AFTER 500 YEARS ABSENCE THE GREYFRIARS RETURN TO OXFORD
TAKEN FROM THE OXFORD MAIL 27TH AUGUST 2014
BY MATT OLIVER
OXFORD has changed quite a lot in the past 500 years, so the Greyfriars can be forgiven for taking some time to find their feet.
The Conventual Catholic friars moved back to the city this summer, for the first time since the English Reformation in the 16th century.
But already as they settle in to their new friary, formerly the All Saints Convent in East Oxford, Friar Daniel Geary said they have had a warm welcome.
He told the Oxford Mail: “Everyone is starting to settle in here. We will all be here together by September 26, when there will be 12 of us.
“People in Cowley have been very welcoming and warm and receptive. It has really been overwhelming.
“Many of the friars have come by to see our new home for the first time.
“We are planning to now spend time getting to know local groups.
“We are in a very diverse area and yet just walking distance from the city centre where our friars go to school at Blackfriars Hall. There is no doubt we are truly blessed.”
The friars moved in to the former convent, in St Mary’s Road, after it was vacated by the All Saints Sisters of the Poor.
Friar Geary, the group’s formator who is responsible for teaching young recruits, said they have now been recognised by the Greyfriars in Rome, meaning it is now affiliated with the wider Catholic Church.
“We are known officially as the Blessed Agnellus of Pisa Friary – after one of the friars who settled in Oxford in 1224, sent to the British Isles by St Francis of Assisi.
“But at the moment we are hoping people will become familiar with just ‘the friary’.
“Our aim is to start working with Helen & Douglas House hospice, our neighbours, and also to help the homeless – where there is a big need in the Oxford area – as well as the elderly, the poor, the disabled and local families.”
They will also still be on the look-out for men interested in becoming friars, he added, who can go through a process to see if they are suitable to live in the friary.
During their first period in Oxford, the Greyfriars – so called because of the colour of their robes – had a church that was in the area where the Westgate Shopping Centre now stands.
But in 1538 their friary, along with others around the country, fell foul of King Henry VIII during the English Reformation.
That saw the King reject the authority of the Pope and make himself head of the Church, so he could grant himself a divorce from his Spanish first wife, Catherine of Aragon.
Years later, in 1906, the Greyfriars returned to England, with another branch of Fransiscans, the Capuchin Franciscans, moving in to what is now known as Greyfriars Hall in 1928.
Last September the Greyfriars took a house in Holton, near Wheatley, before they made the move to Oxford at the beginning of July.
Richard Dawkins, prominent atheist is in the news again, this time for his cold-hearted, oh-so-civil proclamation on Twitter that yes, Down Syndrome babies should be aborted, after all they are only fetuses and do not have human feelings. After receiving some backlash, he then goes on to clarify that of course he wasn’t suggesting that we should abort living persons with Down Syndrome, simply the fetuses of the unborn with Down Syndrome. He retweeted a comment from Ulixes that the problem is that you are all incapable of distinguishing “abort now” from “you should have been aborted.”
No, Dawkins, it is you who is unable to distinguish between good and evil. This is so wrong. This is what happens when we allow moral relativism, atheism and our disdain for our Creator to to rule our culture. This is the culture of death and we are so steeped in it, we cannot even detect the stench anymore.
EVERY HUMAN LIFE from the moment of conception to natural death is valued, sacred and has the right to life.
If you’re on Twitter (or other social media), I urge you to speak out, retweet Dawkins, engage in the discussion and stand up for TRUTH and for LIFE.
“The Church is alive!” How the faith of young people is renewing Catholic life in the UK.
Fr Stephen Wang of the Archdiocese of Westminster writes:
"I’m just back from the Youth 2000 Summer Festival in Walsingham. One of the many highlights was the final evening of Thanksgiving and Testimony, where a good twenty or so young people had the courage to stand up and speak about how their lives had been touched by the weekend. Often simple things: learning to forgive someone; a deeper faith in the Eucharist; the clarity to make a difficult decision; thinking about vocation for the first time. And one or two very dramatic stories of small miracles that had taken place in their lives.
The Festival was in part a celebration of 25 years of Youth 2000. Here is the introduction I wrote for their commemoration booklet:
What is Youth 2000? It’s a witness to the beauty of the Christian faith. It’s an experience of the Church. It’s the love of Christ, and of his mother Mary, transforming the lives of young people.
There is nothing extraordinary about the content of a Youth 2000 retreat. It’s just Catholicism pure and simple. The Eucharist at the very centre; dignified and joyful worship; devotion to Our Lady; the teaching of the Catholic Church presented in a straightforward, unapologetic, inspiring and practical way; the power of conversion through the sacrament of confession; the challenge of connecting faith with life, study, work, relationships; the call to vocation and service; lay people, priests and religious sharing their lives very naturally – and being renewed in their own vocations; prayer, music, food, fellowship, fun; young people serving other young people, and witnessing to their own personal faith.
The fact is that it ‘works’. I don’t mean there is some kind of magic formula that can guarantee you a profound spiritual experience or a radical conversion. I just mean that when the Catholic faith is lived joyfully and presented with real integrity, then it touches people. When you see the ‘wholeness’ of the Christian faith – teaching, sacraments, community, mission – and when you see the way this faith transforms the lives of ordinary young people, you can’t help being changed yourself.
It’s a beautiful thing to see the hearts of young people gradually open up to the Lord as a retreat unfolds; to see the almost tangible effects of his grace on their lives – a sense of peace and spiritual joy, a knowledge of his mercy, a new sense of purpose, a desire to share their faith, a living hope.
The whole purpose of Youth 2000 is for young people to evangelise young people, to lead them to Christ and his Church, so they can live their faith in their parishes and communities. I thank God for what he has given to the Church through Youth 2000. I pray not just that it will continue the wonderful work it has done over these twenty five years, but that it will be brave and adventurous enough to find new ways of evangelising, risking anything and everything in order to share Christ’s love with others.
We continue to share our daily struggle with you, hoping that our cry will reach the world. We are like the blind man of Jericho (Mark 10: 46-52), who had nothing to express himself, but his voice, asking Jesus for mercy. Although some people ignored his voice, others listened, and helped him. We count on people, who will listen!
We entered the third week of displacement. Things are moving very slowly in terms of providing shelter, food, and necessities for the people. There are still people living in the streets. There are still no organized camps outside of schools that are used as refugee centres. An unfinished, three story building has also been used as a refugee centre. For privacy reasons, families have made rooms using UNHCR plastic sheets in these unfinished buildings. These places look like stables. We all wonder, is there any end in sight? We appreciate all efforts that have been made to provide aid to the displaced people. However, please note, that providing food and shelter is not the only essential thing we need. Our case is much bigger. We are speaking about two minorities (Christian and Yezedians), who lost their land, their homes, their belongings, their jobs, their money, some have been separated from their families and loved ones, and all are persecuted because of their religion.
Our church leaders are doing their best to solve the issue. They have been meeting with political leaders, with the President of Iraq and Kurdistan, but initiatives and actions of these political leaders are really slow and modest. Actually, all political meetings have led to nothing. Until now, there has been no decision made about the current situation of the displaced minorities. For this reason, trust in the political leaders has diminished, if it exists, at all. People cannot tolerate it anymore. It is too heavy of a burden. Yesterday, a young man expressed that he would rather die than live, without dignity. People feel that their dignity has been stripped from them. We are being persecuted because of our religion. None of us ever thought we would live in refugee camps because of that.
It is hard to believe that this is happening in the 21st century. We wonder what is exactly happening. Is it another plan or agreement to subdivide Iraq? If this is true, by whom and why? Why are the events of dividing the Middle East, that happened in 1916, being repeated now? At that time it was a political issue and innocent people paid for it. It is apparent that there are sinfully, cunning people dividing Iraq, now. In 1916, we lost seven of our sisters, many Christians died, and more were scattered. Is it just circumstance we face this division again, or is it deliberate?
However, the struggle is not only in the camps, with the displaced people. What has happened in our Christian towns that have been evacuated is even worse. The IS forced out of their homes those who did not leave their towns up to the night of August 6th. Yesterday, seventy-two people were driven out of Karakosh. However, not all of them arrived; those who arrived last night were in miserable condition. They had to cross Al-Khazi river (a tributary to the Great Zab) on foot because the bridge had been destroyed. There are still quite few on the side of the riverbank. We do not know when they will make it to Erbil. It depends on the situation and negotiations between the Peshmerga and the IS. There are some people who went to fetch the elderly and the unable to walk. One of our sisters went to bring her parents, and told her story. Another woman, said that she was separated from her husband and children, and she knows nothing about them; they are probably among the others who are on the other bank, or they might be among the hostages taken by the IS. Also, a tree-year old daughter was taken from her mother’s lap, and she also knows nothing about her. We do not know why the IS are sending people out of Karakosh, but we have been hearing from those who just arrived, that IS are bringing barrels into Karakosh and the contents are unknown.
In addition, we know of four Christian families who are stuck in Sinjar for over three weeks; they are probably running out of food and water. If they do not get help, they will die there. At the present, there is no contact with them, and there is no way to negotiate with the IS.
As for our community, we know that our convent in Tel Kaif is being used as an IS headquarter. Also, we know that they had entered our convent in Karakosh. Those that recently arrived have stated that all the holy pictures, icons, and statutes are being destroyed. Crosses have been taken off the top of churches and they have been replaced with the IS flags. That is not only in Karakosh and Tel Kaif. In Baqofa, one of our sisters heard the situation was calm, so she went back with few people, to get her medicine. She found the convent had been searched; everything was open and strewn across the rooms. The minute they entered the convent, three bombs hit the town. They left immediately.
Apart from what is happening to the Christians, yesterday, Friday the 22nd, a Shiite suicide bomber and gunmen attacked Sunni mosque of Abou Mussab in village under Iraqi government control in Diyala province leaving 68 dead. It is heartbreaking to hear about people get killed while praying. In terms of Media and news release, this massacre overshadowed what is happening to the Christians in Nineveh Plain. We are afraid that our struggle will become only our own affairs, and it will not have impact on the world anymore.
At last, we have to say that people are losing their patience. They miss everything in their hometowns: churches, church bells, streets, and neighborhood. It is heartbreaking for them to hear that their homes have been robbed. Although they love their towns, most people are now thinking of leaving the country so they can live in dignity and have future for their children. It is heard to have hope in Iraq, or to trust the leadership of the country.
Please, keep us in your prayers.
Sister Maria Hanna OP
Dominican Sisters of Saint Catherine of Siena-Iraq
P.S. Please share the letter with other people. Let the world hear the cry of the poor and the innocent.