The Year of Faith at St Catherine’s, Birmingham

26th November 2012 - by Fr Denis Carter

fr-jim-fleming-ssc
Father Jim Fleming SSC

For the past seven years St. Catherine’s in Birmingham has offered rooms in the presbytery, not only for destitute asylum seekers to live in, but also for different community groups to meet on a regular basis. Fr Jim Fleming, the parish priest, writes:

 

Three substance abuse groups meet every week, an Ethiopian prayer group meets on Saturdays, university chaplains and vicars for religious and others also come here for meetings. All say they appreciate our welcome and feel privileged to be able to use our church facilities. So, St Catherine’s is well established now as a place of hospitality for everyone and the good news is that we have been assured that there will be continuity of this type of ministry here right into the future.

Meanwhile, our parish community centre has been used by the Birmingham City Council for over the past four years for the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance of young offenders. It means that they are given a choice by the judge in the juvenile court of coming to St Catherine’s for rehabilitation for 6 months or going to prison – no ifs or buts. This is a highly successful project and on Thursday 15 November for the first time it was showcased to both city dignitaries and church personnel and it will be written up in the Birmingham Mail this week. One of the tasks given to the young offenders was to clear a space in the car park facing a hotel which had been in a bad way for many years. They planted new trees and shrubs and placed a donated bench there to allow them, as they said themselves, to reflect on their crimes and mend their ways. They have called it a Sacred Space.

This is what the Year of Faith is all about – looking for every opportunity to remind people of God, of church and of our need to reflect on the meaning of life, its purpose and goal.

C S Lewis once said: ‘The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ’. We are the church in the world, we are God’s hands, feet and eyes; we meet all kinds of people on a daily basis who are our brothers and sisters. We must be ready to open their eyes to the Good news, to welcome them to our faith and church. Jesus said, ‘Go—make disciples of all nations’. Pope Benedict has reflected too that, ‘It is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelise’.

So, who will we meet this week? Having met us, will they know we are Christian? And will we be brave enough to mention God in our conversation, to bless ourselves in public, to tell people in need that we will pray for them. How will they know if nobody goes to them? In the Acts of the Apostles St. Philip ran up to an Ethiopian stranger and asked him, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ and he replied ‘How can I unless someone will guide me’ and Philip went on to explain and indeed to baptise him.

Some may come and ask to join the church like the four we have here doing the RCIA program but the majority need to be invited and to do that we have to go to them. Jesus said in Mt 10, ‘Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. Lapsed Catholics may be more ready to hear the Gospel since the seeds have already been sown – so if we know some, then let’s invite them back to church. If everyone tried to bring one person back to church then we would have a huge congregation.

So, let’s be confident in our faith and try to share it with others. As we say in the Baptism ceremony: ‘This is our faith, this is the faith of the church. We are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

 

Fr Jim Fleming SSC is the parish priest of St Catherine’s.