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franciscan - May 2004

© The Society of Saint Francis, 2004

Community Routes

 

Solomon Islands comment

 

Further to the mention in the January 2004  edition of franciscan, of the troubled situation in the Solomon Islands, the peace-keeping role of the religious orders there and the martyrdom of six Melansesian Brothers last year, a Solomoni, Brother Gabriel Maelasi, writes:-

 

As spiritual leaders, it is the task of us brothers to bring the mission of love, forgiveness, justice and reconciliation into the hearts of those in conflict in our nation of Solomon Islands.  It is our mission to preach Christ's example and to bring peace to our ethnic groups, victims of their differences.  We pray that God will reach out and bind together the conflict-hearted so that they may realise the Love, Peace and Forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

 

It is our task as Franciscan Brothers and Christians to play an active role in bringing about a better quality of life and to heal the broken conflict regions of the Solomon Islands.  This is our call in Christ.  This is our goal and mission.

 

Praying for Peace in Northern Ireland

 

David Jardine writes from Belfast:

 

It is now almost ten years since the ceasefires were called in Northern Ireland in the autumn of 1994.  Thankfully our country is a very different place today in many respects.  We do not wake up in the morning and hear on the radio about another murder or bomb explosion the night before.  Violence is not what it used to be during those dark times, and surely faithful prayer down through the years, both inside and outside the country, has helped bring us to a much improved situation.

 

Our latest prayer venture is a Prayer Shield for the City of Belfast.  Since 1st January, 2003 there has been 12 hours of prayer every day for the city, carried on by people from all churches and traditions.

 

This is very important.  We realise in Northern Ireland that our Christian witness and prayer are weakened by division.  But when Christians come together in a spirit of unity then our witness and prayer are strengthened.  I believe that this Prayer Shield has made a big impact already: for months in 2003 we were waking up every morning to hear about trouble in certain areas of the city the night before.  Since shortly after the Prayer Shield started we have not heard any of those places mentioned.  Last summer in Northern Ireland was one of the quietest for years.  In addition, the media were telling us that if the Assembly were suspended there would be serious trouble.  The vacuum would be filled by paramilitaries.  None of that has materialised.

 

Archbishop Eames requested that the Prayer Shield be extended to the whole of Northern Ireland, and since 1st January this year that prayer has been in place.

 

It has been a very popular venture in all the churches, mainly because people have the freedom to pray at home.  Much healing still requires to be done in Northern Ireland.  That will take time, and the healing that comes through prayer will be an important factor as we welcome God into every area of the life of this community.

 

Dundee Debut

 

Moyra writes of the new life of Amos, Stuart and herself:

 

We're here at last!  All our good-byes in Barrowfield were said at the end of June, and we eventually got to Dundee on 1st December 2003.  What took us so  long?  Well, little matters of an unsafe chimney, floorboards needing replacing owing to woodworm infestations …  and not knowing about most of that until we were looking at the flats in November prior to accepting them and collecting the keys so we could move in as soon as we possibly could.

 

We have been made very welcome here, especially by the churches, St Ninian's, the little white church across the road from number 16, and St John's in Stobswell, (the 2 churches share their clergy, though it's not formally a team) as well by numerous other people and organisations.  Stuart has also been settling in to St Margaret's, Lochee, across the city where he will be doing a placement for his time here.

 

The two flats were formally blessed by the Bishop of Brechin, Neville Chamberlain, on 6 January, 2004.  We were formally welcomed at a Eucharist on Sunday 25 January, at St Ninian's, by the two churches here, and by those who could make it on a cold, dark January evening from Glasgow, and other local churches and organisations. The Bishop of Brechin presided at the Eucharist, and Damian came and preached.  A good Burns Night supper was enjoyed by all afterwards.

 

Now that the bulk of the decorating has been finished,  the flats look like 'home', and it feels like we know our way around a bit better, we're all looking forward to whatever local commitments and involvements may come our way.

 

Engaging with the Scriptures

 

Hilary writes about an SSF conference held in January:

 

About 24 brothers and sisters met at Campion House, near Heathrow, in January to 'Engage with the Scriptures'.

 

George Guiver CR started our thinking by looking at the importance of Scripture in the early church, quoting Augustine - that the exposition of the Bible and Sacrament are 'audible sacrament and visible word'; and Origen, 'We make two communions at the eucharist - of the Word of God and of the Body and Blood of Christ'.  Later he looked at the Bible, especially the psalms, in the context of the Religious Life, and challenged us to look at how SSF places its members in relation to Scripture.

 

David Ford shared his thinking on the Wisdom tradition as he was beginning work on his new book during his sabbatical.  He offered six maxims he had drawn up for the interpretation of Scripture.  All were themselves full of wisdom, but perhaps the first best sums up what our few days were about: 'Because Scripture is above all to do with God, prayer and worship is the primary context for reading, learning and inhabiting it.'  As daughters and sons, learning to love God, to hallow God's name; studying for God's sake.

 

Nicholas Alan brought us back to our Franciscan roots, and Francis' ambivalence about learning, but his devotion to the Scriptures and his use of them as he grew in his vocation.  He spoke of the different ways  Scripture could be drawn into prayer, and gave us a list of verses for recollection at different points of the day - from everyday chores to turning on the computer and sending and receiving emails!

 

 We didn't just listen.  All three speakers gave us time for discussion and working in groups.  We left feeling we had been well fed in every sense of the word.

 

Hilfield Changes

 

There have been a great many changes at Hilfield since last June, including some which have meant the ending of certain work and ministries.

 

One significant change was the decision to end the work with wayfarers.  This decision was not made lightly but after much heart searching and great consideration.  Over the past four or five years we have found that "wayfarers", their needs and expectations have changed in ways that are vastly different from our original  intention.  There are those who arrive in cars, others who have rooms in towns, or who are in care or under mental health supervision; we are rarely visited these days by an old time genuine wayfarer.  The men seem to prefer the freedom of the towns where they can spend the night in shelters or in the covered market or even a church porch and have all they want by way of drink and drugs.  It's not all doom and gloom and we have been able to help many homeless people and continue to support those vulnerable and needy people who turn to us for help.

 

We are exploring new ministries that can make good use of this wonderful, peaceful and sacred space.  We are working closely with our diocese in providing space for clergy training days, respite care for stressed clergy and sanctuary for the battered and bruised carers and ministers.  We hope to offer this ministry to the wider Church and Caring Professions.  We also hope to welcome any who wish to come for a period of reflection, study or sabbatical.  And to enable all this, Juniper House has been refurbished in order to provide comfortable and relaxing accommodation.  We are still caring for a small number of residents and many come for short breaks.  Angela and Peter Welton are our resident Guest Wardens; they with the brothers will be looking after and providing support to all who visit us for whatever reason.          

 

Occupation Olive Harvest

 

For a month last October/November Joyce volunteered as a peace activist with the International Women's Peace Service (IWPS), living in a Muslim village in the West Bank.  Funded mainly by USPG's Expanding Horizons programme, her aim was to obtain first-hand experience of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

Part of the work of IWPS each year is to accompany Palestinians as they harvest their olives, since harassment by Israeli settler security if their land happens to be near an illegal settlement is likely.  There were occasions during her time when such aggravation might have occurred but fortunately the international presence prevented any further action; other activists were not always so lucky.  Harvesting olives was a family activity, requiring a certain amount of physical robustness for walking distances over rough and hilly terrains.  The donkey often carried the children as well as the laden sacks of olives back to the village.  There was opportunity for talking and for sharing food and thus glimpsing 'life under occupation'.  Transport is difficult with roadblocks and checkpoints though IWPS opts to travel the 'Palestinian way'.  The poverty of the Palestinian villages contrasted strikingly with the Israeli settlements.

 

Joyce saw the devastating and humiliating effects of a closed checkpoint:  students and teachers unable to get to classes; the sick denied medical treatment; young men whose ID cards were confiscated for minor things; ambulances refused access by bored Israeli soldiers.  She was impressed by the number of Israeli activists who collaborated with international groups in tirelessly working for justice for both Palestinians and Israelis.

 

These restrictions are compounded by the building of the 'apartheid wall' by Israel, supposedly for security reasons, but in effect another land grab and consequent imprisonment for the Palestinians.  She met two families whose houses are directly affected by being alongside the wall.  With the help of activists they are standing firm and defying their house demolition orders.

 

The situation is complex, culturally, religiously and politically but it seems clear that the present spiral of violence will never lead to peace.  Thankfully, Joyce returned safely; she now has a strong desire to share the story and hopes and prays for a miracle: that the occupation will end and the wall will come down.

 

RIP

 

Michael died in Cambridge on 5 December 2003.  He was in his 86th year of age and in the 59th year of his profession in vows. His Obituary can be read here.

 

Francis died in Australia on 23 December 2003, less than a month before his 100th birthday and in the 66th year of his profession.  After funerals in Cambridge and Stroud, New South Wales, respectively, their ashes were interred in the cemetery at Hilfield after a thanksgiving Eucharist on 24 January 2004. His Obituary can be read here.

 

We give thanks to God for our Brothers and pray that they may rest in peace and rise in glory.

 

Round up

 

As mentioned above, Amos, Moyra and Stuart have now moved to Dundee. 

At the  Brothers’ Candlemas Provincial Chapter, Amos was elected as the first Guardian of this new house, and the Guardians  of the other  friaries were all re-elected for a further term. 

Kevin and Nicholas Alan have both been recommended for training for ordination. Kevin has begun his studies and Nicholas Alan begins in September 2004.

Jennifer arrived from her home country of Malaysia on 1 February, to continue her novitiate in this Province, having  begun her life with CSF in San Francisco.  She is living at Compton Durville. 

Hugh has returned from Papua New Guinea and is living at Plaistow.  Alistair has been granted leave of absence.  f

 

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