Despite the fact that we are only just at the beginning of December and the Season of Advent, people have already been preparing for Christmas for several weeks. Television commercials have relentless advertising of food and clothes and special offers and, in Manchester, the Christmas markets are in full flow, crowded with thousands of visitors from around Manchester and much further afield.
The markets are busy places and over the next few weeks so many of us will gather there to have a day out, to shop, to eat and to celebrate. There is certainly nothing wrong in celebrating Christmas in this way, even if it starts so early, but we stand in danger of making two important mistakes.
In the first place, we may well be ignoring a local crisis. When we attend the markets do we look around us at what else is going on in Manchester? Last week I walked from Salford Cathedral, via the markets, to attend a meeting at Manchester Cathedral. In the shadows of the market, I witnessed a number of homeless people huddled in doorways. People were out celebrating, loaded with shopping bags and presents who were stepping over them as they went on their way.
This is now such a common sight in Manchester that we can become immune and walk on by. In a city full of festive cheer we have a growing number of people who, as we celebrate, have no joy or happiness in their lives. Despite the genuinely good intentions of the Mayor of Greater Manchester to make housing a priority, and the generous work of churches and social groups offering increasing places in night shelter accommodation, the problem just seems to get worse. Surely, in a city that has so much prosperity, we cannot allow ourselves to fail people in this way? This is a scandal on our doorsteps that we as Christians cannot choose to ignore. We all have a responsibility to take action to challenge the injustice we see on our streets. These are our brothers and sisters and we all need to act.
The second mistake that we may easily make is that, in the rush and busyness to give presents, have parties and eat traditional meals with family and friends, we may well miss the real point and meaning of our celebration: That God loved the world so much that he sent His Son Jesus, to live among us and bring us hope. By all means, let us be sure to enjoy Christmas but let us spend the next four weeks preparing for Christmas by remembering its real meaning and remembering the suffering of those even so close by.
Launch of The God who Speaks:
Celebrating, living and sharing God's word
On Sunday 1st December the Year of the Word: The God who Speaks was officially launched across England and Wales. Over the next twelve months, around our diocese we will be joining others in recognising the God who Speaks by celebrating,livingand sharing God‘s word.
Celebrations around our diocese have already begun, with over 20 schools from the St Ambrose Barlow deanery gathering last month and getting creative to make prayer stations based on the Scriptures which youcan read more about here.
Your Son, Jesus Christ, listens to our hopes and fears
and shows us how to live for one another.
Send us the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds
so that we may be your witnesses throughout the world.
We pray that during this Year of the Word we may be attentive to the voice of God speaking to us through the scriptures.
What can you do to help your community this Advent?
It can be easy to begin to feel like you’re becoming wrapped up in your Christmas preparations. It is important we are able to take a step back and reflect on the real meaning behind all we do, as well as considering those who may be facing challenges in their own lives or who are struggling to take part in festivities.
This Advent, you can help those in need by supporting Caritas Salford. They will be there for anyone struggling over the festive period. But how can you get involved?
Create an Advent calendar that gives back For every day of Advent, put a donation into a box so that by the time Christmas is here you can have a collection of goods ready to drop off at a foodbank like the Lalley Centre, which will make sure communities in North Manchester don't go hungry this festive season.
Bags of Kindness: Help Cornerstone help others
Do you have a spare backpack or handbag lying around in your home? If you do, why not put it to good use by packing it with useful necessities - including toiletries, hygiene products and warm hats and gloves - that will make life a little easier for homeless people this winter.
Help a young person find a family and thinking about fostering
There are more than 75,000 looked-after children in England, and in the North West it's estimated 1,190 foster carers are needed to meet demand. Caritas Fostering are looking for foster carers to help change a child's life in the new year. If you're not in a position to foster, why not start the conversation with your friends and families or host a presentation at your local parish or community event? If you can help, contact Caritas Fostering on 0161 817 2250 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Act with compassion towards our homeless brothers and sisters
Homelessness is a scandal on our doorsteps that we as Christians cannot ignore, and as you'll have noticed the temperature is dropping quickly. If you are worried about someone you’ve seen sleeping rough you can inform Streetlink by downloading the Streetlink app or by calling 0300 500 0914.
Greater Manchester Faith Leaders Election statement:
"Build bridges not walls"
Bishop John has added his voice to a statement made by Greater Manchester Faith Leaders ahead of the General Election on 12th December.
"We are privileged to live in a secure and democratic society. We have the freedom to vote for who governs us.
We encourage all eligible voters to make full use of the right to vote.
Let us build bridges, not walls.
Our Faith Communities share many values, among them:
The Sanctity of Life
The Dignity of the Person
The Eradication of Poverty
The Care of Our Common Home – this Planet.
Together, we stand against all forms of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Hinduism, prejudicial and discriminatory speech and behaviour.
We respect the integrity of all candidates who aspire to public office. We ask all taking part in this election campaign period to take care in expressing their views, and never to incite hatred or conceal truths. We view with dismay the environment which has caused many to stand down from Parliament at this election because of the way they have been treated by others.
With the right to vote comes the responsibility for us all to work together for the healing of our neighbourhoods and national life. This opportunity arises from our freedom. We must never take it for granted. It is ours to protect, cherish and use."
Laudato Si: Caring for Our Common Home this Christmas
Christmas can easily become a time of indulgence.This may have become the norm for some, but it comes at a price for our planet. Together, we can make our Christmas greener by taking small, sustainable actions in our own homes and communities. Parishioners from Our Lady of Grace, Prestwich, have shared tips on how to have a more sustainable Christmas in their parish newsletter. Could you do the same?
This Christmas we can make our own mark by trying to buy thoughtfully from local, ethical sellers. Our diocese is home to many independent businesses who sell sustainable and unique gifts, and an array of charity shops where you might be able to locate a hidden gem which is perfect as a gift for your family and friends.
An easy change we can make is by trying to ditch the ribbon and by avoiding glittery and metallic wrapping paper. Why? These things aren’t easily recycled and therefore go to landfill sites or, in the case of glitter, which is simply micro-plastic, further pollutes oceans around the world. Going back to basics with brown or plain paper is a great and practical idea.
It is easy to get carried away when doing the Christmas shop. We can all try to reduce waste by sticking closely to a shopping list of necessities and freezing or using up any leftovers we may have.
Living the Sunday Eucharist: Meeting Jesus in our Welcome
During Stage 3 of Hope in the Future, we are considering four particular “moments” in our celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. Our participation in the Mass binds us together as disciples, strengthens us and prepares us for our mission. During Stage 3 of our Pastoral Programme we are reflecting on how we encounter Jesus in four key parts of the Mass: Our Welcome, Our Listening, Our Offering and Our Mission. This week, as we enter the Season of Advent, we concentrate on meeting Jesus in our Welcome.
This Welcome is expressed in various ways. We arrive at church and welcome one another as members together of our parish community and be sure that visitors feel welcomed as our guests. We have come from our busy lives to celebrate the family of our parish. We bring with us our intentions for ourselves, family and friends and our hopes and concerns. When we arrive at Church, we encounter Jesus in one another, the Body of Christ. We are also welcomed, in the opening prayers of our Mass, by Jesus himself who greets us with forgiveness and reconciliation.
As we prepare to welcome Jesus anew this Christmas let us pray that each of us personally, and our parish community, may ‘prepare a way for the Lord’ in our lives. (Matthew 3:3).
It may be useful to think about how you personally can meet Jesus in your welcome. A series of questions have been prepared to help you to do this in your parishes.
How do I prepare for Mass each Sunday?
When I arrive at Church what is the first thing I do?
Do I greet others? Do others greet me?
How do I welcome the visitor or stranger?
Is the Church conducive to prayer before Mass?
Do I enter the Mass ready and looking forward to meeting Jesus?
Do the Introductory rites get us into “the right place” for this celebration?
Hope in the Future: "Readers, get closer to the Lord"
In the month since the launch of Stage Three of Hope in the Future, Living the Sunday Eucharist, we have seen an array of training opportunities which are helping parishioners in our diocese to put their faith into action.
Most recently, Marian Tolley presented a training day for Ministers of the Word. She offered a prayerful perspective paired with practical action for readers in our diocese, to help them in their own formation and in immersing themselves in the Mass in their own parishes.
She shared with attendees some top tips for ensuring they are as good as they can be in their reading.
If you have never been to Lourdes and are thinking of getting involved next year, there are a number of events in the diocese that may help you make up your mind.
The new ‘Lourdes at Home’ events give those who can’t join us on the pilgrimage a chance to get involved and experience a little bit of the atmosphere of Lourdes closer to home.
Throughout the year there will be several events to bring our Salford Lourdes family together.
The Lourdes Pilgrimage's first ‘Lourdes at Home’ offering for this year is for the pilgrimage's youth volunteers and pilgrims and is an evening of Adoration and reflection, led by Fr. Mark Paver.
The event offers a chance to get away from the busyness of Christmas preparations, put your phones away, forget social media and sit in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.
Following adoration, there will be a short reflection, led by Fr. Mark. After this, there is the opportunity to gather and take part in the parish quiz night. Further details, including dates and times, can be found below in the What's On section.
Details of the 2020 Lourdes pilgrimage will be shared in our January E-News. In the meantime, you are invited to keep up to date on the Salford Lourdes pilgrimage website.
Catholic Hub Cathedral of St John, Chapel Street, Salford, M3 5LE Every Second Saturday of the month, 7:30 - 10:00pm
The Catholic Hub is a new monthly event featuring prayer, music and fellowship for young adults who are over 18.
The Hub will be held on the second Saturday of every month and all are invited to come along to spend some time before the Lord in prayer, hear and join in praise and grow in your faith with other like-minded young people.
Mass and Launch of the 88th Salford Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage Cathedral of St John, Chapel Street, Salford, M3 5LE
Sunday 8th December 2019, 5.30pm
A chance to gather together as a pilgrimage family as we celebrate Mass for the 2nd Sunday of Advent on the eve of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and officially launch the 88th Salford Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes 2020.
Lourdes at Home: Adoration, reflection and social St Luke’s, Swinton Park Road, Irlams o’th’height, M6 7WR
Friday 13th December 2019, 7.30pm
Our first ‘Lourdes at Home’ offering for this year is for our youth volunteers and pilgrims and is an evening of Adoration and reflection, led by Fr. Mark Paver. All are welcome.
Vocations Holy Hour St Ann’s, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL6 7DG
Friday 13th December 2019, 7pm-8pm
Please note this change of date to 13th December. One of a series of Holy Hours to pray for vocations around the diocese. All are welcome to attend.
Caritas Salford and Salford Loaves and Fishes Advent Service St John's Cathedral, Salford, M3 5LL
Sunday 15th December 2019, 6.30pm
This annual Advent concert will see Notability, a choir of quality, perform the old favourites again, this time joined by St Bede’s College Choir. Bishop John Arnold will also attend, and refreshments are available afterwards.
St Antony's Centre Carol Concert St Antony's Church, Eleventh Street, Trafford Park, M17 1JF
Tuesday 17th December 2019, 12nn
All are welcome to this Christmas Carol service. Please bring friends and colleagues from your companies. Pupils from St Antony’s College and the Village Nursery will be performing at the service. Mince pies and a cup of tea will be served in the centre afterwards.
Formation Series: The New Evangelisation St Gabriel’s RC High School, Bridge Road, Bury, BL9 0TZ Wednesday 8th January 2019, 7.30pm
Led by Bishop Philip Egan Register Here
Eucharistic Ministers Training Day with the Irenaeus Project St Vincent de Paul RC Church, Rochdale, OL12 6BU
Saturday 18th January 2020, 9:15am - 4pm
Led bySr Moira and Fr Chris from the Irenaeus Project Register here
Do you have some good news to share?
We are always looking to hear news from our parishes.
How have you been making Hope in the Future a reality in your parish?
Events like Alpha or Nightfever?
Holding deanery gatherings?
Shared leadership teams?