ... Nathanael moves to Alnmouth in October ... James Edward moves to Hilfield in November.

Helen Julian has been appointed Sister-in-Charge at Compton Durville until Pentecost 2000.

Hugo, Philip, Nolan Tobias and Peter Douglas are on leave of absence ... Robert has withdrawn from the noviciate ... Pat has been secularised and released from membership of the First Order. f


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