Celebrate St Albans Weekend - 3rd/4th November 2018

Celebrate comes to Ss Alban & Stephen

Around 400 people aged eight months to 80 gathered at Loreto College in early November to take part in the Celebrate family conference with a theme from Isaiah 43:19 “See, I am doing a new thing.”

Celebrate runs Catholic Charismatic, faith-filled, fun events across the U.K. for all ages, combining good Christian teaching and celebration of the liturgy, all in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Children had fun playing in age-related streams, while adults listened to inspirational speakers, attended Mass both days and had an evening of praise & worship and prayer ministry on the Saturday evening. Four priests offered the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Local mum Francesca Hammond said, “I love coming to Celebrate as my 3 daughters learn a lot while having great fun in their streams. As I know they are happy and taken care of I can focus on attending the workshops and deepen my own faith. Celebrate is a great weekend for the whole family.

Grandparents Mike and Sylvia White took five of their grandchildren. Mike said "It was challenging for us grandparents to keep up with their pace especially as they stayed overnight with us on Saturday. However, it was well worth it to see the joy they were experiencing. Meal times were really well organised so it was easy to get them all fed with food they liked. They were also well fed spiritually, so much so that when we arrived home on Sunday afternoon, they gave a performance for their parents of the song they had learnt, 'My Lighthouse' to the accompaniment of the You Tube video with music and words!"

Main speakers included Dominic McDermott, Archie Cameron (Agape Ministries), Pippa Baker (One Hope Project), Jim McManus (Healthcare CBCEW), Tommy O’Neill (Chemin Neuf), Fiona O’Reilly (Divine Renovation UK) and Sarah Wells (Cafod).

Workshops ran on topics from the Joy of Hope to Prophecy, Anxiety and Catholic Families, Mental Health, Educators, Painting and Millennials, amongst others.

The event culminated on Sunday afternoon with Mass at Ss Alban & Stephen celebrated by Fr Alan where all the children and adults came together to give thanks for the weekend.

Fr Alan said “It was a wonderful occasion to have so many families gathered together celebrating their faith. There was a real sense of joy among the entire congregation irrespective of age.

The outgoing chair of the team bringing Celebrate to St Albans says, “This weekend was only made possible by a wonderful team of volunteers, speakers, priests and deacons especially our own beloved MSCs. It could not have run without the huge support of Loreto College for Girls who provided us with a safe, peaceful location to worship, learn, pray and share.

We hope to see you next year. More information will appear at Celebrate Family Conference or you can register interest at stalbans@celebrateconference.org”, Tim Stevens.


Adoremus Eucharistic Congress - September 2018

Adoremus the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage & Congress in Liverpool in September created an opportunity to reflect on the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church and explore the place of Eucharistic Adoration.  As Catholics the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith.  The Symposium talks the day before the main conference included Christian Unity, teaching the Eucharist and how our adoration and understanding of the Eucharist must begin with the Scriptures.

Thousands of people attended from parishes across England and Wales.  The Conference in the Liverpool Arena on Saturday was attended by approximately up to 10,000 people and the Pilgrimage on Sunday with a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Liverpool, starting and finishing at the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, was attended by approximately up to 8,000 people.

Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion enable sick parishoners who are unable to attend Mass to receive the Eucharist.  A talk at the Friday Symposium reflected on this ministry which brings Christ to others and how Christ is present in all aspects of the ministry.  The talk also suggested taking a copy of the parish newsletter with news of what’s happening in the parish, this also helps to create and build a sense of community.

The key note conference speaker was an American bishop from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Robert Barron.  He is a very gifted speaker and popular on social media with over 162,000 subscribers on You Tube (the videos are extremely well produced) and his Facebook page has over 1,500,000 on likes.  Bishop Barron spoke about the Mass saying it is where heaven meets earth and said a lot of people don’t understand what the Mass is.  He spoke about the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Testimonies were shared as part of the Saturday conference.  Magnus MacFarlane Barrow who  founded Mary’s Meals spoke about this being the fruit of prayer.  He said that people find their strength through the Eucharist and that things change and people change when they spend time with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  Aid to the Church in Need launched its #Go2Adoration campaign at the Eucharistic Congress which encourages devotion to the Eucharist as an act of solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world – ACN has long been aware of the Eucharist’s power to change the lives of the people they seek to help.  Young people from Youth 2000 gave powerful testimonies of how their lives had been changed through prayer and Eucharistic Adoration.  

Bishop Barron’s Missionary Journey to England is a short video (about 5 minutes) which also gives an insight into what it was like at the Conference in Liverpool https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Tglyak23wc

Symposium Talks http://catholicnews.org.uk/Home/Special-Events/Adoremus-National-Eucharistic-Pilgrimage/Symposium-Day

Conference Talks http://www.catholicnews.org.uk/Home/Special-Events/Adoremus-National-Eucharistic-Pilgrimage/Watch-Again

Christ on the Streets of Liverpool – Pilgrimage Day https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pDbB0N7ZVE#action=share

Conference resources for all including those unable to attend - includes resources for participating in Adoration. http://catholicnews.org.uk/Home/Special-Events/Adoremus-National-Eucharistic-Pilgrimage/Adoremus-Resources  

Aid to the Church in Need - #Go2Adoration https://acnuk.org/resource/go-to-adoration-for-someone-who-cant/

Youth 2000 https://www.youth2000.org/

Mary’s Meals https://www.marysmeals.org.uk/

Ss Albans & St Stephens has a prayer room where there is 24 hour Eucharistic Adoration on the first Friday of the month (there is a rota at the back of the church the weekend before.)  The prayer room is available for Adoration at other times.  

‘Restoration’ Holy Hour at Our Lady’s Church in Welwyn Garden City 7.35pm (after 7pm Mass) every second Friday at Our Lady’s Church Welwyn Garden City.  Eucharistic Adoration, worship music, reflections and silence.  All welcome.

Tyburn Covent where life is centred around Eucharistic Adoration - there is also a live link to Eucharistic Adoration https://www.tyburnconvent.org.uk/ 

Volunteers answer telephone requests for prayer and petitions and pray before the Blessed Sacrament http://stpatricksoho.org/outreach/sos-prayerline/  


Liverpool Eucharistic Conference 2018- notes from Pat Woodhead

The venue was huge. The conference was held in the Echo Arena in the dock area of Liverpool. People came from England and Wales to the conference titled Adoremus. Concurrently there was a youth event in another hall. Cardinal Vincent Nichols was there with what looked liked every Bishop in England and Wales, together with many priests who had managed to get time away from their parishes. We filled the arena but it was noticeable how middle aged and elderly we were. The youth were next door. The liturgies, Masses and talks were of high calibre. We were treated to keynote speeches by the gifted American Bishop Robert Barron. We had a large Eucharistic procession through the streets near the Cathedral in a deluge of rain.

I attended seminars on the Eucharist in the life of the church, teaching the Eucharist, liturgical rites outside the mass and the Eucharist and social justice.

So, what were the lasting impressions for me?

It reinforced what we already know that the Eucharist is central to us as Catholics.

What I will remember is talking to an elderly lady who had been visiting the housebound for years. Her account of a visit to a blind, deaf woman made a big impression on me. She brought love to that woman. It reminded me that Jesus has no other hands than us now.

I remember the three young people who each were interviewed live on stage about their faith. One recounted how it was at Eucharistic Adoration at university that she found meaning to her life while she was in a period of depression and despair. She then went on to invite unchurched housemates to come to a youth event which included Adoration. Two of which had positive experiences at the gathering.

It reminded me of when we had Adoration in our church and invited people in from the streets to experience quiet prayer. Also how Adoration in our cities is proving a draw to young people.

It seems to me that we need a time of silence in our church in the form of Adoration to hear what God is saying to us personally today.





Men's Film Night - 26th October 2018

A small group of men from the parish met in the Parish Hall for few beers and pizza after which we watched the film "Hacksaw Ridge". The film is based on the true story of Private Desmond T. Doss (Andrew Garfield), who joined the US Army as a conscientious objector with the intention of serving as a medic. Doss was ostracized by his fellow soldiers for refusing to use a rifle or any weapon, but went on to earn respect and adoration for his bravery. When left in enemy territory after his unit was forced to retreat, he rescued 75 injured men without firing a single shot, a result of which he won the Congressional Medal of Honor. The battle scenes are very violent and realistic, but very emotional. It was an enjoyable but somber evening.

Celebrating the Spirituality of the Heart - 12th to 16th October 2018



The Chevalier family hope that you were inspired through reading the posters and notices in Church and in the bulletin about the Spirituality of the Heart, then writing a prayer from your heart. Our celebration concluded last weekend with the feast day on 21 October of Blessed Jules Chevalier who died this day in 1907. There is more information available in the porch: a Guide to the ethos and principles of the MSCs, a simple pamphlet with prayers to the Sacred Heart, and the “Heart to Heart” prayer book of the MSCs. Thank you all for participating in the celebration and we particularly hope that those of you who were able to attend the liturgies and the talks found them interesting, informative and thought provoking. Fr Charles reminded us of our need to recognise God’s unconditional love, allow that love to transform our lives, and then bring that love to others.

A huge debt of gratitude is owed to all those who helped in any way to make this weekend so special and successful.


Newsletter (click to download PDF)

Celebration of the Spirituality of the Heart October 2018 Ss Alban & Stephen, St Albans (A Missionaries of the Sacred Heart Parish since 1899)

Between 11th and 16th October, the Chevalier family in Ss Alban & Stephen, St Albans, aimed to raise awareness in the parish of the Spirituality of the Heart, the ethos of Fr Jules Chevalier, founder of the MSCs. As well as providing general information, this was an opportunity for more in depth reflection. This was a follow-up to our formation weekend in June.

To prepare the parish, a series of articles were published over five weeks in the parish weekly bulletin. The church was decorated with posters displaying quotes on God’s love; an eight page information booklet titled ‘Spirituality of the Heart – A guide to the ethos and principles of the MSCs’ was produced. A simple pamphlet containing prayers to the Sacred Heart and ‘Heart to Heart’, the official MSC prayer book, were also made available. The host Chevalier Family prepared for the event through an evening of prayer and reflection on Thursday which focussed on ‘the Heart’.

On Friday 12 October, we welcomed Fr Charles Sweeney MSC, as our guest speaker, and Hannie Jensen from the Netherlands Chevalier family. After evening Mass, Fr Charles explored various types of Spirituality, how we encounter and experience the Love of God, the fundamentals of Spirituality of the Heart as lived out by MSCs both religious and lay. It challenged us to broaden our outlook and find ways to open up to God’s love. Fr Charles closed by asking us to meditate about the Sunday Gospel reading (Mark 10:17-30) to discover its true meaning in light of the evening’s revelations.

A fitting start to Saturday 13 October was the memorial Mass for Fr Thomas Duane MSC. We then followed the Way of the Cross written “for our time”; it invited us to reflect on Jesus’ suffering as it continues in the lives of his people; a powerful example of the compassion which is the Spirituality of the Heart.

Hannie opened the afternoon session reflecting on the 100th name of God. Fr Charles then invited us to reflect on our “Image of God” while considering traditional stereotyped versions (False Images of God: Distant God; Ideal God; Testing God; Fatalistic God; Philosophical God; and Santa Claus God) and discussed their limitations. He concluded that the mysterious nature of God goes far beyond human thinking but the unconditional love perpetrated by the Sacred Heart was evident in all creation.

During the weekend Masses, the congregations were invited to write a personal prayer from their hearts which were then prayed over during the days of the celebration. The childrens’ liturgy group prepared chains of expressions of love. Displays and prayers remained in Church until after the feast day of Blessed Jules Chevalier on 21 October.

Fr Charles continued our meditations on Sunday afternoon looking at ‘Images of Ourselves and How God sees us’. We were invited to portray an image of oneself and how this may be perceived by God. A lively discussion followed culminating with the realisation that: God loves me for whom I am – WHOM I AM – not what I should be! We were then set a challenging meditation inviting us to discover the secret centre of our heart where we can discover, meet and encounter God.

On Monday morning, Hannie updated the lay Chevalier family on other European groups. One of our group plans to attend the next European council meeting in May, in Lyon, France.

Our evening focus was on South Africa and the missionary work of our priests there. This was highly relevant because of the long-term support of our parish for MSC charities in Tshwaranang and Bakhita village. A display of memorabilia paid tribute to all that had been achieved both through human compassion and financial aid. Eric Harber, a parishioner who is a South African citizen and lived through the Apartheid era, gave a fascinating context to the back ground and culture affecting the university, where he worked, and church activities. Fr Jimmy Stubbs MSC spoke enthusiastically about his experience of ministry of more than 20 years in SA and the challenges he encountered. A lively Q&A session ensued with all reliving key moments and regaling us with stories from their recent history.

To conclude our events, Mass with the theme ‘Our love of neighbour should be tender-hearted and compassionate’ was celebrated on Tuesday evening. In keeping with the fundamental ideals of Jules Chevalier, all groups in the parish who work to support of the poor, needy and marginalised were invited to participate. The celebrant was Br Nelson Dionne SC, an ordained Brother of the Sacred Heart, an order that also has a community in St Albans. A letter from Andre Coindré (founder of the BSH) and an address of Pope Francis to the MSCs were read together with the gospel passage of the ‘Good Samaritan’.Br Nelson preached about the similarities in philosophies and ethos of Andre Coindré and Jules Chevalier. The whole liturgy emphasised love and devotion to the Sacred Heart. Prayers of intercession were prepared by various groups in the parish reflecting their particular ethos.

All then enjoyed a meal to celebrate both the wonderful work that goes on to help others within the parish, and also the overall success of the Spirituality events. The talks and liturgies were meaningful, thought provoking and well attended with about 80–100 different people attending at least one event. Our parishioners were very supportive, many praised the displays and quotes and the response to the ‘prayer hearts’ was tremendous with at least 300 prayers offered. The organising group were delighted with the reaction of parishioners to the whole celebration.

Lay Members of the Chevalier Family in St Albans with Hannie (3rd from right) and Fr Charles (2nd from right).

Vatican II and You - 18th October 2018

We had a great forum at the wonderful City Church. Lots of people gave their views in a friendly, lively and helpful discussion. Vatican II certainly made a difference to so many people.

For more information on Churches Together in St Albans visit the CTSA website

Finding Silence Weekend, Little Walsingham - 19th to 21st October 2018

Thirteen of us shared cars to benefit from this weekend retreat entitled ‘Into the Silent Land’, led by the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham in Dowry House, a renovated grade 2 listed building which accommodated pilgrims in the 15th century and located right opposite the Abbey grounds which housed the original Holy House.

Zygmunt Rakowicz, a shrine administrator, welcomed us on behalf of the Shrine and gave us a short history of the shrine, its place in England’s spirituality and current developments and handed out complimentary tickets to the Abbey grounds.

Sr Camilla had included free time in the timetable to visit these grounds and other sites of interest.  She introduced us to the spirituality of Walsingham: to make of our hearts a holy house.  Her 4 talks emphasized the need for silence in order to hear God speak and, with challenging passion, encouraged us in our lives of prayer and growth in holiness and gave time to anyone needing an individual chat.  We were particularly encouraged to read ‘Into the Silent Land’ by Martin Laird and Pope Francis’ ‘The Call to Holiness’.

We finished our retreat with Mass at the Shrine, live streamed daily at 12 noon on www.walsingham.org.uk/tv

I felt it was a blessed time for us all.  One participant wrote:  “It was very inspiring and the location very special.  I know I will be reflecting on it for some time ahead.”

North Wales Retreat - 21st to 24th September 2018

Ten pilgrims visited the national shrine of St Pio at Pantasaph and the centuries old shine and well of St Winefride in North Wales. The pilgrims stayed at St Winefride’s Guest House, Holywell, which is run by the Bridgettine Sisters.

CTSA Prayer Walk - 16th September 2018

Many thanks to everyone who joined us on the Prayer Walk, which was attended by about 40 people from Churches Together in St Albans and even from Hemel Hempstead. In addition to the scheduled stops at the churches detailed on the flyer we also prayed for the Civic Authorities outside St Albans Arena and for the members of Spicer Street Church. The weather was warm and sunny so we were much relieved to have a short rest with refreshments at St Michael’s Church. We were kindly provided with large mugs of tea or coffee with an assortment of delicious cakes. Apples, freshly picked from the Vicarage Orchard, were also available to help us on our walk across Verulamium Park to the Abbey. At our final stop, Fr Alan led us in prayer at the Shrine of St Albans.