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? 

Spring Comes To St Helen’s

Spring has brought an abundance of colour to St Helen’s and, as you are unable to come to us, Father John decided to take his camera out to the gardens to ensure that the glories of Spring can be brought to you. We do hope you enjoy this selection of photos and that they bring a smile to your faces. Feel free to let him know, in the comments below, what you think of his gardening skills in this difficult ‘lockdown’ period.

See more photos

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”

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).

Today’s Liturgy – Maundy Thursday

As we won’t be able to celebrate Mass together this evening, we thought that we would upload today’s liturgy so that you might follow. You can view it by either clicking on the image above or the link below. Having done this you can either follow online or print off a copy.

Maundy Thursday – Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper (PDF)

🎥 Don’t forget we will be Live Streaming tonight’s Mass on Facebook and on this page. If you come to this page after 7.30 pm, please make sure to refresh the page. ✝️

Connecting with friends & family

 

Sunday saw the first of our live transmissions of mass live on Facebook – albeit with one or two hiccups which we are confident will be rectified for next week. The week before we even streamed mass live on YouTube. For all of us these are very difficult times and for many of us it means that we cannot meet up with friends and family. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t get to see them. In many ways we are very fortunate to be living at a time when we have very advanced technology to help us connect with friends and family around the world – all we need is a laptop or iPad or phone and the technology does the rest.

With that in mind we thought we would compile a list of applications that you can use to stay connected via both audio and video.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is one of the most popular mobile applications out there and it allows individuals to send messages (text, image and video) to friends, family and even work colleagues. You can use it to message individually or as part of a group. So, you may have a family group or a confirmation parents group or even a book club group.

WhatsApp can be used on a iPhone or Android device, a laptop/desktop, iPad/ tablet or on the new Facebook Portal device. It’s deal for sending messages and connecting to friends and family via video. For video calls with one or two or even a few this app is ideal.

More information: www.whatsapp.com

Facetime

Facetime is a great application to use if you’re looking to connect with people on Apple devices (iPad, iPhone, iMac or Macbooks). As the name implies it is usually used for making face-to-face video calls but you can also make audio calls. It is without doubt the simplest app to use and just requires you to add in a person’s telephone number (Apple obviously) or email address and click 📞.

 

More details: Facetime

Zoom

Zoom is definitely one of the better platforms for video meetings and especially if you want to connect to more than 2 or 3. How about arranging to meet up for a bible study session? Or take your book club online? Or how about doing a pub quiz? Or just arrange to have a virtual beer or coffee online with friends? Zoom is fantastic for all this and much more. Though you can use it on smartphones and tablets (like the iPad), the quality/experience is better on a laptop or desktop computer.

The free version offers people the ability to speak to others for up to 40 minutes. All you do is set up a meeting and send your friends an invite 40 minutes not long enough? Just set up another meeting! As with all of these applications always exercise caution in terms of who you send invites to and don’t publicise this invite.

More details: www.zoom.us.

Other applications you can check out are Skype, Google Hangouts and House Party.

If you have any questions, just send us an email.

Help us spread the word!

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For those who don’t know St Helen’s has a Facebook page and a Twitter account. In order for us to communicate with as many people as possible, we are pushing to increase the number of people who follow us on Facebook to 250 (300 if we can!).

For those who haven’t yet followed/liked our page, this is your chance to follow/like us.
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For those who already have followed/liked us, could you please encourage your family and friends to follow us? Here are the instructions on how to do this – it’s easy!

Here we go:

  1. Go the St Helen’s Caerphilly Facebook page.
  2. Look to the panel on your right and you will see a section called ‘Community’
  3. Click the words, “Invite your friends to like this page”
  4. Select all your finds who may be interested (the ones who like it are already “Liked”)
  5. Click “Send Invitations”

There is a message with the “Invite your friends” window which you can modify if you wish. You can invite friends of yours who go to church, or who are associated with St Helen’s or Cardinal Newman or any of the church groups.

And that’s it!

CAFOD School Volunteer Taster Session

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CAFOD is running a taster session open to anyone who wants to find out more about CAFOD’s volunteer work in schools and parishes. The session will be held at Saint David’s Cathedral in Cardiff on Monday 17 September, 11-4pm. A great way to find out more about CAFOD’s educational work, meet other volunteers, unpack resources and see first-hand what this vital role entails. It’s an ideal opportunity for those who are interested in becoming a volunteer, but want to find out more first. Please contact CAFOD at southwales@cafod.org.uk or 029 20 344 882 to find out more and book your place.