In the UK

CentenaryThe Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at Botwell in Hayes, is alive with the work of shared mission between laity and the Claretians in a collaborative effort to bring God’s love to all.  There are several exciting strands to the work of this shared mission.  In this short article we will explore the impact of each of them, and finally look at what this tells us about our UK Mission as a whole.

In the UK there are three Claretian Missionary Parishes: Immaculate Heart of Mary in Hayes, Buckden in Huntingdon and our Parish at Leyton.

1. UK-CLARETIANS  1912 – 2012 
This year to mark the Centenary of the Claretians coming to England and starting their first Parish in Hayes, we are marking the event with a huge collaborative effort between laity and the Claretians, with celebrations throughout the year and a special Mass on the 22nd of April 2012 marking the Claretians’ arrival and the beginnings of their great UK adventure!.

We cannot look at the joint workings of Lay and Claretian activity without first looking at all that is happening ahead of us in this special year. It is in this activity that we see the blend of our joint mission truly at work.

Visits by our lay organisations are already being planned to talk to the children at our Primary School, to tell them about what will be happening in the Parish and to get them interested early!

The Youth will be very involved making designs for Tea towels for visitors to buy as a remembrance of this special year. Our young mothers are organising these events with the school!.  It is hoped that Parishioners will bring friends, and the seeds of our on-going Mission will be sown!.  It is at these special events that we can reach out ecumenically to those Christians living alongside us, to come, and see, and join in! The music for the Mass is being planned by all three Music Groups in the Church.  The choirs and a Folk Group, so full of our youth, will make it a celebration to remember.

In May we will celebrate the diversity of our Parish with a special Multicultural Day.  There will be music, cultural dress and food for all!  A Flower festival is planned for September, and lay groups have been working on the social, historical, liturgical and musical events since late last year.

Looking at more of our joint Mission, we celebrated World Youth Day last August in Spain, and those who went wrote passionately about it in our Claretian “New Tidings” Christmas 2011 Magazine.  This year will find many returning pilgrims, both lay and Claretian, re-visiting Vic in Spain on another pilgrimage to the birthplace of Anthony Mary Claret. It is a very special year to go on pilgrimage.  The last trip as a group was in 2008.

Apart from these wonderful plans there are three main areas of joint missionary zeal keeping the lay and Claretian efforts going: Faith Formation and Celebration, which we’ve been touching on, and Service.

Group-Lectio-DivinaLooking at Faith Formation, first, there is a intense collaboration within the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) programme between laity and the Claretians. This is the Catechetical programme for adults wanting to learn more about the Catholic Faith.  If they so choose, they can follow a full programme of reflection, sharing and education about the faith culminating at Easter when they join fully into the life of the Catholic Church and celebrate the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.  Last year a large group was Baptised and Confirmed.  This year, again, another sizeable group is preparing.  All are welcomed into the Church at the beautiful Easter Vigil. There is often a great Ecumenical feel to the celebration as many bring friends from other churches to this wonderful celebration.   In the weekly meetings, prospective sponsors are invited to spend time getting to know the new Catechumens and share something of their experiences on their own faith journey.  The sessions are led jointly by the Catechists and Claretians. Part of the journey brings the Catechumens into the Church for the “scrutinies”, where they acknowledge they are on a faith journey, and are encouraged and prayed for by all those present.
The RCIA group goes to Westminster to meet the Archbishop, and are officially recognised as being in the programme and preparing for their entrance into the Church. They will be at Westminster as I write today, the 26th of February 2012, and are all very excited to be going.  When the Easter Vigil takes place, and they are presented for Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist, the whole Parish is enlivened and welcomes them in. There is a celebration afterwards in our hall in true, warm Claretian style!  The rest of the Parish meets with them and the celebrations continue!.
There is another group of lay workers very involved in the First Communion and Confirmation Preparation that is currently in session. The children attend Mass and have their session afterwards. This encourages the whole family to attend Mass. Another area of faith formation is in the Faith and Light Programme, where youngsters meet, share and pray together.  Many of the Young Adults have learning difficulties. This is a thriving group in our Parish that held a Special Mass on Saturday the 19th of November 2011 where a lit Candle was presented to them which came from Faith and Light’s 40th Pilgrimage celebration in Lourdes.
There is Marriage Preparation programme in our Parish run by a very dedicated couple, and Marriage Care Counselling.

Romeo-JulietUnder the heading of “Celebration” it is clear to see that the laity are putting their faith into action. For some the embodiment of this was in joining the Lay Claretians movement, working together to find a path to make a fuller commitment to follow the life of Anthony Mary Claret.  Others enjoy being Readers and Eucharistic Ministers at Mass, or members the different choirs.
A wonderful activity still being born out in our Parish life was a Vocation Expo that began 2 years ago in 2010. It both challenged and inspired those from far and wide to look at their lives and see what they could do to enrich them.  There was an element of ecumenical work here too, because some who were interested came to see what it was all about and were warmly welcomed.  This enormous activity saw lay men and women providing housing to religious sisters and brothers from different Communities. The charisms these religious brought enriched their lives.  There were exhibitions, and slide shows, and many other missionary stories told. School children and adults alike really valued the event.  This endeavour, whilst showcasing many different types of vocation, re-invigorated those who already felt a deep spiritual need to emulate the work of Anthony Mary Claret; and this enrichment is still going on.
There is another big event this year as part of the Claretian Centenary celebrations, a “Conference on Consecrated Life for Religious” which is being planned jointly by laity and the Claretians. It takes place on the 29th and 30th of May 2012 and the General of the Claretians will be part of this special event.  There is special interest in the speakers: Archbishop Tobin and Timothy Radcliffe to name but two.  The year promises to be rich in activity, involvement and witness for those in our Parish who are less involved and which may foster their greater participation after the celebrations begin to take shape.

In this area of Celebration through “life” we have our annual events: The Community Days in Hayes and the Family Days at Buckden each year on the last Sunday of August. It is a bringing together of parishioners, friends, and Claretians in a joint effort to ensure the events work well and that everyone enjoys themselves. Those that come can only be inspired by the fun they see the lay groups having, manning stalls, serving at the barbecues both here and at Buckden.  Among the Scout groups, Girl Guides, Justice and Peace Groups, Fair Trade and Cafod, The St Vincent De Paul Society, Liturgy, Choir and Active Age Groups for the widowed, there is a hive of activity.  Throughout all this is a celebration of life, and a great witness to the visitors at our Claretian Parishes.  When asked what it is about a Claretian Parish that draws more lay people in, many will sight their zest for life, and sense of fun, as well as their desire to walk as Anthony Mary Claret on fire with love.  This is witnessed also in the way the laity work hand-in-hand with the Claretians living out this love of Christ in action.

Laity and Claretians alike from this Province have worked abroad in Guatemala and are currently in Belize. The Laity commit to several months or a year to live and work alongside the Claretians in helping to get schools, and other projects off the ground.
The last group, as defined earlier, is the Service group; and here we see yet more joint workings between laity and the Claretians.  The Christmas Meal for the Pensioners in the Parish is a great illustration of joint workings from the youth with Boy Scouts, to the help of the Legion of Mary, and the St Vincent De Paul Society serving those who have given of their service for so many years to the Parish.  It took place on January 28, 2012 in our Main Hall.  All the Claretians attend and have a chance to sit down with the parishioners and share a wonderful meal together.  Those serving sit and enjoy a meal with the elderly lay parishioners in a huge outpouring of love and commitment to the many who have only just stopped being the servers themselves a few years previously!.
There is a Soup Run to the homeless in London each Friday, by a dedicated group of men and women, who prepare sandwiches and soups each week and travel to London in a specially donated bus where they visit, feed and clothe the homeless in our city.  Many are living in the poorest circumstances, yet express hope, joy and gratitude for what they receive.  It’s a path of service all those involved richly value because they can see the difference a few hours of their time can make. Giving hot drinks after the soup and in the giving their time, there is a great sense of satisfaction in being a part of this work.  Soon, the Lenten lunches will begin in which a weekly soup and bread meal is prepared in the Parish. The donations received are dispersed to religious communities or projects far and wide; another lay initiative that richly rewards those preparing it each week.

As I look over the various joint endeavours the richness of the work jumps from the page.  Most striking of all is the joyfulness that surrounds the work of both laity and Claretian alike; and it’s this joy that draws others in … like a fan to a flame. It is a rich harvest that we have here in the UK.  The collaboration of Laity and Claretian work is a remarkable endeavour and one that I foresee continuing for many years to come. United in action…Mission UK …lives on!!

Jo Farrell
Hayes Parishioner
Edited: Jim Overend, CMF