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The Churches of St Austin's, Wakefield, Est. 1828 & English Martyrs, Wakefield, Est. 1932

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Parish Forum Meeting 23rd February 2017

St Austin’s and English Martyrs’ Parish Forum Meeting


Thursday 23 February 2017 at 7 pm in St Austin’s Community Centre

1          Opening prayers: –Monsignor David Smith

2          Present:        St Austin’s: Angela Drugan, John Cuttell, David Slingsby, David Willis, Joan Gossner, Louise Jefferson, Anne Blackburn, Kevin Rafferty, Maureen Rafferty, Agnes Hoban, Austin McIntire, Anne-Marie Granger, Brian Hamill, Patrick Ganley, Barbara Johnson.  English Martyrs: Jody Ineson, Vanessa Hunter and  Angela Caines [Chair].  Mgr Smith and Fr Tomasz

3          Apologies:  St Austin’s: Niall ODonnell, Bernard Martin, , David Chappell, Eileen Wharton, Catherine Barber, Paul Granger.  English Martyrs: Dannie Firth, Bernard Lowrie, Anne Lowrie, Mary Matthews, Stacey Gibson

4          Minutes of last meeting:  Angela summarised the minutes of the last meeting held on 27 September 2016.  The Tuesday evening Mass is now well established.  There was a good response to the appeal for church cleaners at St Austin’s and a similar appeal is to be made at English Martyrs this weekend.  The cassocks for the altar servers at St Austin’s is still being looked into.  Agnes presented her research on costs and styles.  The cost of cassocks range from £30 to £80.  Cassock and cotta can be bought together for £75 in either black or red.  Fr Smith and Anne to look at FM Church Supplies.  The sound system at St Austin’s has been serviced but reports of interference persist.  Patrick to ask the engineer to investigate and remedy this.  Heating at English Martyrs – It was reported that Bernard Lowrie said that someone has done something with the heating and hopefully the issue has been resolved.  Four people attended the Book Club including Mgr Smith and Pat Brown. Supposed to be meeting again once Fr Smith was back from his holidays but no contact has been made.  For Pat to say something about it when she can.  The Sacrament of Reconciliation now also takes place the first Friday of the month before the Latin Mass.  It was suggested that the names of attendees should be included in the Parish Forum minutes. 

5          Proclaim:  David presented a report on behalf of Bernard.  Proclaim is the successor to Proclaim 15 an initiative to support evangelisation launched by the Bishops of England and Wales.  Its aims are to pray, reflect and develop strategies to develop a missionary spirit filled, praying parish.  This means going deeper into our own faith so that we become closer to Jesus in our own lives but to look out at the same time.  Our love for others should be manifested through charitable work.  We need to build a community attractive to others.  It is not an exclusive group.  Everyone is welcome.  There are already plenty of ideas as to how we might achieve these aims but we need more people to put these into action.  “The Big Picture” was quite well attended.  There will be Lectio Divina on Thursdays during Lent beginning on the Thursdays in March at English Martyrs Centre from 7 30 to 9 pm.  It is a reflection on the Gospels and how these affect us individually.  These take place in groups.  There is to be an Alpha course at St Austin’s School.  “Thy Kingdom Come” an initiative launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury and taken up by the Catholic bishops is a Novena starting on Ascension Thursday up to Pentecost.  Particular intentions to pray for could include the state of the nation, an individual, our parish.  A card would be distributed with space for 5 intentions which will be prayed for throughout the Novena.  There is to be a week of guided  prayer, later in the year, run by the Jesuits  The Parish Mission is planned for June 2018.  Do come and bring someone else!.  The next Proclaim meeting Wednesday is 26 April.  All invited.  In response to a question Louise explained that the Mass Bags are a spiritual focus for children up to the age of 6 or 7.  Louise will provide more information if needed for English Martyrs.

6          Finances –Mgr Smith addressed the meeting.  He said we need to be aware that we have significant financial problems.  When Mgr John Wilson came to the parish he lived in fear of the receipt of a big bill eg a gas bill.  Generous legacies at that time helped out but we are now back to the status quo where our income does not meet expenditure – a non-sustainable situation.  This is extremely worrying in view of substantial forthcoming necessary expenditure.  The boiler for St Austin’s Church is in need of replacement as parts are becoming obsolete.  Work will need to be done on the presbytery boiler at some stage in the near future.  The organ at St Austin’s will soon become unrepairable and is coming to the end of its life.  Decoration of both churches also needs to be considered.  We have no financial capability to face this foreseeable expenditure.  All of the two thousand pounds weekly collection is needed to try and meet present costs.  This worrying situation should be a concern for us all:  there is nothing left in an emergency. We have to raise funds.  Apart from the collections no fund raising parish events have taken place in the last year.  I plan to hold a Gift Day in the summer – an opportunity to give sacrificially to build up a financial “cushion”.  This will be supported by Gift Day envelopes and accompanied by a Gift Aid Form,  It was pointed out by David Willis that people do not understand the every day financial responsibilities faced by parishes.  Fr Smith said he would include a mini statement of income and expenditure to be distributed when the new offertory envelopes are distributed.  Standing orders and offertory envelope collections are a good and reliable source of income but the amounts can remain static for many years!  Maintenance should be proactive and not reactive.  It was suggested that a letter from Fr Smith, accompanied by a Gift Aid form, should be sent to all parishioners and perhaps and as an illustration of the necessary essential maintenance a photograph of the cornice above St Austin’s altar should be included, which needs specialist repair again.  We may have to let the boiler break down.  The Diocese may then lend us the money as we cannot raise the necessary £60,000 for its replacement now.

7          The letter from the Bishop about changes to sacramental preparation – the ages for children to make their first Confession, to receive their First Holy Communion, and to be confirmed will change over the next few years. 

This year children will be receiving their First Confession and First Holy Communion as they have done previously at the age of 8 years.  In 2018 the children in year 4 will be prepared for their first Confessions but they will not receive their First Holy Communion until 2019 when they are in year 5.  In 2019 therefore the year 5 children will be prepared for their First Holy Communion and the year 4 children will be prepared for their First Confessions.  This will be the case thereafter.   The new age for Confirmation will be phased in over the next couple of years after which the sacrament will be received in the final year at primary school.  Fr Smith would like to hold a meeting soon for catechists to discuss these changes in detail.    

8          Refugees – Brian Hamill  - The presbytery at English Martyrs is now let to a family.  The Diocesan Refugee Crisis meeting in Hinsley Hall was attended by the Bishop and many from the diocese.  A lot of stuff is being done throughout the diocese.    A committee has been formed from the Diocesan Justice and Peace Group.  A large sum of money was collected.  There are 310 asylum seekers in Urban House and the City of Sanctuary is helping to make them feel welcome.  There are a number of destitute asylum seekers in Wakefield who are not allowed to work.  They are given a list of charities which should be able to help. Fr Simon Lodge, the Dean of the Wakefield and Pontefract Deanery, has suggested that each parish provides £500 for this group so we can give them £10 per week plus food and clothing.  The SVP does quite a lot of work and owing to a win on a sweepstake by one of its generous members, who kindly donated much of his winnings, they are in a good financial position.  As a result it will not need the proceeds of one of the biannual collections taken in the parish this year and this sum of money will be for the destitute asylum seekers.  From later on this year, owing to the 2016 Immigration Act, the Home Office has made it possible for families to be put on the street and be made destitute. Hosting of one destitute person is being done by members of the Baptist community.  Can you help?  We must be outward looking.

9          Chaplaincy at St Thomas a Becket – Fr Tomasz said he celebrates Mass at 8 am every Tuesday in the school – this is attended only by a small group of teachers.  He said every Catholic person should be at the Mass as an example for the children.  He appreciates that life in the school is very quick, very busy and it is difficult to meet people.  Fr Smith asked about Confessions in School during Lent.  Perhaps the school and parish should review the role of chaplaincy as this will become more involved following the changes to sacramental preparation.  Fr Smith suggested that the Mass be celebrated at a later time when the children will be in the school.  He also said that Mass should also be celebrated on Holy Days of Obligation.

10       Music initiative –– Patrick Ganley said that the Leeds Diocesan Choral programme has come to Wakefield.  The Choral Director, Charlotte Kitson, is currently working in primary schools in Wakefield and Pontefract to organise singing by arrangement with the headteacher.  From next Wednesday [1 March 2017] children from those schools and children from non-Catholic schools who are interested in partaking will begin practice and rehearsals for area choirs.  It is hoped that one of the benefits of the programme is that it will encourage parents and children to come into church. The funding is available for 6 months and then the schools will have to pay for Charlotte to continue.  The area choirs may need a contribution from the parish and this will be discussed later this year by the finance committee.  Its aim is to create a link between our schools and the church and to reinforce this vital connection.  The meeting felt that there is a need to improve on communications with our schools.  Maybe a year group or part of that group could be responsible for producing a Mass at St Austin’s.

11       Date of next meeting provisionally Thursday 20 July 7 pm at EM. 

12       Closing Prayers:  Monsignor David Smith