Papal Visit to Great Britain
The Salesian Family was well represented at the various events during the Apostolic Journey of Pope Benedict XVI to Scotland and England from Thursday 16 to Sunday 19 September 2010.
Thursday: Bellahouston Park Glasgow
Fr Brian McGraw, Fr Tony Fernandes and Fr Jim McGarry led a total of 131 parishioners from St Benedict's and St Clare's in Easterhouse to the open air Mass in Bellahouston Park. Fr McGarry writes, "The sun shone, the atmosphere was fantastic and the music inspiring (Well done, Su-Bo!), but more than anything it was Benedict we went to see and hear and we were not disappointed."
Comments from some of the parishioners:
"It was a privilege to be in the presence of such a holy and gentle man of God."
"The Pope has given my faith a real boost."
"Having seen him and heard him, my view of the Pope has changed."
"God bless you, Pope Benedict!"
Friday: St Mary's Twickenham
Fr David O'Malley, vice-Provincial, represented Fr Martin Coyle in the Chapel at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, for the prayer service with representatives of Religious congregations involved in education. Sr Bridie Woods was also present, representing the Salesian Sisters: "It was an honour to take part, to see Pope Benedict and to listen to his words of encouragement to us".
Children from the primary school at the Salesian parish of St Anne's in Chertsey attended the 'Big Assembly' at St Mary's.
John Lydon, Assistant Headteacher at Salesian School Chertsey, was at the 'Faiths Working Together' meeting with representatives of other faiths. He said that the warm way in which the Pope embraced the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sachs, 'was particularly moving, symbolising a genuine mutual respect'.
Saturday: Westminster Cathedral
A group of 20 students and 5 staff from Salesian College Farnborough represented HCPT at the Westminster Cathedral Mass and the evening vigil of prayer in Hyde Park. One of the upper sixth students accompanied the Pope in the Cathedral itself. Click here for photographs of the Farnborough group. Sr Bridie was also outside the cathedral for the Mass and went on to join the vigil: "I was impressed by the good will of the crowds, how they waited for long hours, and the Police too were ever so friendly and helpful".
Bro Sandy Fairley and James Trewby led the official Salesian group of teenagers from the parishes of St James' Bootle, St Gregory's Bollington, Our Lady of Lourdes & St Michael's Newent and St Anne's Chertsey. Click here for a fuller report from Bro Sandy.
Saturday: Hyde Park
The Salesian group sat in the Golden Circle during the Hyde Park celebration and service that afternoon and evening. They had official places as part of the Salesian membership of CYMFed (Catholic Youth Ministry Federation of England and Wales).
Fr Martin Poulsom, lecturer at Heythrop College, spent the afternoon and evening in Hyde Park: "It was a lovely day and we enjoyed both the atmosphere of the afternoon and the prayer with the Holy Father in the evening."
Fr John Dickson, who is one of the Chaplains at London University, led a group of 120 students, including 60 students from the London centre of Notre Dame University, Indiana, in the Hyde Park Vigil. Fr Dickson writes:
It was a very moving experience to join in the immense crowd which seemed to come from every nation and language on earth. My Americans were delighted to meet British students and we wore the Cardinal Newman hats bought specially for the occasion.
After the negative publicity it was really wonderful to be part of the immense crowd who sang and joined in silent prayer with the Holy Father for the needs of the world and listened to some moving testimonies of the immense good work done by the Church for the poorest and most vulnerable in our society and the world at large.
We felt proud to be part of the world wider Catholic family. With us was our new Regional Superior Fr Marek Chrzan SDB who enjoyed the chance to chat with some the Polish students from the University.
Many Chertsey past pupils were part of the group representing the diocese of Arundel and Brighton.
Eamonn McDonald, a Cowley Cooperator, was part of a group from the Oxford branch of Birmingham's Catholic Fellowship for people with disabilities. Here is the report.
Sunday: Cofton Park Birmingham
Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy led a service of reflection on Radio Merseyside before the Papal Mass and supported their commentary team especially on education matters.
Fr Peter Brealey, Bro Jakub Ruszniak and Fr John Ashton set off at 1am to lead a group of parishioners from St Anne's Chertsey. Twelve parishioners, including a number of Salesian Cooperators, from St Dominic's Huyton were also among the tens of thousands at the Birmingham event, during which the Pope beatified Cardinal John Henry Newman.
Finally, right at the heart of the organisation was Gerry Kehoe, Operations Manager for the Papal Visit, who is a past pupil of Salesian College Battersea.