Archdiocese of Birmingham Newsletter 30th November 2023

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First Sunday of Advent – Mary is Open to the Word
Reflection: First Sunday of Advent ­ Fr Michael Glover, currently studying in Rome, is sharing reflections for Advent.  
Mary is Open to the Word Among the many images of Our Lady, there is one that I have always found intriguing, the image of Mary who is heavily pregnant.     I first encountered this image in Spain while I was living in Valladolid starting my journey of formation for the priesthood. The pregnant Virgin Mother of God was different from the many statues of Mary I had seen in parish churches. She carries the Word of God in her body as much as her heart.     Carrying the Word, Mary also cared for him, treasured him, loved him. At the Annunciation, when Mary was asked to be the Mother of God, she was already open to receiving the Word. Mary was ready to say ‘Yes’ to whatever God asked.     Over the weeks of Advent, I invite you to ponder the image of the pregnant Mary to guide us towards a renewed encounter with the Word of God, with Jesus who was born of her and who will come again in glory.     Mary was open and ready for the Lord to come. Are you ready? Are you open to welcoming the Word into your life? He has come and he will come again, can you prepare your heart, your mind, your whole life to be open to welcoming the Lord?   Image author: Sustiputo. Image used with license permission via Wikimedia 

Advent and Christmas Resources  ­ Our Advent and Christmas resources page is now live on our website.   Access Advent calendars; prayers, reflections and readings; resources; music; retreats and more.   Advent is a time of preparation and joyful expectation. In 2023 the First Sunday in Advent is this Sunday, 3 December.   As we prepare for the birth of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, these weeks provide a wonderful opportunity to slow down and reflect.   We look forward to the coming of Christ: celebrating His birth, His renewed coming into our lives this Christmas, especially through the Eucharist, and His second coming at the end of time.

Starts this weekend: The Year of Prayer ­ In preparation for the 2025 Jubilee Year ‘Pilgrims of Hope’, 2024 has been designated a Year of Prayer by Pope Francis. It starts on Sunday 3 December, the First Sunday of Advent.   There is a particular focus on the Our Father, and this presents us with a great opportunity to go back to the basics of prayer.   Every Catholic is encouraged to reflect on their life of prayer: what they pray, how they pray and why they pray. This is for two reasons:
1 To encourage Catholics to deepen their prayer life and love of God;
2 For each Catholic to help at least one other person to pray during the Year of Prayer.   Resources are already available to help you, your family and your parish and school community take the next steps towards a deeper devotion of prayer. These resources will continue to grow over the coming months.

Interfaith Peace Service ­ The Columbans and Focolare Movement in Birmingham are organising a simple prayer service for peace at St Anne’s, Digbeth, on Thursday 7 December from 7pm. All are welcome to join this Witnessing Together vigil.

St Chad’s Cathedral Carol Service ­ All welcome at our Diocesan Mother Church on Sunday 17 December at 5pm. The Cathedral Choir, under the direction of Professor David Saint, will present a festive programme to start Christmas Week.  Followed by refreshments.

FURTHER REMINDER FOR PARISHES: Completion of general risk assessment by Friday 15 December ­ Trustees require an update of our current risk profile.  As such we need each parish to complete their general risk assessment and upload this to xCenta.   A general risk assessment has been provided covering the main hazards within a parish environment.  Please use this assessment to record your current risk control measures and any further actions required.     To access the General Risk Assessment, click on the ‘Documents’ module. Click on the ‘General Risk Assessment Template’ folder. In this folder, you will see the document you need. Click on ‘Actions’, then ‘Download’. The document will then be downloaded to your local desktop where you can save it and complete it.   Video help: A short video has been created which covers how to download and upload your risk assessment, how to access the eLearning and how to log accidents and incidents using the system.  To access this video, go to: E-learning > Allocate courses > ‘Essentials System Training Video’ > assign to yourself by clicking ‘Allocate’    Please upload your general risk assessment by 15 December2023 in order we can collate and analyse responses and report back to Trustees.  Your help and support are very much appreciated.   If you require any assistance with the system, including getting copies of old reports, please contact [email protected]

Dates for your diary: Ethnic Chaplaincy celebrations in our Archdiocese ­ The Annual Meeting of Ethnic Chaplaincies, Eparchies and Missions 2024 will take place on Tuesday 20 February, and will be attended by Archbishop Bernard Longley.   The Annual Intercultural Mass 2024 will take place on Saturday 24 February at St Mary the Mount, Walsall. A wonderful opportunity to bring together all the ethnic communities situated across the Archdiocese.   The programmes for both events are being finalised and will be issued in due course, so for now please save the dates!   There are 22 Chaplaincies represented across the Archdiocese. You can find out more on the dedicated website. 

Dates for your diary: Harvington History Festival 2024 ­ The Harvington Hall History Festival is back for 2024, following the incredible success of the inaugural Festival this past summer.   Please save the dates: Wednesday 24 – Sunday 28 July 2024.

Guest speakers will be revealed in the new year.   Stay tuned for more information and ticket updates by signing up to the mailing list.

New Job Opportunities  ­ Safeguarding Advisor
The Archdiocese of Birmingham is seeking to appoint an experienced safeguarding professional from the fields of social work, police, LADO, probation, or an alternatively qualified professional with significant multiagency safeguarding experience, to its Safeguarding Team.   As a Safeguarding Advisor you will, along with the Head of Safeguarding and other colleagues, be responsible for providing effective safeguarding advice and training across the Archdiocese.   Closing date: Tuesday 12 December.

Fundraising Development Officer   Father Hudson’s Care is looking for an enthusiastic, pro-active positive individual to join its team.   Experience in fundraising is desirable, but this position is very person centred.   The deadline for applications is Friday 8 December.

Could you help a Seafarer this Christmas? ­ The Stella Maris charity is preparing to spread festive cheer.   Stella Maris chaplains and volunteer ship visitors around the coast of Britain will soon be taking Christmas parcels to seafarers. These contain items such as socks, woolly hats, chocolates and toiletries; many of these are donated by generous supporters and parishioners.   Through small gestures Stella Maris chaplains in ports around the country attempt to make Christmas special for seafarers. And they know just how important these small gestures are.   Can you help with a small gesture?

Next week: Pact’s Birmingham Advent Carol Service ­ This very special event will take place at 7pm on Thursday 7 December at Our Lady and St Brigid’s, Northfield, and you are warmly invited.   Fr Cecil Rogerson and Fr Gary Buckby will be presiding at the service alongside wonderful ecumenical friends.    The St Brigid’s School Choir will lead us in song as we prepare for Christmas and bring prisoners and their families before the Lord in prayer.   Hear from someone with lived experience of the criminal justice system.   Pact is the national Catholic charity supporting prisoners, people with convictions, and their families. It works in 11 prisons across the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

Next week: Mary’s Meals Christmas Concert   ­ Saturday 9 December 7.30pm, doors open 6.30pm   St Martin in the Bullring, Birmingham B5 5BB Step in from the winter chill and join us for an evening of joyful music featuring Lichfield Gospel Choir.  
Hear from Mary’s Meals founder and Sunday Times best-selling author, Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, browse seasonal stalls and enjoy mulled wine and mince pies. 
All proceeds help Mary’s Meals serve nutritious school meals to children living in some of the world’s poorest countries. 
Tickets £10.

Friends of the Holy Land host Christmas Concert ­ Invitation to the charity’s festive fundraiser to help our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land, Thursday 14 December in London.   This concert features the well-known London Welsh Male Voice Choir with renowned soloists Margaret Keys and Anthony Stuart Lloyd and compere Mal Pope.

Looking ahead: January 2024 ­ Celebrating Christian Unity#Pray24Brum is back for it’s 10th anniversary, taking place during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.   A wonderful opportunity to pray and praise in and for the city of Birmingham. The theme is ‘Love God and Love your Neighbour’.   Events will be taking place at St Philip’s Cathedral, Colmore Row.   The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is traditionally observed from 18 to 25 January – the octave of St Peter and St Paul.   Resources are now available for the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. 

Looking ahead: January 2024 ­ Lepra Holy Mass at Westminster Cathedral   Holy Mass will be held at Westminster Cathedral to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the charity Lepra on Friday 26 January 2024.   All are invited to give thanks and celebrate the charity’s Centenary and to raise awareness of Lepra and its work finding, diagnosing and treating people affected by leprosy so that the disease will have little adverse consequence to their lives.

Dates for your diary: the month ahead   Thu 7 Dec: Live Organ Recital at St Chad’s Cathedral   Thu 7 Dec: Pact’s Birmingham Advent Carol Service   Thu 7 Dec: Thriving or Closing? Divine Renovation   Thu 7 Dec: Interfaith Peace Service   Sat 9 Dec: Mary’s Meals Christmas Concert   Thu 14 Dec: Friends of the Holy Land Christmas Concert   Sun 17 Dec: St Chad’s Cathedral Carol Service     More Events

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