St Helen’s Lockdown Diaries

For the 3rd week running we have recorded an episode of Lockdown Diaries which is your chance to see how people in the parish have fared under lockdown. This week we have brought together some young people and teacher Jennie Gough to talk about their experiences. We are sure that you will find it as interesting as our previous conversations.

Thanks to Maeve for presenting and Melanie and Jenany, Kieran, Clare, Aoife, Emma and Jennie for taking part.

Follow us on Facebook

Our St Helen’s Facebook page is fast reaching 500 likes. Of all the digital channels we use, it is without doubt the one with the most regular activity.

👉 https://www.facebook.com/sthelenscaerphilly

We use it for the following:

👍 To let people know that Mass on a Sunday is about go live

👍 So Canon John can offer up his daily reflections

👍 Where Canon John can share photos

👍 Where we can notify you of online events: Book Club, Bible Study and Coffee Mornings

👍 Where we can let you know about news from the diocese and even further afield

👍 To let you know about our lockdown diaries

👍 To let you know that the parish newsletter has been added to this site

👍 And much more

Like our page today: https://www.facebook.com/sthelenscaerphilly

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? 

Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord 12 April

 Let us receive the special grace of this moment. We pause in reverent silence before this empty tomb in order to rediscover the grandeur of our Christian vocation: we are men and women of the resurrection, not of death. From this place we learn how to live our lives, the trials of our churches and of the whole world, in the light of Easter morning. Every injury, every one of our pains and sorrows, has been borne on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd who offered himself in sacrifice and thereby opened the way to eternal life. His open wounds are like the cleft through which the torrent of his mercy is poured out upon the world. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the basis of our hope, which is this: Christos anesti! Let us not deprive the world of the joyful message of the resurrection! And let us not be deaf to the powerful summons to unity that rings out from this very place, in the words of the One who, risen from the dead, calls all of us

“My brothers” (Pope Francis, The Gospel of Matthew—a Spiritual and Pastoral Reading p 239).

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

Continue reading “Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord 12 April”

Easter Vigil – Live Mass Tonight

 We celebrate the Paschal Mystery of the saving Death and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and our own Sacramental Initiation with the marks of Baptism into his new life and Confirmation in the Communion of his Body the Church. 

Sadly this year we have a very limited, virtual celebration.  

We remember with sympathy Evie, who was due to be baptised tomorrow, and her family,  the 21 children who hoped to celebrate Communion this Easter-tide, and the 9 young adults who hoped to be Confirmed in the Communion.

Despite disappointment and distance, we are invited to be renewed individually and as a community by all these gifts and graces of our original and annually repeated  initiation into Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

🎥 Don’t forget that Mass will be broadcast live this evening at 8.30pm. You can either watch it live on this site (just turn up a little before 8.30 pm) or you can head over to our Facebook Page.

✝️ If you would like to download tonight’s liturgy, please click on the link below. You will be able to follow the services on your tablet, smartphone or computer. Alternatively, you might want to print it off and have it by your side (that’s what I’ll be doing!).

Liturgy for the Easter Vigil (Pdf)

Liturgy for the Easter Vigil (Microsoft Word).

Friday of the Passion of the Lord 10 April

 The liturgy applies to Jesus’ descent into the night of death the words of Psalm 23 (24): “Lift up your heads, O gates; be lifted up, O ancient doors!” The gates of death are closed, no one can return from there. There is no key for those iron doors. But Christ has the key. His Cross, his radical love, is the key that opens them. The love of the One who, though God, became man in order to die –this love has the power to open those doors. This love is stronger than death.

Pope Benedict XVl

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

Continue reading “Friday of the Passion of the Lord 10 April”

Holy Thursday 9 April

 Help one another: this is what Jesus teaches us and this, what I am doing, and doing with all my heart, because it is my duty. As a priest and a bishop, I must be at your service. But it is a duty which comes from my heart: I love it. I love this and I love to do it because that is what the Lord has taught me to do. But you too, help one another: help one another always. In this way, by helping one another, we will do some good. Now we will perform this ceremony of washing feet, and let us think, let each one of us think: “Am I really willing, willing to serve, to help others?”. Let us think about this, just this. And let us think that this sign is a caress of Jesus, which Jesus gives, because this is the real reason why Jesus came: to serve, to help us.

Homily of Pope Francis at Prison for Minors 28 March 2013

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

Continue reading “Holy Thursday 9 April”

Wednesday of Holy Week 8 April

The betrayal of Jesus continued…

 The Jewish authorities wished to find a way to arrest Jesus without provoking a riotous disturbance. Judas presented them with this opportunity. There could be three main reasons why Judas betrayed Jesus:

  • Avarice; sold Jesus out for less than £5
  • Hatred based on disillusionment. Jews had their dream of power
  • Judas never intended Jesus to die rather he wanted to spur Jesus into action

 Judas refused to accept Jesus as he was and tried to make him what he wanted him to be. It is not that Jesus can be changed by us but we who must be changed by Jesus (Barclay, Daily Study Bible Matthew pp331/2).

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

Continue reading “Wednesday of Holy Week 8 April”

Tuesday of Holy Week 7 April

Judas Betrays Jesus

 It’s very important to note that Jesus was “deeply troubled.” This shows His humanity. Jesus had a human heart and loved Judas with a divine love through His human heart. As a result of this perfect love of Judas, Jesus’ heart was deeply troubled. It was “troubled” in the sense that Jesus could do nothing more than He had already done to change the mind and heart of Judas. It’s not that Jesus was personally offended or angered by Judas’ betrayal. Rather, it’s that Jesus’ heart burned with a deep sorrow at the loss of Judas whom He loved with a perfect love. Judas had free will. Without free will Judas could not freely love Jesus. But with free will, Judas chose to betray Jesus. The same is true with us. We have free will and we are given the same ability that Judas had to accept the love of Jesus or to reject it. We can let His loving gift of salvation and grace enter our lives or refuse it.

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

Continue reading “Tuesday of Holy Week 7 April”