‘Can anything good come out of Africa?’, was a refrain I heard several times when giving a workshop on ‘Being African and Augustinian’ to the Augustinian students in Nairobi, 13-16 May 2019. I was hoping to convince them that the enthusiasm of the African Church is something that we need in the Order and in the secularised parts of the world, like Europe, where Christianity is in numerical decline. We also reflected on the fact that Augustine was from Africa and what part that may have played in his life and thought.
St Augustine’s Friary, where the students live, is located in a suburb of Nairobi called Karen, after Karen Blixen, the author of Out of Africa, who lived nearby. They hail from Kenya, Congo, and one from South Sudan, thirteen of them, and study theology at Tangaza University College, a short walk away. Tangaza is supported by a good number of the religious congregations in Nairobi, and is a constituent college of the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. There is considerable inter-congregational rivalry on the sports field, and the Augustinians are the current volleyball champions. The Order also has seminaries in Nigeria, Congo and Tanzania, with over one hundred young men in training.
Morning and evening I joined the students for common prayer in an upstairs chapel, everyone wearing a habit (white is worn in the tropics). The spirited singing and chanting was accompanied by drums, an electronic keyboard, and maracas. The friars keep animals on their spacious compound of about three acres. There are a few cows to provide milk, as well as rabbits, chickens and some sheep - I had to compete with a noisy cow outside the window on the opening morning of the workshop. A small football field keeps the students fit; and while I was there an area of ground was being surfaced with concrete to provide a volleyball court. They are also keen followers of the ‘EPL’, the English Premier League, as it is known in Kenya.
To give an idea of the sacrifices that some of the students make to study for the priesthood, four of the Congolese students will spend several days travelling to Congo to work in parishes for two months as part of their training. They have to travel by bus via Uganda, the final hundred or so kilometres on the back of a motor bike. The roads will vary from well-surfaced highways in Kenya and Uganda to rutted and potholed tracks in Congo, which has a very poor road system. The trip for one person costs around 600 US dollars, a bit more than my return flight from the UK to Kenya, and it is the cheapest way of doing it.
The workshop revealed some interesting insights into Augustine the African. The students pointed out that the very idea of Augustine writing a rule of life for religious communities reflects the unwritten rules governing life in a typical African village, where there is a strong sense of sharing a common life. They noted, too, that Augustine’s concern for the sick reflects a typical African concern for the sick in their midst. And even a little detail like behaviour on going to the public baths reminded them of the strict code of behaviour when going down to the river to bathe. They also felt that Augustine’s humane way of writing about authority in terms of service to the community had close parallels with the role of a village elder. I pointed out that there has been a tendency to ‘europeanize’ Augustine, reflected in the images of him as white, including his mother Monica, and that insights into Augustine the African will need to come from the growing number of Africans in the Order.
On the final day, I reminded the students of the phrase Emeritus Pope Benedict used in his opening homily of the Synod on Africa in 2009, when he described Africa as a ‘spiritual lung’. He said: ‘A precious treasure is to be found in the soul of Africa, where I perceive a “spiritual lung” for a humanity that appears to be in a crisis of faith and hope’. Augustinians from Africa may well be described as a spiritual lung for the rest of the Order, too.
In 2020, St Joseph's will celebrate two milestones. Firstly, the parish will turn 70, having been founded on Easter Sunday 1950. Secondly, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the arrival of the Augustinians to Broomhouse in 1995.
As part of the celebrations of these milestones, the Parish Council agreed to a "St Joseph's 2020 project, which would begin a process of both physical and spiritual regeneration within the parish.
One phase of this regeneration project involves a proposed refurbishment of the church building, in a bid to make it more welcoming and fit for worship. Although final plans have yet to be decided, initial steps have already been taken.
To coincide with the Easter Triduum and the subsequent celebrations of Easter, changes have been made to the Sanctuary, arguably the most important part of the building. The old linen drapes have been removed from behind the tabernacle to reveal a gorgeous wooden baldacchino dating from the 1950's. This will become the main centrepiece in the Sanctuary, helping draw more focus to the tabernacle and the crucifix.
The heavy, dark curtains on either side of the sanctuary have also been removed, revealing a beautiful stone sacrarium which has been hidden away for some time.
Lastly, we have acquired six ornate candlesticks following the closure of the Catholic Church in Camelon, Falkirk. These have been installed on either side of the tabernacle.
Further work has yet to be done. For example, it has not yet been decided what to do with the sanctuary wall. There will, however, be a decoration of some kind in place in time for Easter Sunday and the celebration of the resurrection.
In December 2018, we kicked off a joint ecumenical venture for our young people in conjunction with St David's Broomhouse Church of Scotland by launching the Messy Church programme. It had been decided to hold a monthly arts and crafts session, plus food and snacks, for children and families, with the venue alternating between St Joseph's & St David's.
As St David's hosted the Messy Christmas event in December, it fell to St Joseph's to host a Valentine's themed Messy Church on Sunday 3rd February 2019.
Approximately 35 children from both congregations arrived with their parents to enjoy an afternoon of Messy activities including valentine's card making, heart shaped sandwiches and crafty paper plates. Fr Paul was even spotted enjoying a game of table tennis! After all our craft activities, we transferred into the church for a short lesson on how we can show God's love to each other.
The afternoon ended with a lovely lunch of pizza, cake, juice and sweets. The next Messy Church event will be held on Sunday 3rd March in St David's where the theme will be Springtime.
Messy Church Broomhouse can also be found on Facebook, where we will be posting photos, videos and details of all our upcoming events. Click here to "like" our page.
On Sunday 9th December, St Joseph's hosted a Christmas themed family fun day for the Tamil Catholic Community. The event was attended by parishioners and former parishioners of St Joseph's, as well as others from other parishes around the Archdiocese.
The day, which made use of both the church and the hall at St Joseph's, began with Holy Mass offered by Fr John Peter Silvappan from the Parish of St Francis Xavier in Falkirk. Other activities included children's party games, a visit from Santa Claus, singing and food.
Beginning in January 2019, the Tamil Catholic Community will meet on the third Sunday of each month in St Joseph's.
St Joseph's is proud to have played host to not one, but two fundraising events within the space of 7 days.
The first of these was a Polish themed evening, held on Friday 16th of November and organised by the Polish community of St Joseph's. The event showcased the best of Polish culture, with parishioners treated to a sample of Polish food, drink, music and dancing, as well as a short presentation on the history of Poland and a quiz about all things Polish. The event was organised to coincide with 100 years of Polish independence.
Tickets for the event were on sale for £5 each, and there was a raffle on the night. Although it wasn't published in advance, the Polish community announced on the evening that all proceeds from the sale of the tickets and the raffle would be donated to the Broomhouse food bank. In the end, the event raised over £280 which will be donated to the food bank and help those in need this Christmas.
A mere few days later, on Tuesday 20th November, a musical evening was held by Chris Dempsey in the church. Performing some of his own original music, Chris hosted a concert with all proceeds going to Mary's Meals. With tickets costing £5 each, plus a raffle and Chris' CD's on sale the event managed to raise the incredible amount of over £1200. An amazing feat for one evening of entertainment.
Mary's Meals can feed one child in a developing country for a whole year with a donation of £14. The proceeds from Chris' fundraiser will help to feed 85 children.
St Joseph's has a reputation already as a very generous parish, and that reputation has once again been held up. Well done to everyone involved in these events, and thank you to everyone who donated for your generosity.
At 61, I must have been the only priest in Britain that had never been to Lourdes. I’ve made up for it since: four times in the last ten years. This July, I went with a group of London-based Nigerians, all contacts of the indefatigable Delia Oku, a former Hoxton parishioner, who began organising this year’s pilgrimage from her hospital bed after a serious operation for cancer, followed by the usual distressing therapy. But she was fully back in action for the trip. Having lived in Paris for a number of years, she took no nonsense from anyone.
The good thing about Lourdes as a place of pilgrimage is that it has a very clear focus: healing and the sick, and an unforgettable story: Bernadette and the appearances of Mary. So simple, so moving and so true. And it is also very ecclesial, in that the diocesan groups from many different countries are prominent, leading the various different liturgies, carrying their banners, and with groups of young volunteers helping the sick. It is the universal Church both at prayer and in action. And there are bishops everywhere.
The liturgies, too: the Masses, the candlelit rosary procession, the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and blessing of the sick, and the services of Reconciliation, etc, are all done with reverence and joy, but without the fussiness of traditionalism or the sometimes off-putting enthusiasm of the more excitable Catholic groups. It is the Church at its best, and there’s time for relaxation as well. It is a serious place without being solemn. It is full of religion, but joyfully and without sentimentality or extremism.
We had our share of little miracles in the group, like the former Catholic and self-declared ‘born-again Christian’, who came with her three teenage children, but who ended up going to confession for the first time in years. You could see her visibly relaxing and warming again to Church, in spite of still asking predictable questions like ‘Aren’t statues idolatrous?’ and ‘Why is there a figure of Christ on the cross?’ We had a married deacon in the group who had been ordained by Cardinal Vincent a few days before the pilgrimage and hadn’t yet had time to perform any diaconate functions. In fact, he didn’t even bring an alb with him. For the final Mass at the Grotto, he went into the sacristy to borrow an alb and stole, and came out walking next to the Cardinal, having been asked to be the deacon and proclaim the Gospel. He was overwhelmed.
Finally, there was my own little miracle. On the final evening we gathered in one of the large chapels for the blessing of the diocesan candle and to say farewell to one another. Three Asian ladies sat down next to me. One of them recognised me as the priest who heard her husband’s confession in Korean three years’ ago on my previous visit to Lourdes. She had two friends with her who had spent the whole week looking for a priest to hear their confessions in Korean, which I was able to do, in spite of being a bit rusty after many years away from Korea. Was it a coincidence that they met me on the last evening? Or another little miracle thanks to Our Lady?
This year we had a bonus. On the final day, 27 July, the 19th Stage of the Tour de France began in Lourdes. It was very brave of the shrine authorities to hand over the piazza in front of the main basilica to the Tour, but it was a wonderful demonstration of the Church embracing the secular and giving it its blessing. Why not? The Church is not aloof from the real world, and never has been. And it was obvious on that glorious, and very hot, day. We left Lourdes later that day vowing to come again.
Fr Paul Graham O.S.A.
On 5 May 2018, in the newly refurbished church of St Augustine's, Hammersmith, west London, Bishop Michael Campbell OSA, Emeritus Bishop of Lancaster, ordained to the priesthood Arthur Bolivar OSA and Gladson Dabre OSA, in a two-hour ceremony that was characterised by outstanding music and a powerful sense of congregational participation. They were the first Augustinians to be ordained in Britain since 2005.
Both of them had spent part of their discernment period and training in St Joseph's, and it was heartening to see a number of Broomhouse parishioners present, in spite of the long distance they had to travel.
The following day, Fr Arthur said his first Mass in the chapel of Charing Cross Hospital, where he had worked as a nurse and where he first felt a calling to the priesthood with the Augustinians nearby. The little chapel was packed with former colleagues and friends, many of them fellow Filipinos.
The first Mass for Fr Gladson was held in St Augustine's Church at the routine 12.15pm Sunday Mass, and among the concelebrants were his three uncles who had travelled from India to be present.
After visiting their families in the Philippines and India, who had been unable to obtain visas for the ordination, they will both return to their respective communities in Birmingham and London to begin their pastoral work as priests. Fr Arthur will be working in St Mary's parish, Harborne; and Fr Gladson will continue his work as Vocations Director for the Augustinians in Britain. Beginning in September, he will be overseeing a vocation discernment community for men in Hammersmith.
Fr Paul Graham OSA
Bishop Campbell's homily can be found here
Further photos will be added in due course.
On Sunday 29th April, thousands of Catholics across the British Isles joined together in pilgrimage to pray the Rosary on the Coast for peace and life in the British Isles.
A contingent of almost 70 pilgrims, comprising the parishes of St John the Baptist, Corstorphine; St Joseph's, Broomhouse & St Kentigern's, Barnton gathered on Crammond Foreshore in Edinburgh to participate in the event.
The Rosary was led by Fr Jeremy Milne, Parish Priest of St John's and St Kentigern's, supported by our own Fr Paul.
The inspiration for the event came from a similar event recently held in Poland, which saw the faithful praying the Rosary on the coast of the country for peace and stability in the nation. Having seen the powerful effect this had, a number of faithful decided to try the same thing in Britain.
And it worked. Our event felt very special. The preaching of the Gospel, the stirring rendition of "Faith of our Fathers" and of course the rosary was incredibly moving. It was also a joy to have our three neighbouring parishes come together in pilgrimage for the first time (but hopefully not the last!)
Pope Francis: A Voice Crying Out in the World
Villanova University is an Augustinian campus near Philadelphia. It is in the top ten of Catholic universities in the United States and recently won the nationwide college basketball championship for the third time. The Office for Mission and Ministry at the university hosted a conference, 12-15 April, to commemorate the first five years of Pope Francis’s papacy and to assess its impact. This timely event, the first of its kind at an American Catholic university, is significant, as there is considerable opposition to Pope Francis among conservative Catholics in the US.
One of the aims of the conference, therefore, was to explain Pope Francis to his critics and to call for dialogue between them and his supporters. Fr Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator SJ, using a vivid African proverb, put it well when he said, ‘people who eat together do not eat one another’. As the American Church becomes more polarised over the papacy of Pope Francis, evidenced by the proliferation of negative websites and blogs, a conversation about his leadership of the Church is badly needed. Encouragement for the conference was supplied by the presence of the Papal Nuncio, Cardinals Joseph Tobin and Oscar Maradiaga, and the eminent sociologist, Margaret Archer, President of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences.
Among the impressive line-up of speakers were John O’Malley SJ, of Georgetown University, regarded as the dean of American Jesuit historians; Jeffrey Sachs, one of the most influential economists in the world and a critic of unbridled capitalism; Antonio Spadaro SJ, editor of La Civilta’ Cattolica, who is close to the Pope and a media specialist; and Massimo Faggioli of Villanova University, theologian and world-renowned specialist on Vatican II.
More than one speaker made the point that Pope Francis has been profoundly shaped by his Jesuit formation. As Fr Spadaro put it, ‘He is putting the Church through the Spiritual Exercises’. That may not please everyone, of course, but it goes a long way to explain the Christocentric nature of his papacy and the extent to which the habit of spiritual discernment in the light of Jesus in the gospels informs both the words and, perhaps more importantly, the actions and gestures of this Jesuit pope. Anyone with any familiarity with Ignatian spirituality knows that its focus is ultimately a practical one: action in the light of contemplation. Cardinal Maradiaga, who knows him well, pointed out that Pope Francis speaks more eloquently with his deeds than his words, like his namesake from Assisi.
The Pope’s critics accuse him of having some sort of programme of liberal transformation of the Church. As was pointed out, there is no such ‘programme’. Pope Francis makes his decisions in the chapel, not in his office, as Spadaro pointed out. Christ is his guide, not some predetermined progressive ideology. Fr Orobator in an engagingly titled talk, ‘A hunter who advances too far ahead of his fellow hunters ends up with an arrow in his behind’, quoted St Ignatius of Loyola who said that true Christian leadership means to be promoted to the cross and humiliation. If Francis has a programme, it is to follow Christ onto the Cross, regardless of the consequences.
From a historical perspective, Fr O’Malley situated the current papacy in continuity with Vatican II, regarded by him as a ‘single corpus’ whose coherence is found in its pastoral nature. For the first time in an ecumenical council, he pointed out, its function was not church order. Rather, Pope John XXIII wanted to encourage the faithful and send out a hopeful message to the world. And ‘pastoral’, as O’Malley emphasized, does not mean ‘second rate’, nor does it mean of no significance doctrinally. Indeed, he pointed out that not even the Council of Trent issued any new doctrinal definitions. Francis is in tune with this focus and is far from being a ‘Pope lite’, he said.
Jeffrey Sachs, dubbed by The Economist as among the world’s three most influential economists of the past decade, gave a resounding endorsement of Catholic Social Teaching and of Laudato Si’ , Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment, which he dubbed a ‘most remarkable document’. Sachs said the the market economy of the world does not contain within itself any moral framework and does not promote the common good. Such a framework needs to come from outside, and he believes the Catholic Church with its worldwide reach and moral credibility is best positioned to do this. As a voice for the common good, he described Pope Francis as ‘unique in the world’.
From a sociological perspective, Margaret Archer of Warwick University and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, mentioned that while the two previous popes were very supportive of the Academy, only Pope Francis gave it a specific directive: to tackle human trafficking and modern slavery - written on the back of an envelope. As a result, the Santa Marta group was established, made up, as she said with a twinkle in her eye, of ‘policemen and bishops’ (in which Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster plays a leading role). For those who are interested, the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences (PASS for short) has launched a website: www.endslavery.va. Archer mentioned in passing that had Pope Francis not become a priest, he would have made a very good sociologist!
As well as the keynote presenters, a host of other speakers gave short papers in small groups under a variety of different themes, like The Roots of Francis’s Theology, Amoris Laetitia and Sexual Ethics, Francis and the Media, Francis and Ecclesiology, and so on.
The wind-up session on the final day endorsed the need for a conversation between the supporters of Pope Francis and his critics, especially in the US, where the critical voice is most strident. The presence of the Papal Nuncio at the conference was evidence of the Vatican’s concern about this. The hope was expressed that Villanova University having taken the initiative, other major Catholic universities and colleges will open up this badly-needed dialogue. Finally, it was noted that the participants were mainly lay people, with relatively few priests and seminarians who, as Fr O’Malley pointed out, are ‘not getting a good education these days’. The conference ended with a call from its organiser, Barbara Wall, who did an excellent job, to go out and share its insights.
Paul Graham OSA
16 April 2018
We were pleased to welcome to our Sunday masses this weekend (8th April) the Provincial of the Augustinians in Britain, Fr Robert Marsh OSA. Fr Marsh was one of the very first Augustinians to serve at St Joseph's back in 1995, and it was great to have him back with us for the day in his capacity as Provincial of the Order.
He stayed for a cup of tea and a chat with some parishioners after the 11am mass, remarking how pleased he is to see that the parish is still growing and developing. He noticed the significant changes which have taken place in the parish since he served here, including the building of the hall extension.
We are also pleased to welcome the Prior General of the Augustinians, Fr Alejandro Moral from Sunday afternoon until Monday. He flew direct to Broomhouse from Rome, marking the first leg of a routine visit of all the Augustinian parishes in the Province of England & Scotland. Fr Moral will be present at the 9.30am mass on Monday morning and will meet parishioners afterwards. He will then visit the parishes in England throughout the rest of the week.