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Pastoral Day of Reflection on Saturday 8th February 2020


St Francis Pastoral Area Reflection Day, Saturday 8th February 2020

– summary for St. Peter’s, Biggleswade, written by Neil Spencer

There was a great turnout from all the parishes in the St. Francis Pastoral Area (Biggleswade, Shefford, Flitwick, Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable/Houghton Regis), especially from St. Peter’s (15-20 people). Many thanks to all who were able to attend, to Bob Emmett for arranging for and driving the Ivel Sprinter, and to everyone for their prayers and other input.

Introduction to the day

Our hosts at Sacred Heart, Flitwick provided welcoming teas and coffees and Canon Bennie (President of the Pastoral Area Council) opened the day in prayer. We then watched a video of Bishop Peter outlining his vision for the future of the Diocese, needing to thrive and not just survive with fewer priests available.

Session 1

Splitting into parish groups, we looked at what we could be proud about in our parish, with a view to seeing what we could build upon for the future. We were very pleased to come up with a long list of things to be proud about, covering many aspects of parish life from spiritual to charitable to practical. A number of these could be built upon, including the successful courses of faith exploration (e.g. see the bulletin notice for the upcoming “Let It Be” course) and the valuable faith development activities for children (colouring sheets, Children’s Liturgy, First Holy Communion classes, Confirmation classes).

With all parishes back together, each shared one thing about which they were especially proud. We chose to talk about music – our parish has long had a tradition of excellent music with dedicated and talented musicians enriching our worship in a way that is unusual for a parish of our size.

Session 2

Back in parish groups, we were asked to look at what needs we had in our parish to grow our mission activities and come up with some practical first steps. At the end of the session the parishes shared their discussions and plans with each other.

Following on from our discussion in the first session, we talked about how we could improve our mission to the youth of our parish, moving from the current situation (where we have activities during Mass, for First Holy Communion each year, and for Confirmation every few years) to where we are helping our young people to develop their faith on a more regular basis, from baptism to adulthood. We decided that it would be a good idea to try and form a “Youth Ministry Team”, or similar, in some way.

We also discussed how we operate in a practical way as a parish. We have lots of people undertaking various roles, many of which are not well known to the clergy and laity. This is, on occasion, causing confusion, and we are sometimes having difficulty in operating as we would like, let alone being able to build and grow activities. The ways in which other parishes organise themselves was discussed with many having a Parish Council, Advisory Group or other body which helped the clergy and laity work together. Canon Bennie suggested that a group along these lines could be created at St. Peter’s.

Session 3

After lunch, we heard about the new “Mandated Ministry” roles being suggested by the Diocese. With fewer priests being available in coming years, it will not be possible for each parish to have a parish priest (even shared with other parishes) who can adequately look after the pastoral care of the parish on their own. Looking worldwide, we have been very lucky in this country in the past, having enough priests to look after relatively small parishes. In other countries, the laity have long taken a greater role in the pastoral care of parishes and this has led the Diocesan group set up by Bishop Peter to suggest two new roles for the laity: “Pastoral Coordinators” and “Pastoral Leaders”. Elsewhere in this country, the Archdiocese of Liverpool already has people undertaking similar roles.

The possibility of merging parishes and closing churches in the Diocese had been considered. However, it was felt that this would inevitably lead to the weakening of Catholic communities and was to be avoided if at all possible (although some very small Mass centres, served by current parishes, might be unsustainable and a number have closed in recent years).

At this stage the Diocese is still exploring how these new roles would work. One of the purposes of the Reflection Days taking place across the Diocese is to help identify what is needed in parishes and thus how these roles can be more closely defined. Both roles of “Pastoral Coordinator” and “Pastoral Leader” would be open to men and women alike and involve several years (probably three) of (part-time) training provided by the Diocese. A “Pastoral Coordinator” would probably be unpaid and would coordinate the pastoral care of a parish under the direction of a parish priest who might have responsibility for several parishes. A “Pastoral Leader” would operate under a “Priest Supervisor” who would not be the parish priest. He/she would probably be paid and would take an even greater responsibility for the pastoral care of the parish than would be expected of a “Pastoral Coordinator”.

After having these new roles explained, we met again as parish groups to discuss how they might work in our own parishes. In our discussions, there was much understandable unease about the potential weakening of the relationship between parish and parish priest, with the new roles perhaps not being able to provide the same degree of spiritual direction. However, in the eventuality of not having a parish priest located near Biggleswade, the group thought that it would be good to have someone trained and appointed by the Diocese to look after the pastoral care of the parish. It was pointed out that we have had Lay Chaplains looking after pastoral care in hospitals, prisons, schools, etc. for many years and that the Second Vatican Council allowed for the creation of positions such as these almost 60 years ago. The extension of these roles to parishes is unusual in this country but perhaps not such a great leap. Exactly how these roles would operate at St. Peter’s was a source of uncertainty, in particular the extent to which a “Pastoral Coordinator” or “Pastoral Leader” would also be involved with the practical administration of the parish. Current parish income might not be sufficient to pay for a dedicated “Pastoral Leader” but perhaps these roles could be shared between parishes. The way in which “Pastoral Coordinators” and “Pastoral Leaders” were themselves co-ordinated was an area of concern but the fact that they were to be “Mandated”/appointed by the Diocese was thought to be important. The roles also provided exciting opportunities for the laity to become more involved in pastoral work in a formal manner.

Conclusion of the Day

Following discussion of the suggested “Mandated Ministry” roles in parish groups, we joined together and each parish shared their thoughts. A question and answer session took place at which it was emphasised that this is part of a genuine consultation exercise and, as such, many of the finer details of the positions were not settled. Indeed, with Bishop Peter retiring, it was possible that Bishop Elect David Oakley might wish to advance things in a different way. However, Bishop Elect David has encouraged these Reflection Days to continue to take place and will be meeting with Pastoral Areas on 28th March 2020 at Thornton College to discuss next steps.

Canon Bennie closed the day in prayer. Many thanks must go to Catherine Davies and Avril Baigent from the Diocese who were our facilitators for the day. We were also very grateful to our hosts at the Parish of Sacred Heart, Flitwick for the efforts they made to make the day a success and for their hospitality.

At St. Peter’s we will keep the parish up to date with future developments and explore how to advance with the ideas discussed in session 2.


Notes from Canon Bennie

Thank you everybody who kept things going while I was on Holiday.

I had a great break, thank God. I spent all of my time in County Cork after travelling to see friends in the Dublin & Leinster area.

May God reward you who give God and His Church of your time.

Praise indeed! From our Local Authority.

Bishop Peter, a few years back, asked us to question ourselves….. what impression do our Churches give to outsiders who do not worship in any Church ?

A few weeks ago there was a By-election in Biggleswade. In recent years our Church has been used as a Polling Station. During this By-Election the Returning Officer had occasion to visit as part of her duty. She was fulsome in her praise of us. Compared to many such Election Day venues we stood out for our facilities (clean toilets, kitchen etc. Enthusiastically we have been booked for the Local Elections next May!). So well done folk who help in any way to give a very, very positive response to Bishop Peter’s query.

[Extracted from the 12 Aug 18 newsletter by Chris]

A Lovely Request


A REALLY Lovely Request came my way this week!

The request was in the form of a Question “Why do we not have any of the tickets that are out at Shefford for the Summer Fete?” I was, I need hardly say, overjoyed. So, this weekend there are plenty of our Tickets. Here are some Details of our Summer Fete.

    Each year we have 2 big fundraisers in Shefford: Our Church is a Grade 2* Listed Building. It is perhaps the nicest Church in the Diocese – indeed one of the nicest Catholic Churches in the whole Country!

    But these Lovely Listed Buildings need constant high maintenance. In recent years we have had to pay out £200 thousand (yes! – not me pressing a wrong key!) for compliance and necessary Repair. Now we are being hit with a new list of NECESSARY repairs which will set us back another £50 thousand (yes, my fingers are not touching the wrong keys!).

    So thank you folk who have come forward to ask this Question. It has, I assure you, warmed my heart. Well done.



    Pray for our Confirmation Children and for all who helped them.

    We had a lovely Ceremony during the week. Both our and the St Francis’ Parish united wonderfully for the Evening…… thank you Will and the Servers & your Parents who arranged to get ye to Shefford, Nick and the Singers.

    A great Big Thank You to all involved in the Formation of the 21 Candidates – especially Liz Carey-Sheill, Deacon Peter Hyde, Eddie O’Callaghan and Neil Spencer. Thank you too to those who did Sessions, particularly Deacon John and Sue Armstrong.

    And a huge “gratias” also to our Social Committee for taking on the task which would have been done normally by our Union of Catholic Mothers (they were in Swanwick for the UCM annual National Conference – this year it was the turn of OUR Diocese to lead the National Annual Event, which very much involved Bishop Peter and our own Diocesan President – who happens to be a Parishioner at Shefford. And – bless them – the Shefford Ladies went to support their local Lady as she ensured the National Committee and various Diocesan Committees got a welcome at Swanwick for their AGM!

    So thank you Social Committee – it was a huge relief to Liz when ye selflessly answered her call to help in the Catering for the Confirmed and for their Parents, for their Sponsors and for their Guests.

    Bishop Peter was effusive in his compliments to me as he left the Evening. Deo Gratias.

    May God reward everybody who can give of their valuable time to evangelise our Young.

    Canon Bennie

    From Canon Bennie

    I want to repeat my thanks of last week for the lovely Easter Liturgies that we had.

    “He who sings prays twice” said St Augustine. Certainly, our Music here was outstanding for both Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The latter lasted well over 2 hours. Normally I would notice when a Liturgy ‘drags’ (and just goes on for too long). When I hopped on my scooter (to get back to Shefford) I was sure the clock on my bike had lost its brains…… I just could not believe it lasted for so long and yet I had never noticed. Thank you all our Musicians. AD MULTOS ANNOS.

    Both of our Parishes – at Shefford and here – thoroughly enjoyed joining each other. Obviously, it would have been much lovelier if we had the usual complete Masses and Liturgies in each Parish. But, as with many areas in the Dioceses, nowadays, Parishes are increasingly having to share a priest. Thank you very, very much to those of you who came across for Holy Thursday to St Francis. And thank ye too for the great welcome that you gave folk from St Francis at the Holy Saturday Liturgy. Our Servers – just like the Musicians – made a huge contribution to the “feel great” factor that was present during and after both Thursday and Saturday.

    And – finally – thank you…. each and every person for the very generous Easter Collection. ***


    I hope you all have a lovely Easter. I pray especially that God will bless, with Joy, your Family, your home, your concerns.

    I thank everyone who made our Holy Week and Easter Liturgies. Musicians, Servers, Extraordinary Ministers, Readers, Commentaries, Flowers, Cleaners, all enhance our Liturgies. I thank God for you and for the time that you are able to give to Him and His Church. These lovely occasions never just happen, as if almost, by accident. May God reward you all for the time that you devote to Him.

    It was so pleasing to see the wonderful turnout for our Liturgies. Shefford Church, on Holy Thursday, was like a wedding ceremony – bride’s family on the one side of the Church and the groom’s clan on the other side. The turnout was so pleasing and amazing. Again – well done everybody.

    Comments (1)

    From Father Bennie

    I hope that, for you, Lent is going well. Already we are in the second week! Please do look around for Villages’ Lent Courses and Hunger/ Frugal Lunches going on.

    This Monday our own Course begins. It will run for 5 Mondays. It is based on Our Lady and how she carried out God’s will and how she can help us do just this.

    Looking ahead, we will all be affected by the Parish having to share me with Shefford – especially in Holy Week. I am hoping that parishioners at both St Francis and here can share my services during Holy Week.

    I hope to do the Holy Thursday Mass at Shefford (8.00pm) plus Watching until Midnight. Then I hope to do the Easter Vigil here at St Peter’s (8.00pm Saturday). Good Friday is easy because Deacon Peter Hyde can lead the Afternoon Liturgy (3pm) at Shefford while I am leading here at St Peter’s (3.00pm).

    From Father Bennie

    Lent is the special Season when the Church gives us the opportunity to deepen our Catholic Faith. It is a season of amazing possibilities for grace.

    We had an excellent start to Lent with a full Church for the Ash Wednesday Mass. Deo Gratias. Well done everyone who was able to make it………. on a cold and miserable evening.

    Looking ahead, we will all be affected by the Parish having to share me with Shefford – especially in Holy Week. I am hoping that parishioners at both St Francis and here can share my services during Holy Week.

    I hope to do the Holy Thursday Mass at Shefford (8.00pm) plus Watching until Midnight. Then I hope to do the Easter Vigil here at St Peter’s (8.00pm Saturday). Good Friday is easy because Deacon Peter Hyde can lead the Afternoon Liturgy (3pm) at Shefford while I am leading here at St Peter’s (3.00pm).

    This year the annual Lenten Course is on the role that Our Lady plays in the life of the Catholic. It runs on Monday evenings. Coming along will not only enlighten you but also it will help you meet other people and to discuss with them your Faith.

    And do not forget that Ecumenically there are Lenten Meetings. Going along to these ecumenical events would be a great way of sharing with your fellow Christians.

    Fr. Bennie

    From Father Bennie

    Thank you for your patience.

    Since you became a Parish without a resident priest many things have had to change. I thank all of you for your patience.

    An especial thank you who regularly used the 8.00am as your weekly Mass. Also thank you for accepting the change of timing for our main Family Mass from 10.30 to 11a.m.

    Fr. Bennie

    From Father Bennie

    The Census is going very well.

    A great “thank you” to you all who have given us your Details. Thank you too to those who enabled the Operation.

    You are now on our Parish Register. This is very important for us. And it is vital for you too to be on our Books – that we know you exist and who you are! It is so important for your Children – for the Sacraments (First Holy Communion and Confirmation). Furthermore, it can be a tremendous help for our Catholic Schools and their Admission requirements.

    While many people in St Peter’s are well established and here for years, many do come and go within a few years. The Census helps to keep our Parish Register up to date.

    If you have not yet filled in a Form please pick one up. Fill it out. And let us have it.

    Many, many thanks INDEED.
    Fr. Bennie
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