A Synodal Church in our Parish

Led by Jayne McFarlane and Becky Newton, our Synod Reps, we as a Parish submitted our Report in preparation for the International Synod of Bishops next year. As a starting point they have produced a sketch of the basic structures needed to keep the Parish alive and thriving and you can find these documents on our Synod page.

St Helen’s, Caerphilly – Synod 2021-22 Parish Report

Shortly before the pandemic the retirement of some members of the ageing Parish Council brought on its closure. In 2021 a ‘Parish development’ group was formed to discern the impact of the Pandemic, and the way forward after. When one member of this group was asked to be the Parish Synod Representative, the other Representative was co-opted, and the group morphed into a Synod Discernment Group, now working to take the process forward in the Parish.

This is the report that they have taken much time to create, please take an opportunity to have a look at our Synod Report.

The Easter Triduum

On Holy Saturday, after a day in the tomb with Christ, the Church gathers for the great Easter Vigil and Mass. If you cannot join in, in person or live-stream, try to gather as a family with a large candle, the children’s Baptismal candles, and a candle each for the adults. By their light, read some of the old
testament readings, at least the 3rd one, Exodus 14:15 – 15:1; then the Mass reading, Romans 6:3-11. Then sing a good Alleluia and read the Gospel, Mark 16:1-7. And have a late night party!

And on Easter Sunday, if you don’t get to the Morning Mass, then after
the Easter Egg hunt, or just before your Easter meal, read together the
disciples’ race, discovery, and joy: John 20: 1-9.

Here are the service sheets for each of the three-days of the Triduum. You can download and print off or simply click and view them on your iPad or Smartphone.

The first document below contains the Maundy Thursday liturgy  for the Mass of Our Lord’s Supper (7.30pm). At the end of that liturgy it says that compline will be celebrated at 9.45pm, so you will need the last, large document, for compline tonight, and for the office of Readings and Morning Prayer tomorrow and on holy Saturday. The second document is the service sheet for the good Friday celebration of the Lord’s Passion (3.00pm). The third document is for the great Vigil and Mass of Easter, Holy Saturday, 8.30pm. And the fourth document for the Mass of Easter in the day (10.30am).

Maundy Thursday (PDF)

Good Friday (Word, PDF)

Easter Vigil and Mass (Word, PDF)

Easter Morning (Word, PDF)

The Prayer of the Church for the Easter Triduum (PDF)

December book of the month – The Thursday Murder Club

Having just finished Michelle Obama’s autobiography, Becoming, the St Helen’s Church Book Club now turn its sights to a murder mystery by Richard Osman’s whose debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club, appears to be lighting up the book charts.

Book blurb

I was at lunch, this is two or three months ago, and it must have been a Monday, because it was shepherd’s pie. Elizabeth said she could see that I was eating, but wanted to ask me a question about knife wounds, if it wasn’t inconvenient?

I said, ‘Not at all, of course, please,’ or words to that effect. I won’t always remember everything exactly, I might as well tell you that now. So she opened a manila folder, and I saw some typed sheets and the edges of what looked like old photographs. Then she was straight into it.

Elizabeth asked me to imagine that a girl had been stabbed with a knife. I asked what sort of knife she  had been stabbed with, and Elizabeth said probably just a normal kitchen knife. John Lewis. She didn’t say that, but that was what I pictured.

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings.

But when a local property developer shows up dead, ‘The Thursday Murder Club’ find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

The four friends, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron, might be octogenarians, but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. Can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

What people are saying

‘Such a beacon of pleasure’ KATE ATKINSON

‘So smart and funny. Deplorably good’ IAN RANKIN

‘A gripping read’ SUNDAY TIMES

‘Thrilling, moving, laugh-out-loud funny’ MARK BILLINGHAM

‘As the bodies pile up, and more is revealed of the lives and loves of Joyce, Ibrahim, Ron and Elizabeth, you can’t help cheering them on – and hoping to meet them again soon’ THE TIMES, CRIME BOOK OF THE MONTH

‘Mystery fans are going to be enthralled’ HARLAN COBEN

‘One of the most enjoyable books of the year’ DAILY EXPRESS

‘Smart, compassionate, warm, moving and so VERY funny’ MARIAN KEYES

‘As gripping as it is funny’ EVENING STANDARD

Our next book club

Please remember that anyone can join our Book Club. The next one will be held on Tuesday 5th January at 7.00. At this event we will discuss The Thursday Murder Club and select our next book.

Buying the book

  • You can buy this book from Waterstones, WHSmith or other bookshops in Cardiff
  • It can be purchased quite cheaply on Kindle (around 99p I believe)
  • You may be able to order it from the library
  • If you type the title in to Google and click the Shopping tab, you can find quite a few sellers (New and used)
  • If Amazon is out of stock, check Amazon “New” or “Used” options from other sellers through Amazon. Kindle is another option. Waterstones and Blackwells sell it as do many suppliers on eBay. Or why not check out the local library?

Can anyone join the Book Club?

Of course! To join the St Helen’s Book Club, please click this link. You can then enter your details and you will be sent joining instructions. Alternatively, you can always email Canon John on caerphilly@rcadc.org.

Preparing for Mass Online

St. Helen’s streams Mass on Saturday at 6.30 pm and Sundays at 10:30am and on other days, please refer to the Newsletter for details, dates and times.

First, please be minded that there is no obligation to watch a streamed Mass given the restrictions associated with COVID-19; however, watching and praying with us is a wonderful way to stay connected to your Catholic community here in Caerphilly and the surrounding area.

A word of caution: Attending Mass online is really hard since we are not in our usual sacred space and without all of its beautiful elements. So be patient with yourself; it is worth the effort!

How to prepare to have the best possible experience


Dress as you normally would for Mass. Try to distinguish between your normal about the house/odd job clothes as this will help identify this time as a special time.


  • Prepare a special place on which to set your phone, tablet, or computer
  • Set out a crucifix or other religious imagery.
  • Light a candle or two if you have one.
  • Spread a little tablecloth on which to set your device.
  • It might be helpful to sit on something more like a dining room chair rather than dad’s recliner or the family couch.
  • Create a still and quiet environment as much as possible.

Mind and heart

  • Use a service book if you have one or an app like Magnificat or iBreviary to follow along with the readings. Or simply google “catholic mass readings.”
  • Whilst challenging, avoid distractions as best as you can just as you would do at Mass in the chapel.

Attending Mass

Switch off all radios, TVs and block incoming calls to mobile phones, maybe consider taking the landline phone “off the hook.”

  • Participate just as you would when attending Mass (stand, sit, kneel, repeat the proper responses, etc.)
  • Instead of receiving Holy Communion, make an act of spiritual communion such as this one composed by the 18th century saint, St. Alphonsus Liguori:

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament. I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

  • Once Mass is completed, spend a few moments in silence trying to recall something from the scripture readings or the homily, something you can take with you and even share with others.

Celebrating Advent as a Family

The Family Life Worker and the Family Life Commission for the Archdiocese of Cardiff have created a booklet booklet to inspire you to celebrate the full season of Advent and that this in turn brings you joy whilst creating shared memories that your family will treasure.

Advent means ‘arrival’ or ‘presence’. In the season of Advent we prepare to celebrate not only Jesus’ birth but his presence in the family, in the love we share.

We recall the past, celebrate the present, and look to the future with hope. We await the coming of the light that will shine in the darkness, shining light on our path of peace.

In prepration for Advent

In preparation for Advent

These activities could form a family fun weekend to ‘kick start’ Advent, whilst creating some shared family memories; though you can also dip in and out of these during Advent…. Whatever suits your family.

  • Making an Advent wreath
  • Making of the empty manager
  • Making an Advent paper chain
  • Preparing a Jesse tree

Service of Memories

On Monday, at 7pm, we will celebrate a REQUIEM MASS for All Who Have Died In The Past Year, both those buried from the Parish, and any others related to us in the family of the Parish. The celebration will be Live-Streamed – to join in please go to https://sthelenscaerphilly.com/st-helens-live-stream/ 

If you have a family member whom you wish to have named and prayed for at this Mass, please send the details – name, date of death, and relationship to yourself, to the Parish office, caerphilly@rcadc.org.

Please print off or view the Order of Service from here.

October book of the month – For Whom the Bell Tolls

Last month we read the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows and it must be said that we all enjoyed it. It was quite unusual in that the story developed not through the traditional novel format but as a series of letters between the characters in the book. And this evening, as we always do, we had a good discussion about the book via Zoom. It was great to discuss this unusual format, to discuss the characters, one or two people discussed Guernsey and we all reminisced about when we ‘we used to write letters’.

Taking a cue from some of the books and authors mentioned in the book 6 books were selected and we voted on them. The one selected by book club members was Ernest Hemingway’s, For Whom the Bell Tolls.

‘The blurb’

Inspired by his experiences as a reporter during the Spanish Civil War, Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls tells the story of Robert Jordan, an American volunteer in the International Brigades fighting to defend the Spanish Republic against Franco. After being ordered to work with guerrilla fighters to destroy a bridge, Jordan finds himself falling in love with a young Spanish woman and clashing with the guerrilla leader over the risks of their mission.

One of the great novels of the twentieth century, For Whom the Bell Tolls was first published in 1940. It powerfully explores the brutality of war, the loss of innocence and the value of human life

Pan Macmillan

Now did you know the the title of the book comes from a John Donne poem which goes like this:

No man is an island entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less,

As well as if a promontory were,

As well as any manor of thy friend’s,

Or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

John Donne

Please remember that anyone can join our Book Club. The next one will be held on Tuesday 3rd November at 7.00. At this event we will discuss For Whom the Bell Tolls and select our next book.

If Amazon is out of stock, check Amazon “New” or “Used” options from other sellers through Amazon. Kindle is another option. Waterstones and Blackwells sell it as do many suppliers on eBay. Or why not check out the local library?

Can anyone join the Book Club?

Of course! To join the St Helen’s Book Club, please click this link. You can then enter your details and you will be sent joining instructions. Alternatively, you can always email Canon John on caerphilly@rcadc.org.