Pastoral Council Meeting 22 October 2015

Present:  Norma Brown, Stephanie Brown, David Crookes, Margaret Davis, Andy Doyle, Margaret Doyle, fr. Benjamin Earl, Bernard Faulkner, Dominic Goodall, Margaret Harvey (taking minutes), David Hughes (Chair), Sarah Milner, John Marsland, Judy McClean, Susan Penswick, Frances Simmons, John Urquhart.

The meeting opened with a prayer.

Apologies for absence were received from Cliona Kear.

Minutes of the last meeting were accepted.

There were no matters arising.

There were as yet no nominations for the post of Deputy Chair.

The Financial Report was presented by John Marsland, who said that there was £38, 869 in our current account and £43, 603 in the deposit account. This healthy situation, however, was to be considered against the need to send £4, 500 collected for Belpahar to another charity (see below number 7e) and £1500 earmarked for chalices (see below, number 7f). Furthermore the balustrade would
require about £10,000, and work was needed for the entrance, the presbytery, and decoration, which would take about another £10,000.

We also need LED lighting for the church, which will cost about £20,000, but we are approaching the Diocese for this.

At a recent meeting the Finance Committee decided to institute a rotation system, so that members would retire in turn.

There was discussion of the Special Collections for various diocesan causes, for some of which we currently pay out of parish funds, whereas for others a special collection is held. It was agreed that we need to know more about the details of the collections and Andy Doyle agreed to do research on the question and report back, so that priorities may be agreed.

Following a suggestion made to the Forward in Hope process John Marsland will try to improve communication with the parish about finance beginning with a briefing in November.

Reports from sub-committees and groups.

Building Committee. The report was presented by Gil Bolton. The balustrade was due to be delivered on Tuesday. The Combi boiler providing hot water and heating to the ground floor is still problematic. A contractor has identified the problem, and quoted for the repair but we are still waiting for the work to be carried out.

A formal request will be sent to the diocese to replace the church lighting with a more efficient and accessible system (see minute 6 above). The existing system is out of date, expensive to run and to maintain. Until we have diocesan approval there is little point in taking the matter further.

Susan Penswick reported that some fund-givers for the Building Project check regularly to ensure that we are opening the church as we undertook to do.

On Fundraising
Fr Ben reported that at a recent meeting the former Fundraising Committee had decided that a group more focussed on organising social events would now better serve parish needs. The group will call itself the Events Group and will meet ad hoc to plan what is needed. The first meeting is to be 29 November after the 10am Mass. At that meeting the group will discuss who is to chair it and how it may be organised.

Catholic Society. Dominic Goodall reported that so far the Society is doing very well. The group had been able to replace its musicians with excellent singers, the Fresher’s Fair had gone well and the first student mass (and the meal that followed) had been packed. Lauds and breakfast and Cath Soc night continue to be well attended and there is a good programme for the term.

Room for improvement might lie in attempting to become more

At the Forward Together in Hope discussion the members had decided that they would welcome more involvement with the wider Durham Community, and so would seek to link up with some existing local charitable work, as other student religious societies already do.

The students would also welcome more links with the parish and suggest, for instance, a joint Bible Study and prayer group.

It was suggested that John Marsland should address the students at the 6.30 Mass as well as the parish at 10am. (see number 6 above).

On Churches together in Elvet and Shincliffe Andy Doyle reported that at the St Oswald’s Day celebrations in August, which had been very successful under a new format, not many Catholics had been

Churches Together had decided to organise talks. The first would be on 17 November, on ‘Policing in the 21st Century’. A further talk on
‘Prison Life’, and another on ‘Cosmology’ would follow, the dates to be arranged.

Some adjustments need to be made in the distribution of Christmas cards, especially to blocks of flats.

The Rev. Shaun Swithenbank will talk to the Rev. Alan Middleton, Chair of Churches Together in Durham about the possibility of holding one service only for the whole city in the Elvet and Shincliffe cluster in Unity Week 2016.

Lent talks in 2016 will involve three Tuesday evenings, two with some clips from films on Lenten themes and then one whole film.

The Holy Island Pilgrimage in 2016 will be on 11 June

St Nicholas church is seeking members of a choir for its presentation of The Nativity in the market place.

Margaret Harvey reported that Churches Together in Durham had organised a very successful evening discussion of Laudato Si

Margaret Davis reported that the Justice and Peace Group continues to meet after Sunday Mass and to collect loo rolls and biscuits. They continue in contact with the Refugee Project.

The money (£4131) collected for Belpahar will now be sent to a Cafod Hands On project for this time only.  The recipient of a further £800 has yet to be decided.

The Virtual Village Project is continuing.

Gift Aid is to be facilitated.

The Bishop has enquired about what the parishes are doing for refugees. Maryanne Fleming is the parish link for this.

A letter has been sent from local church leaders to urge the government to do more for refugees. The meeting agreed that more practical advice about what individuals can do would help.

Andy Doyle spoke on Liturgy. New chalices, to replace those old and worn, would be coming before Christmas (see number 6 above).

Remembrance Sunday will be celebrated as usual.

A Carol Service jointly with the Students will be held on Wednesday 16 December.

To mark the Year of Mercy in 2016 the parish will introduce a new hymn for which Paul Inwood has won a competition.  Further ways to mark the year are being discussed,

The celebration of 800 years of the Dominican Order will need to be
further considered.

We are aiming to have some ‘taster sessions’ to allow people to sample ministries for which (we hope) they will have suggested themselves on the Parish Census.

There have been no diocesan meetings to report

9)    Margaret Doyle reported on the progress of Forward Together in Hope. She has now collected most of the data and has had three open meetings as well as having talks with individuals. All the information is on the parish web-site.

A second DVD on the subject, rather long, has been sent to her, which may be borrowed.

The next meeting for the parish will be on 5 November, to sum up our strengths and weaknesses. The Diocese is particularly anxious for more involvement of young people. The parish will act upon its own findings in any case.

Margaret also sought information and opinions about the Parish Pastoral Council, presenting its guidelines (of 2002) for scrutiny. These are very out of date and need to be reviewed. It was decided to do this at a later meeting. For purposes of a questionnaire Margaret asked when the Council had begun. It was agreed that this had happened some time in the 1970s. The meeting considered that the Council performed a very useful service.

10)  There were no items from the parish Priest.

11) There was no other business.

12)  The next meeting will be on 18 February 7.30pm in the Parish Room

The meeting ended with a prayer.

Parish Evening: Citizenship as Christians

The heavenly cityDuring the university term the students gather at the Chaplaincy each Wednesday for ‘Cathsoc night’ and on Wednesday 13th January, we will be doing something similar for the Parish. There will be exposition from 6.30pm and the opportunity for confession. Mass is at 7.00pm, and we will gather after Mass (at about 7.30pm) for a shared meal and a discussion, about our role as citizens in Durham today, concluding with prayer at about 9.00pm. You are welcome to come along for as little or as much of the evening as you like.

Dry January? The feast goes on…

Baptism of ChristIt has been a damp start to 2016, with the Wear breaking its banks in Durham, and far worse further afield. So perhaps it is not the best year for Alcohol Concern‘s annual “Dry January” campaign.

The thinking behind the campaign is excellent. Christianity, like many religious traditions, recognises the need for tempering periods of feasting with periods of abstinence. This is good for personal and public health, both physically and spiritually.

Christianity is rather out of step with the world, though, on its feasting and fasting. The High Street celebrated Christmas from early autumn; we didn’t begin Christmas until 24 December. The secular party was over within days of that, and talk is now of recovery; for us Christians the party is very much still on. We are still celebrating the manifestation of Christ’s divinity in this time of Epiphany: last Sunday, to the Magi; this Sunday at his Baptism; and next Sunday at the Wedding at Cana. Our crib will remain in place until Candlemas, 2 February.

Of course we will fast, abstain and do penance when we get to Lent… but Ash Wednesday isn’t for another month. In the meantime, we should not let the return to work, to school or to university, be a mere resumption of dry drudgery. Instead, we take the festal joy of the coming of our Saviour into the world of our daily lives. Like the Prophet we continue to shout joyfully on the mountain, “Here is your God!” (Isaiah 40:9).

University Vacation

During the University Christmas Vacation the Sunday evening Mass will be relatively subdued musically and there will be no Wednesday “Holy Half Hour” of Exposition with Confessions from Christmas until the new term begins.

The Sung Student Mass resumes on Sunday 17 January, and Holy Half Hour on Wednesday 20 January.

Churches Together New Year’s Eve Candlelit Procession

Durham Churches Together – the group of Christian communities in Durham (including St Cuthbert’s) working together – holds its annual Candlelit Procession and service on New Year’s Eve (Thursday 31 December) in thanksgiving for the year past, and praying for God’s blessings in the year to come.We gather in the Market Place at 6:15pm (please bring your own candle/lantern), and then proceed along the Bailey to Palace Green. There is a service of prayer together in Durham Cathedral at 6:30pm.

Carol Singing and Children’s Christmas Party

On Sunday 20 December please do come along and join us to sing Christmas Carols for the residents of Hallgarth Care Home. We will meet at the church at 1:45pm to walk up to the home.

Following the carol singing there will be a childrens party in the parish room 3:30 – 5:30pm. All children (big and small) are welcome to join us for fun and party games. Please bring something for a shared party tea.

Christmas at St Cuthbert’s


  • Christmas Day (Friday 25 December): midnight and 10:30am
  • St Stephen’s Day (Saturday 26 December): 9:15am
  • Holy Family (Sunday 27 December): 10:00am and 6:30pm
  • 28th-31st December: 9:15am
  • New Year’s Day (1 January 2016): 12:15pm.

Sacrament of Penance (Confession)

  • from 9:45am on Saturday 19 December
  • from 6:30pm on Wednesday 23 December
  • from 11:15pm on Thursday 24 December
For more details about Christmas services, see

Survey for Young People 11-19

Forward Together in Hope is taking place across the whole of the Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. It is about everyone, young and old, getting involved in thinking about and discussing what our Church should be like so that we can bring the Good News of God’s love to others.

We are really keen to get views from young people aged 11-19, whether you are Catholic or not – and whether you go to church or not. We want to look at our Church through your eyes and want to learn from you.

The survey can be found at and more information about the process can be found at

Advent Camel

Over the last few years, the parish has gradually populated a virtual village for CAFOD. In Advent last year the young people of the parish, raised enough money to buy a camel. This year we are hoping to add another camel to the village.

A camel costs £400. The gift of a camel provides a poor family with up to seven litres of milk a day, which can be sold to buy food and school books. The family can also rear and sell calves for a much needed income. Furthermore a camel can carry weights of up to 200kgs, meaning that a family has a source of transport, that can be used to help them earn a living. Thank you for help with this project.

Christmas Collections

Collections taken at the Christmas Masses are taken for Parish Funds, in the same way as at Sunday Masses throughout the year.If you would also like to make a Christmas gift to the Dominican Community of Friars which serves St Cuthbert’s, you may do so using one of the blue envelopes available on display in the narthex. Envelopes can be dropped into the collection basket or returned to the presbytery.

If you are a UK taxpayer, you can increase the value of your gift by completing the Gift Aid declaration on the envelope. Cheques should be made payable to “The Dominican Council”.

Thank you for your generosity both to the Parish and to the Dominican Community now and throughout the year – the Friars wish you a very happy and holy Christmas.

Harry Clarke Greetings Cards

Greetings Cards with images from the recently-restored Canon Brown Memorial Window designed by Harry Clark are available at the back of church. These are ideal as Christmas cards, but also throughout the year. There is a selection of six designs, priced at 60p each or £3 for a set of six (envelopes included).

Obligation to celebrate

Veni, veni Emmanuel‘I believe in the Holy Spirit…who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified…’

This article of the creed declares our faith in the Holy Spirit and directs us to give praise to the Spirit as we do the Father and the Son. During Advent, we tend to focus (and rightly so) on the Word Incarnate; the creed reminds us that the Incarnation (like creation) is a work of the whole Trinity.

Not only does the Spirit claim our adoration as the One by whom Mary conceived the Christ child; the Spirit also makes the space in our hearts to celebrate his birth and to hope for his return. Yet Advent has become a time when we do not only prepare for the spiritual event of the Nativity. We prepare food and buy gifts, write cards and plan parties. And we do so amidst the usual circumstances of our lives, getting on with work and family obligations, and coping with the disappointment and loss that comes our way regardless of the season.

At Christmas the Lord calls us to set aside all that troubles us and give glory to the One who is ‘born the king of angels.’ We tend to think, perhaps, that the hard spiritual work we do is in Lent. But the joyous celebration of Christmas is no less an obligation than the penitence of Lent. When the day arrives and we announce the ‘Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing,’ may the Holy Spirit help us to sing with glad hearts, ‘O come, let us adore Him.’

Part of a series on the Creed by Medi Ann Volpe. For the final run-up to Christmas, we recommend:

Advent Carol Service

Advent Wreath and Christmas TreeSt Cuthbert’s Parish and the Durham University Catholic Society warmly invite you to our Advent Carol Service at 6:30pm on Wednesday 16 December. Come along for an evening of traditional readings from Scripture and carol singing, led by the choirs of the Parish and Chaplaincy, as we unfold the Christmas Story together.

Do also join us for some festive refreshments in the Parish Room (just behind the church) after the service. We hope to see you there – and we warmly encourage you to bring friends along.

Because of the Carol Service, Mass on 16 December will be celebrated at the earlier time of 12:15pm. There will be no “Holy Half Hour” of Vespers, exposition and confessions that evening.

Joint IMEMS/CCS Ushaw Lecture

On Tuesday 15 December, Prof John Morrill (Cambridge University) ‘Celebrating Advent and Christmas in the Penal Times.’The evening will begin at 5:30pm for drinks and the lecture will start at 6:00pm in the Exhibition Hall, Ushaw College. Followed by the Ushaw Carol Service, 7.30pm in St Cuthbert’s Chapel.

To attend the drinks reception and lecture (free of charge), please contact or 0191 334 1656. To obtain a ticket for the carol service, please email

Opening of Year of Mercy

Merciful like the Father (Year of Mercy)The Jubilee Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis opens this coming Tuesday, 8 December, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

From 8am to 8pm that day at St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle, there will be Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Confessions available; Bishop Séamus will celebrate Mass at 7:15am and 12:05pm, and give a talk at 10:30am.

Then, on Sunday 13 December at 3:00pm, Bishop Séamus will open the Holy Door at the Cathedral. All are welcome at any of these celebrations.

Prayer of Pope Francis for the Jubilee

Merciful like the Father (Year of Mercy)Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father, and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him. Show us your face and we will be saved. Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things; made Peter weep after his betrayal, and assured Paradise to the repentant thief. Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!”

You are the visible face of the invisible Father, of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy: let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified. You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error: let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.

Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing, so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord, and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed, and restore sight to the blind.

We ask this of you, Lord Jesus, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy; you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

The eternally begotten Son

TheotokosLast week we focused on the eschatological dimension of our faith in Christ – its relation to the end of this world. As Advent begins, we turn to the identity of Jesus as the eternally begotten Son of God.

During Advent we prepare for the feast of the Nativity. According to the Catechism, by this preparation we share in Israel’s long expectation of the messiah, and renew our own desire for Christ’s second coming (CCC 524). Our participation in the hope of Israel has an added dimension: we look not merely for the one who will restore the kingdom to Israel, but for the one who will reconcile humanity to God and so restore all of creation. The One whose birth we celebrate and whose return we anticipate is not a human king, but the eternally begotten Son of God, who is God: ‘God from God, light from light, true God from true God.’ The creed could not be clearer about the divinity of Jesus Christ.

The Creed helps us to consider this mystery and to meditate on it – an important practice for all Christians in a context in which our faith can be elbowed aside by the cultural expectations of gifts and party food. Although some of the advertisements encourage good works consistent with Christian faith — to be generous to those in most need, and to look toward the poor and neglected — the words of the creed draw us back to the foundations of our faith. Our concern for others is not a response to the evocative images set around us in the media but is an integral aspect of our
grateful response to the eternally begotten Son ‘who came down from heaven’ to save us. He himself is the gift for which we should long; he is the treasure of our hearts to be shared with others.

Part of a series by Medi Ann Volpe

Events Group

One of the happy consequences of recent fundraising efforts has been the organisation of various social events which have helped bind St Cuthbert’s Parish together as a Christian community. Having achieved our immediate and urgent fundraising goals, we are instituting an Events Group which can take over from the Fundraising Committee and continue to build up the community in the Parish through social events (many of which will still raise money for the parish or other good causes).

The inaugural meeting of the Events Group will take place after the 10:00 Mass on Sunday 29 November: if you have ideas for social events or can give a little of your time to bringing our community together, please come along.

Parish Registration and Skills Audit

The Diocesan Forward Together in Hope process has identified a need at St Cuthbert’s to have an up-to-date register of worshippers here, and also an up-to-date audit of the skills you have to offer and the needs you may have. It has been twelve years since there was last a parish census and audit of this kind.We’re therefore distributing a simple registration form asking for details and needs of the members of your household on the front, and the skills and talents they can offer on the back.

We would ask all parishioners and regular worshippers to take one (or if necessary more) of these forms and return it to the parish office (or to the box provided at the back of church). This will help us make sure we’re all doing what we can to help our parish community in its mission of serving God and our neighbour.

If you know of parishioners who aren’t able to get to Mass, please do take a form for them too: they are part of our community, who have much to offer and whom we’re keen to help.

NB We already have a student registration system in place via and the yellow slips available at the back of the church. So students do not need to use the parish registration form (but are welcome to do so if they wish).

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