Life Streaming

This article was written this month by Canon Kelly and will appear in the new edition of Catholic People. It recounts life in our Parish over the past few months.

Committee meetings! The burden of the parish priest, but his cover also. Like a roof. 

Last autumn rooves and committees combined: leaks in the church meant happy hours with the Finance and Building Committee trying to get a view of the great air-craft hanger of the church roof to the side where the ground falls away. Even with a ladder, we could hardly see over the low pitch, and climbing on to it would only break more of the large 60 year old concrete tiles – not that health and safety would allow it. Should we get a cherry-picker? – wouldn’t extend far enough; a drone maybe? A Consultant would want proper scaffold access. Thank goodness Christmas came to distract us. And then that terrible weather, endless rain, and the winds. 

On Sunday 9th February, not long after the Church has been full of families celebrating in a ‘School Mass’, the wind blew two large holes in the roof: concrete tiles scattered over the roof and roadway, and the felting billowing out like a sail. 

The next morning I rang the Diocesan Finance office, the Diocesan insurers who told me to get the hole covered, and Len, who had been up a few weeks before to replace some lead ‘investigated’ by naughty boys rescuing a football from the flat roof. Then I blocked off the roadway round the church. 

On Tuesday Len’s roofers came, but soon came off the roof saying the wind was too dangerous, and the damage too extensive to do anything temporary, especially with continuing gusts and another storm due at the end of the week. They took photos to show the insurers, and a scaffolder came to measure up. In the church I removed the keyboard, electrical equipment, and benches from beneath the hole, and cordoned off that side of the church. 

On Wednesday the loss-adjuster came, a pleasant local man. He told us, vaguely, to get on with it. 

On Thursday skips appeared, scaffold was thrown up round that side of the church, and before the scaffolders finished on Friday, the roofers were up clearing the debris, throwing broken tiles into a skip like kids skimming stones, and beginning to replace the felting. 

On the weekend we celebrated Mass with traffic jams as half the carpark was cut off, water streaming down one wall and the carpets soaked, the musicians and singing group squeezed into a corner, and lots of parishioners having to move to new pews and meet new people. Nothing will stop us coming together to pray (we thought!) 

The next ten day the roofers worked flat out to strip the whole roof, replace the felting, and re-roof it: a dozen lads from Ebbw Vale who carried on through wind and rain, laughing, joking, slinging and catching tiles from one to another like a chain gang. Cruelly, the morning they finished, the wind dropped, the rain stopped, and the sun came out as I watched them lay the last ridge tiles. 

A week later the scaffold was gone, Len had sent his painters to repaint the rain- damaged ceiling (and invisibly mend the hole where a tile had been dropped), and the insurers promised to pay up (and they did). Apart from some damp carpet tiles, we were back as if nothing had happened, and ready for an uninterrupted Lent. 

When the lockdown came. 

Weekday Mass without a congregation is more than odd, it is hard. It is more than missing other voices to support the prayer, Thomas to prepare the altar, Louisa to change the liturgical colours: it feels like part of the Body has been amputated. And yet the faces of Parishioners keep popping up in the bench where they should be, asking to be included in the prayer they are missing. 

And no first Communion children, no Confirmandi. No Baptisms or weddings. And these awful funerals with no requiem, hurried prayers by the graveside, and only a few mourners. 

Then Sundays: Unsure of the rules, on the first Sunday Alun set up a webcam posted via YouTube, and Debbie and Simon were recruited to read the Scripture. But the sound was poor, and the live stream juddery and continually cutting out. 

By the next Sunday it was clear that no one but the priest should be in the church. With remote instruction from Alun, I managed to set up my phone and celebrate a Facebook Mass. Better quality transmission and sound, but the singing left much to be desired. 

So Brett started organising the singers and musicians. By the time we got to Holy Week, we had psalms, hymns, and Mass parts recorded onto the laptop, and all I had to do was press the button at the right time. 

All! 

The Vigil, hard and strange enough without congregation, fire, Baptism, or Tom the MC to keep me on cue, was a disaster – after the Gloria I forgot the New Testament reading; the sermon was mumbled because instead of preparing I had been busy painting Saint Helen’s paschal candle and fetching Saint Peter’s candle from Bargoed; and after the offertory I had to go back for the Renewal of Baptismal Vows which had been left out. And yet Christ is risen, Alleluia! 

Live-streaming helps – many parishioners testify to that and are most generous in their appreciation – but it is not enough. Luigi tells me he is sure he won’t get his appetite back properly or start putting back the weight he lost while ill until he has the Bread of Life. For all the endless phoning, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Zooming, we are not the Church assembled, the Body of Christ celebrating and sharing the Body of Christ, to become the Body of Christ sent out to bring New Life to our community. 

But fewer committee meetings at least! Will the roof fall in? How will our churches survive all this? And the Church herself? 

Join us for Coffee this Sunday

This week is Pentecost and apart from Sunday Mass we will also be holding a Pentecost Vigil on Saturday. Hymn sheets will appear on the website shortly.
On Sunday we will be trying something new – a Virtual Coffee Morning!

We invite everyone who can to join us around 10 minutes after mass and we will meet up on Zoom. If we have large numbers the plan is to divide people in to smaller breakout rooms where they can more easily have a chat with smaller groups of people – as you would on a Sunday morning. Father will be popping in and out of rooms to say hello!

We will not publish the details openly online but would ask that you send us a message through Facebook, leave a comment below or email us. We will then send details on how to join and some quick Zoom tips.

See you Sunday!

A Priest and Art Lover’s Perspective of Leonardo’s Last Supper

Yesterday we shared with you an artist’s and priests’s perspective of Michelangelo’s Pietà – probably one of the most famous sculptures in the world. Today we’d like to share with you Leonardo’s Last Supper (ca. 1495-98) which can be found in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

Sit back and learn some fascinating insights into this truly amazing painting!

A Priest and Art Lover’s Perspective of the Pietà

One of the most beautiful statues in the world is Michaelangelo’s Pietà. It was sculpted around 1498 and is housed in St Peter’s Basilica. Why not grab yourselves a cup of tea (or even coffee) and listen to this 9-minute talk by art aficionado Lynne Hanley and Father Christopher Whitehead who offer an ‘art perspective’ and ‘priest’s perspective’ of this amazing piece of art?

St Helen’s Website Reaches New Heights

This has been a very difficult and different Easter to any other we have encountered. With all church activity temporarily (and understandably) halted, the principle way that the church can communicate with its parishioners is through its online activities. Father John has done a wonderful job of making sure that all the Sunday and Easter masses are broadcast via Facebook and this activity has led to us almost doubling the number of followers on that channel and it has had a knock-on effect on this website.

In the past we have shared the stats from this website to let people know where visitors have come from, the amount of traffic we have per month and some of the top pages that people are looking at. With that in mind I thought I’d share with you some of the stats from the past month.

Visitor traffic to the website

Continue reading “St Helen’s Website Reaches New Heights”

Palm Sunday – 5th April

This ‘Mini Retreat’ is an attempt to ease the burden on those who are unable to watch streamed Masses and other liturgies. The posts we publish on this site are intended to help us journey through Holy Week by using the Gospel passages of the day taken from Holy Mass. They offer a structure for your prayer time and suggest that you choose a time during the day that suits you best. This could be the time that you would usually attend Mass or, early in the morning, midday, whatever suits you.

 It is a moving experience each year on Palm Sunday as we go up the mountain with Jesus, towards the Temple, accompanying him on his ascent. But what are we really doing when we join this procession as part of the throng which went up with Jesus to Jerusalem and hailed him as King of Israel? Does it have anything to do with the reality of our life and our world?

To answer this, we must first be clear about what Jesus himself wished to do and actually did. He was journeying towards the temple in the  Holy City, towards that place which for Israel ensured in a particular way God’s closeness to his people . The ultimate goal of his pilgrimage was the heights of God himself; to those heights he wanted to lift every human being. Our procession today is meant, then, to be an image of something deeper, to reflect the fact that, together with Jesus, we are setting out on pilgrimage along the high road that leads to the living God.

Pope Benedict XV

Become silent, aware of the awesome presence of God who never ceases to be with us.

Continue reading “Palm Sunday – 5th April”