Dear People of St Joseph’s Parish,
Archbishop Longley’s Episcopal Visitation
The last time we celebrated Sunday Mass together as a parish community was with Archbishop Bernard Longley on the weekend of 7th and 8th March. His Episcopal Visitation stands out as a peak moment at which we gathered to break bread together. I was so proud of how the Parish worked together to make the Visitation such a success. Archbishop Longley enjoyed his time with us very much from the moment he found the ‘Welcome Pack’ in his guestroom until he departed 36 hours later. Part of the letter he wrote to me even before we quickly entered into the current covid-19 crisis reads:
‘Thank you very much for all the arrangements for my visitation of St Joseph’s Parish and for making it possible for me to meet with so many parishioners. I was largely impressed by all that I saw. Please thank Peter, Edd and all the altar servers, the music group and carol-Anne for their contribution to the liturgy; Viv for the Churches Together meeting and for the visit the Ibraheem family; Chris for the Visit to The Avenue Care Home, Sue for all her work in welcoming me and the many volunteers who provided food and refreshments. My thanks to the young people who provided breakfast and for the school children who led my visit to St Joseph’s school and many more..…’
I shall pray for you all as Easter approaches. My thanks for all that you do and my kindest wishes…..’
Trip to Malawi
On the Tuesday 10th March, I took 9 days leave to return the body of my dear friend, Elizabeth Nyirenda, to Malawi. I had known Elizabeth for since 1998 back in Malawi. She was part of the Pastoral Team when I was Parish Priest of St Peter’s Cathedral in Mzuzu, the capital of Northern Malawi. She was then a young nun of the Siters of the Holy Rosary. Her funeral drew hundreds of people among them the Sisters of the Holy Rosary a congregation she served with dedication before she left them. Also outstanding among those who came to the funeral was an association initiated by Elizabeth of ex Sisters of the Holy Rosarian. Her death will strengthen the witness of these ex nuns who now vow to continue to encourage one another and to make a difference in the faith of their own families and the communities they find themselves in. At the funeral they asked me if I could be chaplain to their association to encourage them on the ideals of Elizabeth.
At the funeral mourners wore T-shirts with Elizabeth’s face on them such was their love for her.
The trip was stressful for all sorts of reasons
Those of you who follow politics in Malawi will know that the results of Malawi’s May 2019 elections were challenged in the High Court by two political parties. This led to protests in central Lilongwe and elsewhere in Malawi which have at times turned violent. On 3 February, the High Court nullified the Presidential election and called for fresh elections. Appeals have been filed against this and there is constant tension in the air. This as well as the emerging situation with Coronavirus was on my mind as I travelled back to the airport. Would roads and borders be closed? Would my flight leave Malawi? Would I make my flight from Ethiopia and leave Addis Ababa? Would I be quarantined at Heathrow? It was a long and stressful journey, but by God’s grace I made it back to Malvern where Anne and Sam insisted I self-isolate for seven days.
While a week of self-isolation afforded me an opportunity to get some much-needed rest, I did get a little lonely. I miss parishioners coming for mass, confession and other communal services and the all day adoration on Thursdays. I miss the friendly hustle and bustle in the Sacristy and Presbytery. I miss the cleaners, the school children, Alf coming by keeping the accounts and even my bossy administrators!
The Mass and the Parish as a Community and the wider church
And I know we are all missing the Mass. Saying private Masses gives me time to pray for the people of the parish in a way I have never done before. At the consecration I do lift up the community of the parish with bread and chalice.
As we approach Easter, changes are afoot at St Joseph’s. Work on CCTV camera will commence this Tuesday, 30th March. It will take a few days. With the help of Alan Hood, I hope to begin Livestreaming Masses and other services to bring us a little closer to each other. I shall update you later on in the week. In the meantime, there are some wonderful online resources for which you will find links in the Bulletin on this website.
Jithin Thomas Titto, the Seminarian
I will finish this letter with one last bit of good news. The diocese has allocated a young seminarian from the English College in Spain to be staying at the Presbytery at St Joseph’s while the English College is closed due to the COVID-19. It is a great blessing to be with a seminarian at the presbytery I am very glad to have his company while the house is so quiet. Please keep him in your prayers as he settles in, pursue his studies online and takes up the job of answering the phones in the Parish Office. (Sam and Anne will be working remotely on the Bulletin and Parish Census and are in daily contact, but answering the phone is the one thing they cannot do from home!). Next week, Jithin will write a letter introducing himself and about how he is settling in Malvern.