Dear Brothers & Sisters,

We draw near to the feast of the coming of our Saviour, who shares our condition our hopes and suffering. He hears us. He sees us. He knows us, and he is there in the midst of tears and heartache.

It has been heartbreaking for some this year to lose a family member and not to be able to say goodbye properly because of the pandemic restrictions.

It is heartbreaking when I go as chaplain to Heartlands Hospital and see that nurses & doctors have died from Covid while trying to serve their patients.

It is heartbreaking if one of the priests celebrating a livestream mass in church  sees an elderly person trying to enter the church via the narthex who doesn't understand  why they are ‘locked out’.

But Jesus came for the broken hearted. And more than that, the broken hearted understood him better that the self-assured and the self-composed. The sick, the sorrowful, the sinner and the outcast understood him better than the holy ones.

This Advent we will do our level best at The Friary to try and support each other during these difficult times. If lockdown persists we will continue our programme of livestreaming masses & prayers. If restrictions ease for Christmas numbers we plan to have 3 masses Christmas Eve & 2 Christmas day to accommodate numbers.

Pope Francis recently said in his recent message Fratelli Tutti that to heal our world we must be like the Good Samaritan, people whose hearts can be moved & even broken by the plight of those who suffer. Regular Youtube Videos will explain this message beginning this week.

May Our Mother Mary who begins her journey to Bethlehem and who puts her trust in the God of love, protect you all and keep you safe in the love of her Son

             Fr.Biju Antony SCJ      Parish Priest

 

SCJ NEWS:  

Zoom in Rome: Our annual Council of the Congregation began on Zoom Saturday 7 Nov and ends on 28 Nov. Like every other organisation we have had to adapt to circumstances.

Fr.Gustavo Agín SCJ, Superior General, called this meeting to share the life, concerns & hopes of the Communities, Vicariates & Regions in order to prepare their future. Running daily from 13.30 to 16.30 (Rome time), to connect with Fr.Stervin in India (9.00 pm) Fr.Enrico in Solihull (12.30) and Fr Daniel in Argentina (9.30) so all members of the Council of the Congregation can join in.

France: Exercises in Lockdown. Our mother house in Betharram hosted an Ignatian retreat for the Vicariate novitiate from 3-13 November : Bros Toussaint, Éric, Constant, Fabian along with Fr Gaspar Fernández Pérez SCJ, their Novice Master. Normally in Spain they was caught in French lockdown.

Saint Ignatius devised these ‘exercises’ as a way to discern God’s purpose for us so  we could make good decisions about ourselves & others. They revolve around reflecting on scripture and focussing on our own inner reactions to what comes up in our prayer & meditation. Ignatius called us to distinguish between positive reactions (consolations) & negative ones (desolations). He insisted we have a wise guide while doing this as opportunities for self-deception are enormous! But at root they are a vote of confidence in god speaking to each of us in our hearts.

Olton Companions of Betharram made a pilgrimage to Loyola last year, where Ignatius first devised this method.

England: at Olton extra Christmas masses are planned to adjust to Covid rules:

Christmas Eve 3.00pm; 5.00pm; 7.00pm.

Carols to begin 30 min before each mass

Christmas Day: 9.00 am & 11.00 am

MARRIAGE MATTERS: 

Christ the King (Ezek 34:11-12; 15-17 1 Cor 15:20-26; 28 Matt 25:31-46) Called to be signs of the way Jesus loves: Jesus says those who respond to others are in effect responding to him. Our call as married couples is to be a sign of Jesus’ love for us. In each small way that we show our love: doing little jobs, spending quality time together, listening, forgiving and making up, we are responding to that call and nourishing one other

Our Lady of Compassion News:

•Our Advent Journey starts 1.15pm Friday 27th November  with Fr. Austin leading the children’s virtual Advent service.

•Nativity Play & Carol Service: Sadly this year we can’t invite parents into school as usual but this year we will do something a little different ... ...Watch this space!

•OLC Christmas Charity 2020: Samaritan’s Box Appeal. This has  been shared in OLC newsletter, many offerings have already been made via the Samaritan's website.

•Pantomime: On the last day of term the FOLC will kindly fund a virtual Panto for the children to watch in their classrooms.

•Prayer Service Sadly, due to the Covid rules we can’t have an end of term mass. But we will have a virtual prayer service 1.15 Friday 18 December to end the term.

ADVENT GIVING TREE GIFT: This year due to the Covid situation Fr.Hudson’s has had to abandon the traditional giving tree. Vouchers: Instead they seek gift vouchers from the following places to enable families to buy gifts personal to them: e.g. Love2Shop; Amazon; Asda; Morrison's;

Sainsbury's; Tesco

Send Vouchers to: Father Hudson's Care, St George's House, Gerards Way, Coleshill, Birmingham B40 3FG, by 9th December to enable gifts to be delivered.

CHRISTMAS DRAW OLTON FRIARY & FRENDS OF OLC

Prize Draw Tickets £3

* A week stay in a 5* holiday cottage in Pembrokeshire. Worth £1000

* Weekend stay in a caravan in Weymouth on a Haven site

* £200 Cash

* Alcohol hamper

* 2  £100 Vouchers for Platform 3

* Brand new £74 Lawn mower

* Plus, several £70 family hampers

Ticket sales? please an agent below

Annette Dodds    

Shirley Fernando 

Steve Roper 

Paul Gray 

Gaynor McGarry 

Ros Sherman        

Sharon Farren 

Or via the Parish website www.oltonfriary.org.uk

SISTER SABINA On 22nd Dec, it will be 1 yr since Sister Sabina SP founder of Fireside died. Her legacy continues through SIFA Fireside which annually supports 3,500 people, and is the No.1 agency helping the homeless in Birmingham. Stories by the Fireside is an audio CD with treasured memories paying tribute to Sister Sabina.

RETIRING COLLECTION today is for the Diocesan Youth Service

Christmas Mass Times Please see p.3 for our intended programme.

OLTON FRIARY CONTACT TRACING

*  As per Government rules we observe Contact Tracing with aid of NHS COVID-19 smartphone app. Info & app download on https://covid19.nhs.uk/

*  The method? Simply scan a QR code by smartphone on every visit to church.

*  Not everybody has a smart phone so an online form will also be provided.

*  No internet or computer? A simple paper form will suffice. You can pick up a few for future visits.

*  More info including link to the form at https://www.oltonfriary.org.uk/covid19

*  We are grateful to Martin Hayden who kindly agreed to act as Contact Tracer for the parish in liaison with the NHS.

TIMES ARE A CHANGING the Sunday the evening mass has moved from 6.00 pm to 5.00 pm during the winter months.

Holy Communion for the housebound:  Special Ministers can’t presently do their weekly rounds. But they may take communion to one of their own family.

Non-ministers may be commissioned for their own family. Please call Fr.Biju on 0121 706 0505 if you would like to do this.

ASSOCIATION OF CHRISTIAN COUNSELLORS (ACC) COVID-19 CRISIS Support Service has been set up to aid people fielding painful feelings thoughts & circumstances because:

• They work in an NHS setting (at any level) and are impacted by caring for people who have C-19, or

• They have been bereaved, whether due to C-19 or another reason.

We offer up to 10 counselling sessions on a no-fee basis, either on-line or by phone.  To find out more please see ACC website www.acc-uk.org or ring 024 7644 9694.

PARISH GROUPS—Please check your information posted on the Parish website.  Any updates/corrections/alterations, please email the parish office.

SOLIHULL/HEARTLANDS HOSPITAL Please ask hospital Switchboard for on-call Catholic Priest 0121 424 2000, & they will call the duty Priest. Catholic Chaplain at Solihull & Heartlands is Fr Roger Raven. Data Protection law means visit from  priest must be actively sought. He doesn't have access to patient files.

CAR PARK—Please be considerate when parking/manoeuvring your car and please note the disabled parking bays are for the use of those with disabled badges, there is no parking in either the Community and Staff designated areas and the front & rear of The Friary Residential block.  When parking on a Sunday, please do not park on or drive over the grass adjacent to the gate leading into the graveyard.  Only authorised cars to park at other times, by arrangement with the Parish Priest.

HALL BOOKINGS from external groups, particularly regular users are a useful income toward the upkeep of the Church. If access is needed to hall or kitchen during these times, please liaise with the Parish office or Community first.

CREMATION PLOTS (newer area) Following previous notes re- borders & stones barred for H&S danger to graveyard volunteers; please also note that plots are set out in vertical strips, in plots for two.  So borders & stones added around memorial tablets are encroaching on the space of a loved one, and should be removed.

GOING TO HOSPITAL -Please let your parish priest know if you’re going into hospital. On admission ask for the Catholic chaplain as Chaplains no longer receive names of Catholic patients unless they opt in.

SECURITY NOTICE - Please ensure Friary doors are kept closed & locked when necessary.  If you attend a meeting please make sure that the last one out has secured the outside doors.  The front door should not be left on the hook unattended.  Besides Church security, the Friary is home to priests & brothers who need to know they are safe.

CHARITY COLLECTION BOXES for SVP and St Basil’s charities are built into the left and right hand sides, at the back of the Church.  Built-in boxes can be found in the narthex for St Anthony’s bread (used to help the poor in the local area) and Holy Souls (used for Mass intentions for Holy Souls).

HOUSEBLESSING/HOUSEMASS If you’d like your house blessed or a house Mass this summer esp. if housebound or for special occasion, please arrange with Fr Biju.

FLOODLIGHT DEDICATION—You are able to have the Church floodlit in memory of someone.  A suggested donation is £10 a week, the name of the person in whose memory it is in would appear in the newsletter.  Forms are available in  narthex, or from parish office.

THE SICK OF OUR PARISH - If your name or the name of a friend or relative was on the parish list of prayers for the sick, and you would like that name to remain on the list, would you please contact the Parish Office on 0121 706 0505.  Data protection law obliges us to ensure that you or your friend or family member has consented to being on the list, as it can be seen by many, (e.g. church notice board) and is available for anyone to pick up.  We make great efforts to ensure the church abides by new data protection and privacy law.

VISITORS - If you wish to gift aid your offertory donation, white visitor envelopes are available in the narthex.

VEHICLE CRIME ALERT - The neighbourhood Policing Team would like to draw your attention to an increase in vehicle crime in the area.  5 crime reduction tips—ALWAYS close the windows and doors in your vehicle, DON'T leave any valuables on display and where possible do not leave ANY valuables in the vehicle such as Satnavs, Mobile Phones, Wallets, Purses, Bags or iPods, ENSURE your registration plates are fixed using 'anti tamper screws', KEEP your car keys in a safe place in your house.

SAFEGUARDING - In this parish there have been strict guidelines in place for several years for the protection of children and vulnerable persons.  Anyone with a concern about safeguarding issues should ring the Diocesan Safeguarding Office on  0121 230 6240.

KEEP YOUR VALUABLES SAFE - Please do not leave bags unattended in Church, even at Communion time.  Bags and valuables should not be left on display in cars as this can present a target for thieves.

OPEN HOUSE GROUP - Are you new to the Parish and aged 30+? Do you want to get more involved in Parish Life, but don't know where to start? The Open House Group has recently celebrated its tenth anniversary and its members are involved in various parish activities such as Traidcraft, Christian Aid, the Fast Supper, Welcome and Coffee Bar rotas.  We also have regular meetings in parishioners' homes for spiritual reflection and discussion of topical issues.  If you are interested in joining us please contact the Parish Office for more information.