Posted on 21. Sep, 2016 by alannevillemsc in Festivals, Latest News, UK
Here comes everybody!
It was a real privilege to join the Youth 2000 team in England for their preparations in the run up to the Conquerers Festival in Walsingham. Each year 1,500 young people journey from all over the UK to sing, pray, attend workshops and play tug of war together – as you do.
Some festivals can be too serious!?!
All this doesn’t just happen and the organising team was on site a week in advance anticipating every challenge and preparing the way. We spent days moving food boxes, setting up tables and sorting out the sound system in the Big Top. Each night we had a time of Adoration, so as to ground everything we did in prayer.
The Eucharist is a central part of the weekend
Eventually Thursday arrived along with the first of our groups. There was a real sense of anticipation and excitement. As the first buses and cars start to pull up and the people offload we move into overdrive. We began with a talk about God’s love for us and our search for Him, followed by Mass with Fr. Stephen Wang. Then it was tents up and hair down for a relaxed evening renewing old friendships and making new ones.
Hanging out with others is another essential part of Walsingham
Friday was all about getting to know God better, starting with our morning talk ‘Who do you say that I am.’ Small groups are an essential part of the faith sharing for the young people and they allow them to really express their hopes, questions and above all themselves. That evening dozens of priests took part in the Reconciliation Service, which emphasises the mercy and compassion of God for all of us. For me it’s the highlight of the Festival.
Posted on 12. Sep, 2016 by alannevillemsc in Belonging, Ireland, Latest News, Prophetic, Solidarity, World Youth Day
The MSC group in Poland for World Youth Day (minus Jaime – he had a sole leg)
After an amazing week with the parish community of St Mark’s outside Warsaw we finally arrived in Kraków. There we were joined by Sarah, Anne Marie and the pilgrims from our Dublin a Parish. Our hotel was already full of Malawians and Canadians pilgrims, giving you an idea of the wonderful diversity of World Youth Day. The following day was about getting ourselves orientated and making our way to the Blonia, where all the big events in the run up to the WYD would take place.
Meeting some of the fantastic Polish volunteers who are always ready to lend a hand
The opening Mass and the concert that followed were full of joy and music, but it was the journey home that I remember. There were conga lines of every nationality making their way back into the city centre, as well as high five relays with Polish seminarians. As with every other WYD I’ve been to, the train stations get packed, but the atmosphere is always good humoured.
Posted on 20. Aug, 2016 by alannevillemsc in Belonging, Compassion, Ireland, Latest News, UK, World Youth Day
The MSC small group with Beth and Ellie, our amazing leaders
There really are no words to describe World Youth Day. It’s an incredible event for the seventeen of the MSC pilgrims, coming from Galway, Cork, Dublin and London. We joined up with the Archdiocese of Birmingham for the 40 hour drive / flight / taxi / bus / ferry / bus trip to Poland. However, before you know it were in the parish of St. Marks, Łomianki, just outside of Warsaw. There was an incredibly joyful group of parishioners, who were delighted to welcome us to our Mission Week.
Helping out with the sensory garden
Mission Week is an essential part of the WYD experience. It’s about taking the time to ground your faith in acts of service. This is especially important during Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy. We’re told to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, cloth the naked, bury the dead, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. We don’t tick every box during Mission Week, but we were close.
Everybody just got stuck in!
Altogether there was 120 pilgrims in the group, who were divided over a variety of projects. The first team headed to Sadawa, a residential home for people with disabilities, to build a multi sensory garden. They had to dig up paths, decorate jumbo pots, and paint a sail boat. They also managed to fit in time for bike rides through the forest, dancing, as well as arts and crafts. The next group built a Rosary walk in a home for the elderly. Another spent a few days entertaining the kids at a local paediatric hospital with drama and music. The rest of us were in the park organising few days of games and activities for local children. It was pretty manic, but we had loads of help from Ola and the members of the Łomianki youth group. They were just brilliant.
MSC selfie with a photobomb from Sue, our amazing nurse!
By Sunday the songs were sung, the garden dug, and pots were planted. Bishop William Kenney CP blessed the sensory garden and Rosary walk and then we all headed for a barbecue – as you do. The next morning our Polish families saw us off on the bus and we began our journey to Kraków. On the way we visited Wadowice, the birth place of Pope John Paul II. We also paid our respects in Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was a sobering reminder about the world’s need for justice and mercy.
Late on Monday evening we finally arrived at the Junior Krakus in Kraków, tired but excited for Week 2 of World Youth Day!
Posted on 12. Jul, 2016 by alannevillemsc in Festivals, Latest News, UK
Thanks, but no thanks!
You can see that they are sceptical. The arms are folded and the legs are crossed. No one can do militant disinterest like two hundred and fifty teenagers in a marquee on Friday morning. They are having none of this Jesus carry on. It’s a little surprising an hour later when you see everyone one of them jumping up and down and singing along with Guvna B. Apparently Grime is in at the moment.
But then things get really moving!
This is the wonderful thing about the Brightlights Youth Festival. It succeeds in engaging young people who, on the surface, want to be disengaged. Through music, drama, and inspirational speakers they allow them to celebrate what faith should be about. It’s something real, not imagined, and it is relevant to their lives.
Posted on 02. Jul, 2016 by alannevillemsc in Engaging Vocations, Festivals, Latest News
It’s June, so that means it’s time for the Spirit in the City Festival in the centre of London. It’s based in the parish of Notre Dame de France, home of the wonderful Marist Fathers and their passionate team of laity. Over four days of music, cinema, outreach, and liturgy we reached out to the 250,000 thousand who pass through Leicester Square every day.
We started on Wednesday with the European premiere of Full of Grace in the Prince Charles Cinema. It normally holds Rocky Horror Picture Show sing-alongs and John Carpenter retrospectives (I was at one the month before – Big Trouble in Little China is a classic!). This was something entirely different. It was a reflective, prayerful film on the life of Mary after the Resurrection. I was on usher duty, which was no mean feat, as we had a full house. The movie was followed by a discussion of the role of Mary in the early Church and her continuing impact today as an example of Mercy.
Posted on 23. Jun, 2016 by alannevillemsc in Latest News, Pilgrimage
Moving at a different pace
It wasn’t looking good. Anytime I checked the weather app it said rain. When I checked back a few minutes later, hoping against hope, it was only getting worse. The threat of thunder and lightning is certainly not the ideal circumstances for a 114km walk along the ancient and beautiful pilgrimage route toward Santiago de Compostella. Still with bags packed, water bottles filled, and enthusiasm unbridled we began our Camino from the sleepy town of Sarria just before dawn. It was to be the beginning of a wonderful adventure.
Posted on 04. May, 2016 by alannevillemsc in Engaging Vocations, Ireland, Latest News
After twenty minutes of pushing and pulling wet suits we’re ready to go!
There are moments in your life when you’re certain you’ve made a terrible mistake. You don’t need anyone to tell you. You just know. I had one of those experiences earlier this year on a Saturday morning when I looked out the window of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart retreat house in Myross Woods and saw a wet, grey, cold day. Time for a good fire and a cup of tea. Definitely not the day to go surfing with a group of young people from Cork as part of our Surf, Son, and Sand Retreat!
Lesson 1 Surfing is easy on sand
So it was, with a smiling face and a heavy heart, I joined our team and our young people on Inchydoney Strand. It had taken us the better part of fifteen minutes to put on our wetsuits, boots, hoods, and gloves. It wasn’t looking good. Once we were in however everything changed. We all had a great morning. Some of the young people even managed to stay up on the board. I ended up with an extra wide board for those fledgling surfers who need ‘some extra support.’
Posted on 01. Apr, 2016 by alannevillemsc in Africa, Ireland, Latest News, UK, Volunteering
Summer with the MSC Volunteering Project is an unforgetable experience
It’s 2016 and perhaps it’s time for something new. Maybe you’re looking for a challenge. You want to push yourself, move out of your comfort zone, and make a difference in the world. If that’s the case our MSC Volunteering Project could be just what you need.
We send volunteers to South Africa for five weeks from the start of July until the end of the first week of August. There they work alongside the fantastic team based in the Holy Family Centre. It’s in the foothills of the beautiful Drakensburg Mountains in the Northern Province, about one hour east of Kruger National Wildlife Park. Holy Family is home for up to seventy children who have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS or TB. They range in age from babies and toddlers to teenagers. As you can imagine it’s a lively place! The kids are simply wonderful. They are so full of life, enthusiasm and joy. They love to sing and dance, run relay races with tyres and play football, go on outings, and sit around and chat.
We are looking for people who would like to take part in the Project. It is aimed at those between the ages of 23 and 40 and who perhaps have some practical skills. We need people with backgrounds in teaching, nursing, carpentry, electrics, mechanics and anything else. Volunteers are asked to contribute €1,000 and we match this with €1,000 ourselves. This covers flights, food, accommodation, insurance, transfers, and training. We look to support the children, but also to share our skills with others. For our volunteers it’s a learning experience that they will never forget. The MSC Volunteering Project made a deep impression on those who have volunteered with us.
Posted on 19. Nov, 2015 by alannevillemsc in Belonging, Inspiring Others, Ireland, Latest News, Prophetic
“It was fantastic”
“The group was really supportive and easy going”
“I loved being able to look at the big questions in life with others who were thinking about the same things”
Okay. So, what’s next? I’m not really sure. Things are so busy and I’ve got so much going on right now.
We all have times when we have to make important decisions. It can seem challenging, but joining a Samuel group could help make the best choice possible for you.
Samuel Groups are for single young adults between the ages of 18 and 35, who are wondering what God is calling them to do with their lives. The aim is to help participants discern their direction in life, whether this is to marriage or dedicated single life, to priesthood or religious life. It would also suit those who are making decisions about their career, life choices, or about moving abroad.
Posted on 18. Oct, 2015 by alannevillemsc in Belonging, Communal Work, Community Life, Community Prayer, Compassion, Engaging Vocations, Festivals, Inspiring Others, Latest News, Openness, Our Different Ministries, Pilgrimage, Prophetic, Solidarity, Spirituality, Volunteering
Henry, one of our students, at the Spirit in the City Festival Cropped
In 2015 we have been called in a special way to celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life. It’s an opportunity to give thanks for the men and women who have worked so selflessly to serve the people of God at home and abroad. It has led the priests and brothers of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSC) to minister in over fifty countries around the world, working with some of the most marginalised communities. However it’s not just about the past. This is a story that is ongoing and that today moves us into areas that are both challenging and prophetic. The call to mission, wherever it may lead, is as important now as it ever was before.
On the Way
The Holy Spirit continues to inspire people to follow their vocation as a religious sister, brother, or priest. Some may question if such a way of life has anything to offer our world today. However it’s clear that in a society that esteems money, sex, and power as all-important, perhaps the gentle witness of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience may call us to a more genuine living out of our human dignity.
Courage for Mission
Living out your vocation is less about certainty and more about having the courage to explore the possibilities. Many feel that they are not strong enough, not holy enough, or not prayerful enough to serve God as a priest, a sister or a brother. There must be so many others better suited to the task. However, it’s striking that Jesus didn’t go directly to the Temple or to the synagogue to call his first disciples. He invited fishermen and tax collectors. As it says in 1 Samuel 16:7 “People judge by outward appearances, but God looks at the heart.” He looked for those who felt a call to be part of something great; who had a sense of commitment beyond themselves; and above all had an openness of heart for God and others.