Parish News and Events
Click on the thumbnails to view photo galleries.
More Strawberry Teas
On Sunday 14th July, Our Lady of Lourdes held a Strawberry Tea in aid of 'Out of the Blue' mental health charity. The food was amazing and there was a great turn out from parishioners from all three parishes - a fantastic afternoon. The event raised £473.30.
The Friends of St Agnes' organised their annual social occasion on the afternoon of Saturday 6th July. It was a lovely occasion; the Summer Draw was also drawn. Overall, £700.80 was raised for church funds.
First Holy Communion
The Feast of Corpus Christi was a notable day in the life of our parishes, as children in our parishes celebrated their First Holy Communion. The Masses were lovely, prayerful occasions.
Belated Christmas Night Out
Yes, it may be the Easter Season, but The Friends' of St Agnes enjoyed their annual Christmas meal in May! For various reasons, their usual Christmas meal was postponed, but a good night out was eventually had by the group at The Skiff. The group meet regularly at St Agnes' on the first Tuesday of the month. All welcome.
First Communion - final preparations
Our children who will receive the Lord in the Eucharist for the first time next month gathered for their final Liturgy within the Sunday Mass in all three of our parishes on 4th Sunday of Easter. Their catechists stated before the congregation that the candidates had worked hard on their programme and were ready for the sacrament. The candidates were also given the gift of a Peruvian cross as a reminder to make time for God in prayer. First Holy Communion will be celebrated on the Feast of Corpus Christi, weekend 22nd/23rd June.
A Christian Passover: The Seder Meal
Parishioners from our communities responded to a kind invitation and joined ecumenical friends from Greenside Parish to celebrate a Christian Seder meal together, learning about each of the elements that comprise the traditional Seder. The celebration was held in St John's Church Hall on Monday of Holy Week; Rev. Tom Brazier led the ceremonies with readers, including representatives of our parishes. Delicious food was lovingly prepared by members of Greenside Parish,
Passover is one of the seven feasts of Judaism commanded in the Old Testament. It goes back to the time of the Exodus when God struck down the firstborn of the Egyptians. God commanded that Passover be observed from that time forward so that the people of Israel would remember what the LORD had done for them.
The Passover celebration is known as the Seder, which means “set order.” Passover is more than a Jewish feast. It is a picture of the redeeming work of Christ. The Apostle Paul refers to Christ as “Our Passover” in 1 Corinthians, chapter 5. There is the obvious picture of Christ in the Passover lamb. As this lamb was sacrificed to deliver the people from Egypt, so Christ was sacrificed to deliver us from the bondage of sin.
Jesus chose a Passover Seder as the occasion to institute the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. We should keep in mind that night when Christ ate his last meal with his disciples. In doing so, we can better prepare our hearts for the celebration of His resurrection.
Farewell Rev. Barron
With Rev John Barron, Vicar of Rowlands Gill and High Spen, moving on to his new post at Houghton-le-Spring, St Joseph's Parish recently held a reception for him following Vigil Mass to thank him for all of his help and support. John read the scripture readings and many of our Anglican friends attended the service and also the buffet afterwards. It was a lovely occasion and many compliments were received with the call to "do this more often".
Rev. John received a contribution to his upcoming retreat to Minsteracres and a small plaque to have as a keepsake. On 10th February, a Farewell Songs of Praise was held at St. Patrick's, with many of John's favourite hymns. A number of parishioners from St. Joseph's attended, and it was a packed church! Many folks took the chance to thank John for all of his work in Rowlands Gill. A splendid evening.
Diamond Celebrations at St Joseph's
On Saturday 29th December, a special mass was held in St Joseph’s Parish in Rowlands Gill for Louis and Shirley Cresci who would celebrated their Diamond Wedding anniversary on New Year’s Eve. At the end of mass, they were presented with a Papal Blessing which had been organised by Rose Goldie, wife of brother Bob, who also made them a cake and provided some bubbly for a toast. The parish clubbed together to pay for the blessing to be framed and held a small “party” for them after mass. All of this came as a total surprise to Louis and Shirley.
Shirley, from Middlesbrough, and Louis from South Wales, met in London at a dance organised by the Passionist Fathers, and were married three years later in Shirley’s home parish of St. Philomena’s Middlesbrough in 1958.
With their children Paul and Andrea now flown the nest, they returned to Rowlands Gill in the North East, where Louis became President of the Hexham and Tyne Valley Circle, was appointed Principal of Derwentside Tertiary College, and Shirley was able to pursue her career in nursing.
Louis and Shirley were joined for the evening by their children, family and friends.
Christians Unite for Christmas Big Sing
The Catholic community was well-represented at the annual Big Sing Carol Service at St Barnabas', Rowlands Gill. The service, led by Rev John Barron and members of the Anglican congregation, began in the garden, with the official lighting and blessing of the Christmas Tree. The congregation then moved into the warm for a service of carols, readings, reflections and prayers, with particular focus on the work of Christian Aid. After the service, festive refreshments were served in the church hall.
St Agnes' pupils celebrate Mass for the Presentation of Mary
On 21st November, pupils from St Agnes' School gathered for Mass on the feast of Our Lady. The heavens opened as the children walked down to school. However, it didn't dampen their spirits; they celebrated a beautiful, prayerful Mass together with parishioners and parents. Readings, prayers and the offertory procession were all ministered by Year 6 pupils. The mass ended with a rousing rendition of As I Kneel Before You.
A Great Night of Dancing and Fellowship
St Joseph's Parish played host to families and friends and to neighbours from St Barnabas and Strathmore Road Churches. They were also delighted when friends from all the Ovingham Partnership Parishes kindly supported the event, held in St Barnabas' Church Hall, and danced all night to wonderful live music from the 1950s and 60s, supplied by 'Heartbeat.' The band members, who are no strangers to the parish, were delighted and so were we! £235.00 was raised for CAFOD with more donations promised. An excellent night was enjoyed by all - it certainly illustrated the power of partnership.
St Joseph's sacristy bell rings again in the Cathedral
When St Joseph's Church closed in 2012, parishioners were invited to take some of the fixtures and fittings as a keepsake of their beloved church. Tony Noakes, from Hookergate, took the bell that had hung in the sacristy to announce the beginning of Mass; he had it especially engraved to mark its significance. After a while, he presented it to a good friend who was connected with the St Mary's Cathedral in Newcastle. When Tony attended Mass at the Cathedral with his friend, he was astonished and delighted to find it mounted and beautifully polished at the back of the church, beside the West Door; it is now used to signal the beginning of Solemn Mass on Sundays and special diocesan occasions.
St Agnes' Church receives much-needed exterior repair work
First we had to review the property with the Diocese representative for buildings and grounds. We assessed all the work that had been indicated by the survey then prioritized it into stages of work.
We had to ask lots of questions to get the best price and job done. Lots of phone calls were made and meetings were held on site. This was then all submitted to the finance committee and the PPC and after all that to the diocese for another grilling on costing. We were then requested to reduce some of our expectations.
No real work had been carried out on the outside of the building for a long time. Dates and times for all work were set. These often had to be adjusted due to changes by the Contractors, requiring constant flexibility. Due to scaffolding going up the site had to be a PPC area with shut gates to give security in all ways
We started with only some of the scaffolding being completed, but this gave me time to have a proper look at the roof and the ridge tiles. The ridge tiles were in a very poor state and fell apart when lifted by hand so all  were replaced. An even better assessment was made of the condition of the tiles on roof. Lots had holes and the glazing was pitted. The type of tiles proved to be very hard to obtain. They were made in Belgium just after the Second World War and were imported into the south of the country but very little was known about this. Even the roofer with 30 years in the business had not come upon these tiles. The diocese could not help but fortunately for me my daughter Suzanne was off work (after a back operation ) She managed to find a source of supply after a lot of phone calls to reps of different companies. She found 380 brand new tiles at Hull. This was a complete pallet, so we purchased the pallet, hoping that there will be some left for another day. We did find 1000 second hand tiles down south but logistics of getting them and the quality being suspect made us decide new was best. The tiles are called Flemish 401 anthracite (grey) and I have heard there are other properties in the Diocese with this roof tile so my research may be of some help.
All the gutters and down comers had to be cleaned out and repaired. The growth of weeds was excessive in some points. They were then painted with 2 coats of black metal paint. Every joint on the gutters has been disassembled, reassemble with new sealants with bolts where necessary, and repaired with a covering paint that has fibre-glass in it. The rails on the tower were also painted and the tower floor was cleaned out.
260 main roof tiles were replaced including the small roof at the back of church covering the tabernacle. The ridge and leads were repaired and all edging was repaired, or replaced. Where the tile reaches the gutters it all had to be pointed in. All necessary lead work has been undertaken, one side of the tower completely re-pointed, and where necessary elsewhere on the tower. The structure of the cross was inspected and found to be good as this is also the lighting conductor. It also received 2 coats of paint. The temporary fencing gates on the drive gave us some idea of how, when we do fit permanent gates, they might perform and we received some helpful feed-back.
All windows surrounds have been repaired. They are of a concrete structure with metal rods inside and very porous. With the driving rain and snow all of the window leads had started to leak so it was decided to put a Perspex covering over all of them. This will protect them from the elements. It is not double glazing but may give some support to this. Small gaps should prevent condensation.
All seating in the choir loft was removed due to wood worm. This is still to have a complete inspection and is ongoing. When we were up there we installed CCTV system. At the moment, this only gives protection at front of church but more cameras are to be installed at a later date. There were two heavy gates that have been up in the choir loft since the major alterations to church. These are now installed, replacing the rotten gate and posts between the rear drive and front of the presbytery.
The next phase is internal work to the Church. - upgraded lighting and painting of all the church using scaffolding, and a lift will have to be used in church. This will cause unavoidable disruption with which we hope to cope as best as we can, and as well as all have done so far.
Parishioners embark on Sacred Journey
A group of parishioners spent a weekend on retreat at Minsteracres. The programme, entitled 'Sacred Journey,' involved a number of activities in the wonderful grounds, including prayer stations and celebration of Mass and, of course, time for fellowship with one another.
St Agnes' Goes to the Dogs
A group of parishioners from St Agnes' enjoyed a trip to the Newcastle Greyhound Races in April. Here are some pictures of them studying the form-book very carefully!
Good Friday prayers said at the site of St Joseph's Church
The Rowlands Gill and Highfield Churches Together held their ecumenical 'walk of witness' on Good Friday, beginning at the Cenotaph in Rowlands Gill. A cross was carried through the streets taking in the four churches and many of the places where local Christians are involved in mission activity, ending on the hill beside St Patrick's church. The walk included readings from scripture of the 'way of the cross' and gave people the opportunity to pray for the people and concerns for our communities.
The penultimate stop was at the Calvary that remains at the site of the old St Joseph's Church in Highfield; the site, including the remaining presbytery and the old St Joseph's School, is now occupied by the Carers' Trust. The scripture reading reflected on the witnesses of Christ's death and worshipers prayed that local Christians are effective witnesses to Christ.
Schools share celebration of the Stations of the Cross
On the Wednesday of Holy Week, children from Years 5 and 6 of St Joseph's and St Agnes' Primary Schools joined together for a shared liturgy of the Stations of the Cross in St Agnes' Church. Pupils from both schools took turns to present each of the 14 stations through readings, drama and song. The liturgy was prayerful and inspiring; the children participated reverently and enthusiastically. They were joined by some family members and parishioners who found the service very moving.
Ecumenical Advent Services
Ecumenical friends in the Wylam, Crawcrook and Greenside Churches Together area gathered in St Agnes' on the first Sunday of Advent for a joint service. The collection taken was in aid of CAFOD and Christian Aid.
A week later, Churches Together in Rowlands Gill and High Spen gathered in St Barnabas' Church for the annual 'Big Sing.' The service started outside, with the lighting of the Christmas tree, then moved into the warmth!
This was a truly ecumenical undertaking with people from all four churches in Rowlands Gill and High Spen area sharing their creativity and hard work to make it happen.
St Patrick’s C/E Church was used as the venue and people from our churches set up ‘stations’ around the church to help our local school children (and some adults who joined in the fun) to engage in the Christmas story and reflect on how the story might have a bearing on their lives. We’ve had 364 children and 123 adults through the experience from all four of our local primary schools. People from our churches spent hours cutting up paper donkeys, present boxes, angel cards and the like to make this possible. People from all of our churches came along to morning and afternoon sessions to welcome the children and help them in the various activities around church.
The event had a great feel all the way through – on the first afternoon, two little boys enthusiastically declared how much they’d enjoyed the whole event and were joined by a little girl who excited said ‘I can’t wait to see the baby Jesus’. A message from a parent helper after the St Joseph’s school visit said how her daughter was busy telling her dad all about it and asking him what gift he would give to Jesus this Christmas.
Well done to all our folks and to give thanks for what our churches have done working together over these weeks. Along with a nativity Christmas Tree decoration, we gave everyone who visited a little Christmas Card with the times of our four church’s Christmas services.
Rev John Barron
The elements take their toll at St Agnes
The main doors at St Agnes are temporarily out of use, as a scaffolding tower has been erected to give access to the window above. The north-facing stone work has become damaged and is in need or urgent repair. Fr James was spotted climbing up to assess the damage after Mass on Wednesday.
Following some repair work by a stone mason, the damage has been repaired. 2018 should see more remedial repair work to the exterior (guttering etc.) as well as repairs to walls. The inside is also due some refurbishment, including repainting and improvements to the lighting.
Sacramental Preparation programme underway
The next programme of Sacramental Preparation got underway.in early September. The programme stretches right through until June 2018, when the candidates will make their First Holy Communion, with Reconciliation being celebrated in December. The first session for parents took place on 14th September at Our Lady of Lourdes. The children's classes got underway the following week, with the children starting their preparation for first Reconciliation during Advent.
In the next session, the were children learning about the meaning and symbols of baptism. They performed role play in the baptism of baby “Emma” around the font and paschal candle, with children playing the roles of Celebrant, parents, Godparents and the congregation.
Reflections from Lourdes
Kiturah Richardson and Anna Duffy from our parishes took part in this year's annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. Here is a reflection on the experience from Kiturah:
When I was asked to think about going to Lourdes, I was really unsure. I know loads of people who have been year after year in the past, and they all said how much of an amazing, life changing experience it was, they also said that it is impossible to describe how it makes you feel. I never understood what they meant by that, until I went myself last week. As soon as we arrived in Lourdes, we were kind of thrown in at the deep end, not really knowing what to expect. The type of things that you get asked to do ranges from making cups of tea, taking someone to the toilet, feeding someone, washing and dressing someone. As a first timer, it was quite daunting, the idea of feeding someone else was scary, but when I was asked, I did it. Something comes over you and you just do what needs to be done, I really surprised myself this week. Throughout the week I found myself offering myself in ways I never thought I could. In the hospital, you meet such a range of people with different illnesses and disabilities, some of whom are unable to communicate. One day I was asked to push a man's wheelchair who used makaton to communicate, something I couldn’t do. By the end of the day, I learned loads of different signs and was having full conversations with him in makaton. In Lourdes, you learn that it takes a little bit of time and a little bit of effort to make a difference. You feel a sort of privilege to be helping the people, even just pushing their wheelchairs to and from a mass, they are always so grateful. So many of the pilgrims said to me that the pilgrimage wouldn’t work without the service offered by the youth section, it makes you feel a kind of glow inside, that you’ve made a difference. That was my favourite part of Lourdes, feeling that I made a difference to people's lives, even if it was just for a week. Lourdes has also helped me to deepen my faith, I have never felt so close to God than I did when I was sitting in the grotto at 5 in the morning, a few of us got up early to go down and have some peaceful prayer time before the day. You feel an indescribable spiritual connection, the silence and stillness is something I have never experienced before. Although my week in Lourdes was hard work, both physically and emotionally, it was also amazing fun. On the evenings we took part in themed nights, this year we had a where’s wally, a bollywood, and an Irish night. It was lovely to see the youth section, the pilgrims, the adult helpers, the nurses, the priests and bishop all join in together on an evening and learn to bollywood dance and ceilidh. On bollywood night, even Bishop Seamus was up learning how to dance amongst the youth section while the pilgrims cheered us all on, that's what I think Lourdes is about, it's about the young, the old, the able and the disabled, coming together. I want to thank everyone who donated money towards my fundraising, without it, I wouldn’t have been able to take part in this amazing experience.
Mystery Trip...to Woodhorn
The Friends of St Agnes held their annual Mystery Trip last month. The group ended up having a thoroughly enjoyable day in Northumberland, at Woodhorn Colliery near Ashington, before heading to the coast for fish and chips at Seaton Sluice. Next year's trip...who knows where? Let's hope to have parishioners from all three parishes joining.
The theme for the Diocesan Festival 2017 at the Emmaus Youth Village on 24-25 June was titled "Changing Hearts - The challenge of discipleship."
The programme included speakers, drama, music, testimony, prayer opportunities and sessions for children and young people. On Saturday evening there was a family céilidh.
Two families for our parishes attended this year and all had an amazing time. Bishop Séamus was present for the entire weekend and in his concluding comments, he challenged every Partnership to bring a coach full of people to next year's festival. Please get in touch if you're interested and would like to know more. Click HERE to see the full gallery of photos.
(Media will continue converting in the background)
Following the celebration of First Holy Communion on the weekend of Sunday 18th June, the programme of Sacramental Preparation came to completion the following Sunday when many of the candidates returned to Sunday Mass. At the end of Mass, they presented a "sending out" prayer as a witness to the community. The children prayed:
Jesus has no body now on earth but ours. No hands, no feet, on earth but ours. Ours are the eyes by which he sees, the ears by which he hears. Ours are the lips by which he speaks of his love. Ours are the feet by which he walks in the world. Ours are the hands by which he blesses the world. We are his body. Jesus has no body now on earth but ours.
Summer Fayre @ Chopwell
Thank you so much to everyone who came to our Summer Fayre last weekend; for your support and hard work under difficult circumstances. IT RAINED. But then we just finished packing everything away and the sun came out!! it is our Parish policy not to publish financial amounts. I can assure you all that we did very well. If you wish to know the amount, just ask
And a new sanctuary carpet
The newly refurbished floor at St Barnabas has been topped off with a new sanctuary carpet. Thanks to all who came along to help lift the old one.
Further refurbishment at St Barnabas'
The wooden parquet floor in St Barnabas' Church was given a much-needed refurbishment at the end of April. Parishioners worked together to move the pews into the adjoining church hall while the work was completed. The shiny flooring complements the new wooden partition between the church and the hall.
Hot Cross Bun Witness
Members of St Agnes' Parish joined fellow Christians in Crawcrook on Good Friday taking the message of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross to the wider community. They offered Hot Cross Buns, wrapped in especially printed napkins, designed to raise awareness about the importance of Good Friday. The Hot Cross Bun Witness, organised by the Methodist Church, is an innovative , new initiative which was also a great witness to strong spirit of ecumenism that exists in our communities.
Schools celebrate joint Stations of the Cross
On Wednesday 4th April, Years 5 and 6 pupils from our primary schools joined together to celebrate Stations of the Cross in St Agnes' Church. The children from St Agnes' and St Joseph's Primary Schools presented the stations in the form of readings, drama and music. After each station, they prayed together for a wide range of petitions. All present would agree that there was a lovely atmosphere, and that the children were a credit to our community with their earnest and wholehearted participation.
To view pictures of all fourteen stations, click HERE.
Talk on the Northern Saints
During Lent, Mike Duffy, parishioner at St Joseph's, gave an illustrated talk on the Northern Saints at Our Lady of Lourdes. The presentation has led to a suggestion that a trip to Durham Cathedral for the three parishes be organised. Mike, who is an official guide at the cathedral, has agreed to be our guide. So after Easter, watch this space for parishioners' views!
Success at John Paul II Awards
On Thursday 2nd March, the Tyne Theatre played host to the first Pope John Paul II Awards for the Diocese. Our congratulations goes out to two of our young parishioners Ellen Scott and Sophie Thorpe, who were among those to receive the award.
Over the last two years, the two girls have been working towards their award by taking on responsibilities in our parish and in the community. Ellen and Sophie were delighted to receive their Gold award from Bishop Seamus and Fr Paul Farren from the Diocese of Derry, who created the award.
Twistin' the Night Away
Around 80 people, aged from young-in-age to young-at-heart, enjoyed a superb social evening in St Barnabas' Church Hall on 3rd March.
Live music from 1950s and 60s was provided by much-loved band 'Heartbeat', back by popular request, and the dance floor was filled from start to finish. There was also a quiz, provided by quizmaster Paul Webster, and a hugely impressive raffle!
Thanks to all of those who were involved in organising such a wonderful night.
Improvements at St Barnabas'
Four years in the making (for various reasons), a new glass partition has finally been installed at the rear of the church to replace lethally heavy old wooden ones in St Barnabas'. The aim was to give greater light into the Church under Choir balcony; to enable Church/Hall Hire users to be more aware of each other; to accommodate "overflow" attendance in Church eg. funerals and/ C of E Sunday School Liturgies; and, most importantly, to enhance the Church as a welcoming place of worship.
Also added is a beautiful Holy Water font, modelled on one in Chopwell, fashioned by Fr. Tony Duffy, PP of Birtley, (original by our late parishioner in OLL, Ray Ellis.)
Staff at St Joseph's School took a few moments out of the hectic build up to Christmas, with a festive lunch together. They were joined by Foundation Governor, Paul Bradley.
School Mass @ Our Lady of Lourdes
St Joseph's School Masses usually take place at St Barnabas', Rowlands Gill. However, Years 1 and 2 recently travelled up to Chopwell by coach and joined some delighted parishioners for Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes. After Mass, they looked at some of the features in church with Deacon Derek.
Sunday 20th November, The Feast of Christ the King, is also Youth Sunday. At the weekend Masses, it was great to see some of our young people taking an active part in the liturgy, through the ministry of reading, music and serving. Some of our young people also spoke during the homily, sharing their faith with the whole congregation.
Ellen, Sophie and Bethany are currently working towards the Pope John Paul II Award. The girls lead our children's liturgy at St Agnes on a regular basis, they always provide fun and informative activities which enable the children to understand the Gospel message. At school, as part of their social action they are involved in raising money for St. Cuthbert's Care and other local charities. They manage to fit this in with their studies, university applications and part time jobs. We wish them luck!
The John Paul II Award is for anyone between the age of 16 and 18. It is non-competitive, inclusive, flexible and voluntary. Awards are earned by taking part in parish and social activities – 1 hour per week over 8, 14 or 20 weeks. There are 3 Award levels – Gold, Silver & Bronze. Those that have completed the Gold Award have a further option of completing the Papal Cross Award.
Over 20,000 young people, in 21 dioceses throughout Ireland and the U.K have successfully completed the Pope John Paul II Award. For more details, please click HERE
Bishop Robert confirms young people
On Friday 6th July, Bishop Robert visited St Joseph's Blaydon to confirm young people from parishes within the Ovingham Partnership, including Charlie, Jude, Phoebe, Cecelia and Grace from our parishes, with Victoria singing with STM Chaplain Cody.
60th Wedding Anniversary
Our Lady of Lourdes parishioners, Marjorie and Fred Talbot, celebrated their Diamond Wedding Anniversary in early July and celebrated the occasion with Mass. Congratulations to Marjorie and Fred and such a wonderful achievement.
...and 60 years for St Agnes' Church
Parishioners celebrated the 60th anniversary of the opening of the current church building on Sunday 30th June, the Feast of SS Peter and Paul. Fr James and Deacon Derek cut a celebration cake at the end of Mass.
Friends' Mystery Trip
This year's Friends of St Agnes Mystery Trip took place on Friday 14th June and started off in the pouring rain but as we arrived at our destination, the sun came out - prayers had been answered! Our destination was Houghton Hall Garden Centre in Carlisle - well worth a visit. As well as the garden side, there is a nice ladies clothes section and some lovely gift ideas.
The restaurant was clean and there was plenty of space both inside and on the outdoor patio; the menu choices and the prices were also good. So look out for next year's Mystery Trip and come and join us. A good time was had by all!
The Friends of St Agnes
Our Lady of Lourdes, Chopwell held their annual Summer Fayre. More details soon.
Day of Reflection
St. Agnes’ Men’s group headed across to Kenton for a Day of Reflection organised by Blackfriars Partnership.
Fr. Eamonn Mulcahy CSSP explored the theme of Pope Francis’ call for ‘Missionary Disciples in a Missionary Parish for a Missionary Church.’
Partnership comes together for Service of Reconciliation
Parishioners from across the Ovingham Partnership came together for a Lenten Service of Reconciliation at Our Lady and St Cuthbert's Church, Prudhoe.
The service was led by Fr Michael Whalen, who was joined by fellow partnership priests who were available for individual reconciliation.
Caring Caretaker Chris retires
On Thursday 4th April, staff (past and present), parents and children from St Agnes' School, as well as parishioners, gathered in St Agnes' Church with Chris Gardener and his family for a special Mass of Thanksgiving to mark his retirement as School Site Manager at St Agnes' Primary School.
Chris, a parishioner at St Agnes', has faithfully served the school for the past 16 years following a career with Royal Mail. Chris chose the readings and some of his favourite hymns and members of staff offered bidding prayers. Miss Woods, school Headteacher, said a few words about Chris, giving some very amusing insights about him, but spoke about how caring and committed he has been in his role and how well loved he is by all within the school community. After Holy Communion, Chris spoke movingly about his working life, his recent journey to recovery from prostate cancer and the importance of prayer in his life.
Chris will be missed by all at the school, but we offer him our grateful thanks for his ministry and huge contribution and best wishes for a long and well-deserved retirement.
Flame Congress 2019
On Saturday 2nd March, the coach set off at 4:15am from St Thomas More. stopping off at Cardinal Hume School to collect the rest of our contingent. We were coach H&N 5, number 5 of 17 coaches from our Diocese full of pupils from Yr9 and above plus adult helpers. Once everyone was on, we all said morning prayer for Flame Pilgrimage. It was even more special knowing that all of our 17 coaches were participating at the same time.
We arrived at our destination at 11am, disembarked and headed to the arena. Once inside, we took our seats, all 847 of us, unmistakable in our grey and orange hoodies. The atmosphere was electric! We listened to music from rap artist Guvna B and Tim Hughes. Motivational speeches from David Wells, Fr Paul Farren, Archbishop Eamon Martin and many others including dance from Rise Theatre
I wanted to go find every young person I could and bring them into the arena to listen to these people tell them how significant and important they are in God’s eyes. Adoration was held at the end of the day and you could have heard a pin drop as over 8000 young people sat or knelt in the presence of our Lord.
I found the whole experience very inspiring and thought provoking. I came away at the end of the day with the message that God put you on this Earth to be you not anybody else so be the best that you can be that’s all He asks of you.
In the words of Robert Madu “Stay in your own lane and keep your eyes on Jesus.”
Candidates celebrate Rite of Election
This year's sacramental candidates celebrated the liturgy of Rite of Election This Rite is formally known as The (Combined) Celebration of the Rite of Election of Catechumens and the Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates Who are Preparing for Confirmation and/or Eucharist or Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church. For our children, it represented their saying 'YES' to the final journey to the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
Communal Service of Reconciliation
On Thursday 17th January, the children who are on the Sacramental Preparation Programme celebrated the Sacrament of Reconciliation once again with members of their families at St Agnes' Church. Father James was joined by fellow partnership priests Fathers Whalen, Tuckwell and Rose.
Carol Services at St Agnes'
On third Sunday of Advent, around 120 parishioners, pupils and parents of St Agnes' parish and school communities united for a service of carols and readings. There were communal carols, as well as items sung by a group of school children and a contribution from Children's Liturgy. It was a lovely occasion, finished off with refreshments.
On the penultimate day of term, children, staff and families of St Agnes' School packed the church to capacity for their annual celebration of the Christmas story through readings and carols.
Ecumenical Advent Service in aid of CAFOD and Christian Aid
On the first Sunday of Advent, members of the congregations of the Christian churches in Crawcrook and Greenside joined together at the Holy Spirit Church, Crawcrook, for a Advent service of prayer and reflection in aid of the work of CAFOD and Christian Aid.
Learning about Baptism
Year 1 from St Agnes' School have been learning about baptism in the their RE topic. They visited church, where Fr James showed them all of the signs and symbols that are used in the celebration, including anointing with oil, the white garment, the candle and water in the font.
First celebration of Sacrament of Reconciliation
The first of our candidates on the 2018/19 Sacramental Preparation programme received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time during the run up to Youth Sunday. Candidates from our primary schools continue to work with their parents and our catechists as they journey through the programme.
St Agnes' receives a bit of colour and brightness
The repainting of the church has been on the agenda of the PPC for sometime and was recently highlighted as a priority in a diocesan property inspection; however, co-ordinating the work with the recent exterior repairs, as well as upgrades to the electrics and lighting, was rather tricky to say the least.
After much research and consultation with various contractors, the work began during the summer holiday. All of the lower parts of the church were painted first, some areas getting primer and 3 coats of finish top coat. The ceiling had to be fully primed and then got 2 to 3 coats; this work required the use of a cherry picker which was also used to do the new lighting, thus giving maximum usage of the equipment and saving costs. Painting also extended to the Millennium Room and the Children's Liturgy Room. Calculations to make sure that the new technology LED would do the job were completed and the equipment bought and installed. As this was happening, all the walls were rubbed down and the windows washed. The finished result certainly gives the church a clean, lighter, brighter and warmer feel.
Sacramental Preparation 2018/19 gets underway
Now that the new school year is underway, the next group of candidates for Sacramental Preparation were enrolled in Masses in all three parishes on 11th October. In the following week, there was a catechetical session for the candidates; the parents had their own session at St Barnabas'. The following weekend, the children renewed their Baptismal Promises at Mass.
Celebration of First Holy Communion
After months of preparation, several children from our parishes received the Sacrament of Holy Communion for the first time on weekend 16th/17th June. The Masses were lovely, prayerful and joyful celebrations and it was wonderful to welcome so many visitors to our parishes.
Extraordinary Ministers renew Promises of Faithful Service
On the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Eucharistic Ministers from our three parishes renewed their promise to serve the community in the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament. As part of their commitment to this important ministry, many have attended a day of Recollection, including a recent day at St Joseph's, Gateshead.
Improving Visibility on the Sanctuary Steps
The carpet on the middle step up to the sanctuary at St Agnes' has been replaced. Following a fall on the steps, some safety tape was applied temporarily to highlight the hazard. However, a contrasting carpet has been used to make navigating the steps less dangerous for those with visible impairment.
Stemming the floods at Our Lady of Lourdes
Following issues with water flowing over the car park, and causing dangerous situations in all weathers, some new drainage channels have been fitted to the car park at Our Lady of Lourdes. It is hoped that they will prevent water going over the car park and keep everyone safe.
Easter Joy as new member received into Church
Congratulations to Alexandra (Alex) Gatehouse, who was received into full communion with the Catholic Church at Chopwell on Easter Sunday. Please remember her in your prayers on this happy event. It was a great occasion for all who attended.
The Easter Vigil was celebrated at St Barnabas' and, despite the cold, the liturgy started in the garden. The 9:15am Mass at Crawcrook on Easter Morning was followed by a Easter egg hunt for the children in the garden. Overall, our Holy Week services were very well attended, with attendances mostly up on last year.
Parishioners lead celebration of our Lord's Passion
Following Deacon Chris' move to the Pontop Partnership, this year's Good Friday 3:00pm liturgy was lay-led at St Barnabas', Rowlands Gill. Parishioners rallied around and worked together, with Mike Duffy leading the congregation in the celebration of the traditional liturgy of the Lord's Passion.
Watching with Christ in the Garden
This year's Mass of the Lord's Supper was celebrated at St Agnes', Crawcrook. The Mass included representatives from the the three parishes and age groups getting their feet washed by Fr James, who also renewed his commitment to his priestly ministry. At the end of Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was taken to the Altar of Repose; the Gethsemane had been lovingly prepared by the St Agnes' flower arrangers and provided a prayerful space, in the room usually used by the Children's Liturgy, where people watched with Our Lord later into the evening.
Journeying Together through Lent
Using resources produced by the Diocesan Dept of Spirituality, the "Journeying Together" group met at St Agnes' on Mondays during Lent. Their first session was on the theme of 'Temptation.
On Tuesday 13th March, ladies from local churches joined together for a Lenten service.
This year, Vigil Masses were celebrated at Chopwell and Rowlands Gill, with Christmas Day Mass at Crawcrook. All were joy-filled services...thanks to all who helped to prepare the churches and for those who read and provided music.
Advent and Christmas in our Primary Schools
Our two primary schools celebrated Advent and Christmas in various ways. During Advent, special liturgies were celebrated and Travelling Crib sets visited families. Towards the end of term, there were enchanting performances of the Christmas stories and carol services as well as the usual parties and pantomime. By the end of term, staff and pupils were all ready for a well-earned break!
The Feast of Christ the King is traditionally denoted as Youth Sunday by the church; a special day in celebration of our young people. At the 9:15am Mass at St Agnes', many of the younger members of the parish took a lead role in the liturgy. They proclaimed the Word of God in word and song, took the offertory procession and even delivered the homily! During Holy Communion, a group of children from St Agnes' School sang Bernadette Farrell's "God's Greatest Gift." Afterwards, they sold a wonderful array of baked goods - The Great St Agnes' Bake-off - with all proceeds in support of the Youth Ministry Trust.
A squad of enthusiastic young gardeners descended on the grounds at St Agnes Church during the first week of November. Year 3 from St Agnes School turned up to lend a hand to plant hundreds of spring bulbs in the grounds. This is the first phase of a plan to create a prayer garden in the area in front of the church and is the brainchild of parishioner Bernard Mannion. It is a beautiful spot, overlooking the Tyne Valley and should be a wonderful addition to the "parish plant"in the years to come.
Young Fundraisers run for Charity
Imogen, Isaac and Alex Burkinshaw ran the Mini Great North run for the Toma Fund, a local children's cancer charity. They also raised funds by having a coffee morning after Sunday mass at Our Lady of Lourdes. They were overwhelmed by the support of parishioners and the coffee morning raised £130.00! Thank you all so much for your support!
Parish Picnic and Barbecue
Parishioners from our three parishes came together for an enjoyable afternoon in the grounds of St Agnes' School on Sunday 16th July. They brought picnics and many made use of the barbecues, while the children played together in the grounds. After a week of rain, the weather was kind. It was a great opportunity to have a chat with fellow parishioners. Fr James brought Fr Breen along, who is spending the week in the parish while on holiday from Rome. We hope to hold a similar event next year - if you weren't able to come along, why not come next time? Click HERE to see the gallery of photographs
Encouraging church musicians of the future
Children from Key Stage Two at St Agnes' School have been learning about church organs. Mr Kieran Fitzsimons, well-known local church musician and friend of the school came to give a practical workshop all about organs. They started in school, learning about the different types of pipes and how organs work, handling and exploring sounds made by flute and reed pipes. They then came down to church for a demonstration of our own Makin digital electronic organ; many of the children had a go and particularly loved the loudness of the bass pedals! They finished off by singing a firm favourite, "If I were a butterfly" with a lively accompaniment from Mr Fitzsimons.
Diocesan Schools' Festival
Year 6 pupils from St Joseph's and St Agnes' Schools attended the Diocesan Schools' Festival at the Emmaus Youth Village in Allensford in June. The event, held over several days, saw well over 1000 Year 6 pupils from primary schools from right across the diocese join together for a time of prayer, reflection, witness, fun and praise. The exciting and uplifting event was run by YMT (Youth Mission Team) Click HERE to view the whole gallery.
We had a fantastic day at 'Razed' the annual Primary Schools Festival in the Emmaus Village, Allensford. During the festival a band called 'Expedition' were playing, the lead singer Cody was from Las Vegas, along with Mary, Bridgette, Charlie, Danielle, Annasu, Andrea, Alice, Francis and Phil who were the event team leaders they and encouraged us to dance and sing along with all the songs - it was amazing!!
We were given coloured wristbands and put into groups for different activities one of them involved thinking about and writing down people who have helped us during our lives, also we made a bracelet and wrote on the people who we thankful for. We also watched a film and listened to The Parable of the Sower - which we made up a great dance to go with it and the teachers even had to join in (Mrs Watson stood out as the best!!)
Lucy Butler, Year 6, St Agnes' School
First Holy Communion
On the Feast of Corpus Christi, children from all three parishes received the gift of the Eucharist for the first time. The children took an active part in the liturgies, reading, singing and offering the gilts. The Masses were prayerful and moving occasions and the children were fantastic! Thanks to the children for their enthusiasm and commitment, their parents for supporting them and teachers and catechists for helping them to prepare for this special day. At the Masses, MInisters of the Eucharist publicly renewed their commitment to this special ministry.
Parish Retreat - Planting the Seeds of Hope
The Parish Retreat entitled “Seeds of Hope” was a great success. There were 18 people form our parishes of Highfield, Crawcrook, Chopwell, and Winlaton.
There were about 40 people in Total. As an image of Hope we looked at the Sequoia Trees which line the drive at Minsteracres. From very tiny seeds, these enormous trees can grow up to 400 + feet tall and over 100 feet in diameter, and even taller.
The Trees at Minsteracres were planted 150 + years ago by George Silvertop. He knew that he would never see them mature, like generations following him. That did not matter, because he had HOPE.
Where are the Seeds of Hope in our parishes today; how do we keep them alive.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
Bishop Ken Untener
The weekend provided the opportunity to listen, share, pray, reflect on our HOPE for the future. There was also time to socialize, and the bar was open !!. It was a great weekend.
Fr Tuckwell's Induction Mass at St Anne's, Winlaton
On Thursday 27th April, Fr Adrian Tuckwell was inducted as Parish Priest of St Anne's Winlaton and St Joseph's Blaydon. Fr Tuckwell comes to the area from Hartlepool, and was Assistant Priest to Fr James at St Peter's, Low Fell in the past.
The induction was carried out by Fr Peter Leighton, newly-appointed Episcopal Vicar of Gateshead and South Tyneside, with the other deanery priests concelebrating the Mass. As part of the Rite of Induction, Fr Tuckwell swore an Oath of Fidelity and signed the Administrator's Oath. Fr Leighton then asked a series of questions of the new priest and the congregation. Fr Tuckwell was recently appointed as Dean of our newly formed Parish Partnership, which will include our own parishes, along with Prudhoe, Stella, Winlaton and Blaydon. We wish Fr Tuckwell all the very best in his new role.
Ground Force at work at St Agnes'
A dedicated team of gardeners, headed by Margaret Kelly, are transforming the grounds around St Agnes'. Following a lot of work clearing borders and trimming back unwieldy shrubs last year, the life-giving colour of spring flowers is brightening up the grounds around the church. Their work has even extended to the presbytery back garden, where four new residents, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, have arrived in the pond!
Celebrating a Christian Passover
On the Monday of Holy Week, members of our parishes joined the Anglican community of the Parish of Greenside in St John's Church Hall for a Seder meal. Passover is more than a Jewish feast; it is a picture of the redeeming work of Christ - as the lamb was sacrificed to deliver the people from Egypt, so Christ was sacrificed to save us from the bondage of sin. The traditional seder meal helped us to keep in mind that night that Christ ate his last meal and, in doing so, instituted the Eucharist.
The meal was lovingly prepared by members of Greenside Parish who were warm, friendly and incredibly hospitable. Rev Tom Brazier led us through the Haggadah (the telling) while we ate a fantastic meal. The celebration ended with the singing of traditional Passover songs of praise. Thanks to the Parish of Greenside for their invitation and generosity.
A group of parishioners enjoying beer and banter in Ryton village. Everyone welcome, please look out for our next social event in the parish newsletter or on the website. Come along and enjoy a relaxed evening with a drink and good company. We're looking forward to you joining us.
RCIA - Service of First Reconciliation
On Wednesday 22nd March, members of our group preparing to be received into the church at Easter, received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time at Our Lady of Lourdes'.
As part of the service a number of pray er stations were set up around the church. Everyone found these prayer stations both helpful and challenging. These are visual/actions/prayer aids, set up to help people spend time reflecting and in prayer.
- Where am I in my relationship to God?
- Where is God in my life?
- What is God saying to me?
- What do I need to do?
We experienced a very quiet, prayerful and affirming time during our service.
New Icon for St Joseph's Parish.
On Saturday, 18th March at 5.30pm Mass in St. Barnabas' we will celebrate the Feast of our Parish Patron, St. Joseph [transferred from the Sunday]. At this Mass we will bless and dedicate the new Icon of St. Joseph which we commissioned.
We most gratefully thank Mrs. Catherine Ferguson for her wonderful work of art which we earnestly trust will be of great help and support to our parishioners in their prayer and reflection under the patronage and intercession of St. Joseph for many years to come.
Click HERE for more information about the icon.
Celebration of Reconciliation
Following their individual 1st confessions around Christmas-time, our young people who are part of this year's programme of Sacramental Preparation came together, with members of their families, for a joint celebration of Reconciliation on Thursday 19th January at St Agnes' Church.
The other deanery priests came along to support Fr James: Fr Adrian Tuckwell (Winlaton & Blaydon); Fr Peter Leighton (Whickham; Lobley Hill & Dunston); Fr Jonathan Rose (Stella); Fr John Clohosey (Prudhoe) and Fr Michael McKenna (retired, living at Whickham). Many parents also took the opportunity to receive the sacrament. The priests commented on how impressed they were with the maturity of the children.
Safety First at St Agnes'.
The paved area outside of St Agnes' was beginning to become a trip hazard. Just before Christmas, it was taken up and relayed, with great results. The renewed paving compliments the resurfaced car park, which was completed earlier in 2016.
St Agnes' Carol Service
The annual Carol Service in aid of CAFOD was held at St Agnes' on Sunday 18th December. The service, entirely planned by parishioners and led by young people, was a mixture of readings and music in celebration of the Christmas story. As well as congregational carols, with musical accompaniment from our Music Group, there were readings - all read by young parishioners - St Agnes' School Choir sang with great gusto and enthusiasm, with some beautiful solos, and the Children's Liturgy group sang Away in a Manger , with guitar accompaniment from Emma.
It was great to see the church so full with parishioners from all three parishes and many families from St Agnes School. Thanks to all involved, especially to those who provided the lovely, festive refreshments afterwards.
Christmas Tree Festival @ St Barnabas' (and St Patrick's)
3rd-4th December was an exciting weekend in St Barnabas! The Christmas Tree Festival, organised by the Anglican community, ran all weekend with free entry and any donations going to Shelter and 'Daft as a brush'. St Patrick's Church in High Spen was similarly bedecked.
The church and adjoining hall were decorated with an array of Christmas Trees, all donated and decorated by local businesses, other faith communities, schools and community groups.
On Sunday 6th December, the festival culminated with a special "Big Sing" service of carols in St Barnabas'. The church was packed. All proceeds were divided amongst three charities.
A trip to Leeds Christmas Market
On Saturday 5th December, a group from our parishes enjoyed a festive day trip to Leeds Christmas Markets.