REPORT on the PARISH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
15th July 2018
Father Dominic’s address to the AGM:
As you know, the Fathers were due to come here in September 2016, but owing to Fr David’s illness and death, our arrival was delayed by some months. We were finally able to come at the end of May, celebrating our first Mass with you on the 31st, the feast of the Visitation of Our Lady – a celebration of welcome and hospitality. And the Parish certainly made us feel most welcome, for which we remain extremely grateful. Those months of delay were not easy for us or you – the question as to whether we should push on with this venture without Fr David, was real, likewise for you, all that uncertainty as to what was happening, must have been most unsettling.
We decided, however, to forge ahead, trusting in Providence and the prayers of St Philip. We were extremely grateful to Fr John, Deacon Roger, Mike King and Sharon, and we know that others helped so much to prepare the way (and the place) for our arrival. So we’ve been here just over a year now, and are beginning to settle, and hope that you are beginning to get used to us too.
The health, safety and other issues in the Oratory House caused the Diocese to demand that we move out ‘with immediate effect’ at the beginning of Holy Week, when we had no option but to take rooms in the Norfolk Hotel. After 10 days, we acquired four small apartments – two graciously lent to the Fathers for the duration, by the owners, and two rented by the Diocese for the Brothers.
Other than Fr Peter and myself, the Community presently consists of Br Francisco Hintikka, from Finland, who does a grand work looking after the sacristy and who, we hope, will soon be able to commence his studies for the Priesthood; and Br Andrew Wagstaff, who came to us from the Birmingham Oratory, and who, having now completed his priestly formation, should be ordained deacon this autumn.
We ask your prayers and continued support for the establishment of the Congregation of the Oratory here in Bournemouth. I believe that St Philip’s spirit of ‘gentleness and kindness’ and his joyful service of the Lord, will be of great benefit here as, together with you all, and in our Bishop’s words, we seek to “Bring people to Jesus through His Church”.
Deacon Roger (addressing the Oratorians): On behalf of the parish community, I begin by saying how much we welcome your arrival, and the future possibilities.
We must also begin by acknowledging the support and effort that each parishioner brings to the life of this parish. This communal sense of belonging enabled us to undertake the recent SHINE Appeal, the results of which are visible each time we enter the church. A hidden beauty was revealed, and we daily enjoy the fruits of the restoration. It is important to recognise, given the challenges that lie ahead, that this was achieved through the efforts of this community rather than external funding: you should all be rightly proud of what was achieved.
When Bishop Philip invited the Oratorians to make their home with us it was in the context of his vision for the future of the Church in Bournemouth, in the wider diocese, and beyond. His recently-distributed Vision Statement for the diocese: “Bringing people to Jesus through His Church” has three themes: Focusing on Youth; Focusing on Vocations (everyone); and Focusing on prioritising our resources. The latter is not restricted to money, although necessary, but a reminder that each of us in our different ways is called to be at the service of the Church community.
This document helps us understand why Bishop Philip invited the Oratorians to come to Bournemouth and how this “Vision” will inform the future development, character, and direction of travel, for this parish.
The Oratory is part of the Bishop’s wider evangelization strategy to create a Powerhouse of Prayer and Evangelization in Bournemouth which involves the transformation of the parish halls into a centre of pastoral outreach, formation and catechesis. We are therefore being invited into a bold and innovative missionary endeavour – not unlike that of the Society of Jesus (more commonly called Jesuits) who founded this church back in the 1860s. At that time the population of the town was under 7,000 and the immediate thought of the local Bishop was basically “why bother”. The Jesuits, however, recognised Bournemouth as a town that would grow and a place in which the presence of the Church was vital to the future well-being of all its people.
Over the next 70 years the Jesuits founded churches across the town – they understood that evangelization requires going out to the margins and being bold. These similar qualities will be provided by the Oratorians, who are a contemporary foundation with the Jesuits who, being Apostolic, their community changed frequently over those years, while Oratorians remain stable (like Benedictines) in a specific Oratory for life, giving us the opportunities of stability for long-term vision and planning.
In 1969 the Jesuits transferred this parish to the diocese and, for the next 50 years, it was served by a number of diocesan priests, most of whom stayed only for five years, so that long-term plans for this principal local Church had not come to fruition. Also, the presbytery (now the Oratory House) has over 30 rooms on four floors, having been designed for community occupation. Despite tinkering, the building has gradually decayed. With the Bishop’s decision for the Oratorians to run the parish, it has been quickly realised that the house is not fit for multi-occupancy.
This situation is faced by any new householder: it is not until you move in that you discover all the bits not mentioned in the sales notice! The Fathers and Brothers of the Oratory have, with others, now begun developing an over-arching scheme for the redevelopment of the full parish estate. As the Oratory House is not habitable, the journey must start here. The diocesan trustees have already given their approval and support, although, sadly for us, the diocese has no central resources to cover the costs. The monies for works must be borrowed from the reserves of other parishes. As in life, what you borrow must be repaid. The Bishop, diocesan trustees and other clergy are all keen to support us… provided we find the money to repay them. Fr Peter will talk about this shortly, but it is a significant matter of concern for the growth of the Oratory, our Parish, and the local community.
That said, we have the confidence from what was achieved in restoring the Church to face this challenge together. As Father Bruce, who instigated the SHINE Appeal, famously said on the first day of that appeal: “I am pleased to announce that we have raised the funds we need. The only problem is that the money is still in your pockets”! That appeal began with good humour and was realised due to your gifts and your talents to make it real. The same can happen again.
A brief version of Father Peter’s overview:
The Oratory’s first year in Bournemouth has been named as a Parish Year of Renewal – as an initial stage in our rolling strategic development plan – and witnessed many signs of new life as highlighted in the weekly Sunday Bulletin, in the newly-introduced monthly Newsletter, and on our website.
Fr Dominic and Deacon Roger have already acknowledged the support and effort that each parishioner brings to the life of the parish and, in thanking particular people for their part in parish life, we can only provide a snap-shot, and can’t possibly name or thank everyone, although the following should certainly be mentioned: Deacon Roger who did so much to hold things together before our arrival and has been a tower of strength and well-informed adviser, supported by his Wife, Jackie. Thanks to Sharon, Alba and others in the Parish Office; to Mike King, overseeing finance and fabric and his many practical and professional involvements which have accomplished so much, and assisted by Barbara as our Book-keeper. Thanks, too, to members (past and present) of our Finance & Fabric Committee; to Alan Cowan (our Gift Aid Organiser) and his teams of Monday morning collection counters and those who empty the candle and other boxes around the church; those who take up the Collection at Mass, and who provide a warm welcome to visitors and regulars alike before and after Mass. Thanks to our devoted catering and social team who provide Sunday morning coffee and cakes, and master-mind parish social events; to Andrew Santos and the Choir who enhance the Liturgy, and to other instrumentalists and singers at the different Masses; to our team of flower-arrangers who beautify the church; to the small but devoted team who clean our beautiful church on Thursdays. Thank you to Anita King and her team in the Bookshop; to our Altar Servers and those who assist Br Francisco in the Sacristy, cleaning, laundering, mending and maintaining; to Danny and Chris, our gardeners and handymen who are always beavering away with jobs large and small. Thank you to those who supplement our housekeeping budget by gifts of food, cooking occasional meals, cleaning, mending and laundering. Thank you to the newly-formed Oratory Media Group (OMG!), to Mike Hughes for restarting SVP; to Adam Bussell our Youth Ambassador and initiator of our Catholic Men’s Fraternity; and to the dozen men becoming Brothers of the Little Oratory. Special thanks to Columba Cook, our Architect, and those who have worked with him. Every Parishioner is encouraged to be involved in at least one of our many Parish groups.
The past year has seen the death of a number of Parishioners whom we remember with affection, and for whose Souls we pray, including Rose Howarth, Peter Nye, Pam Brigden, and Pat Pope. Others will be missed as they move away, including Brenda Duncan, Tom, and Sr Melita. We welcome new arrivals for whom the Fathers have blessed a number of new homes (and new cars).
Sacramental statistics during our first year include 18 Funerals and 17 Baptisms. We thank Alison and Mike Davis for the Baptism preparation, and (with their team) for our First Communion Programme.
We had 4 Weddings, and thank Deacon Roger and Jackie for the comprehensive Marriage Preparation course which they run for these and our more numerous couples who choose to marry overseas.
Thank you to Gregory and Melody Hogan for preparing our dozen Confirmation candidates for Bishop Philip to Confirm recently in the Cathedral.
During the year the Oratory Fathers heard 2,573 Confessions (not including Poles and other national groups), which averages 50 per week, or 7 per day.
Our parish has hosted formation days for Catechists and we encourage others to join our teams preparing people for the Sacraments. We have long-term plans to be a satellite of the School of the Annunciation.
Mass Intentions have considerably increased during the year. The replacement of electric votive lights by the Oratory’s own entirely smoke-free votive candles seems much appreciated – witness their proliferation.
Looking forward now, we move from our initial Year of Renewal to a Two-Phase Period of Redevelopment (1) of the Oratory House, (2) of our Catholic Institute Halls, to realise our Bishop’s vision of a Catholic Welcome Centre with state-of-the-art conference facilities and a cafe / restaurant here in the heart of Bournemouth for which we have recently appointed a volunteer Clerk of Works, and a Fund-Raising Project Manager.
Thanks to Sharon Whitaker who kick-started the fund-raising with a Grand Raffle for a London hotel holiday, and to the world-class musicians whom we are hosting for our monthly concerts this autumn.
Nearly 20 parishioners with professional and technical qualifications, skills and experience are forming our new Redevelopment Advisory Group (RAG!) and self-selecting themselves into 3 teams to carry forward our 2-phase Redevelopment Project.