THE ENGLISH PROVINCE
The recent directory shows us having 35 professed members as Province of Origin, 11 of whom are working in other circumscriptions and 12 of whom are in retirement or semi-retirement leaving 12 Spiritans only exercising full pastoral responsibility in the UK. However, there are 7 Spiritans from African Provinces appointed to the UK and we have 9 Lay Spiritans some of whom made their first commitment in 1991.
The house in Northwood was sold in 2004 and a house in Burnt Oak purchased to house the provincial administration. In September 2006 a house in Whitefield, Manchester was purchased to give the provincial a base when visiting the Manchester area and to provide needed accommodation for the Province and for mission appealers. On 31 st May 2007, after 3 years of protracted negotiations with the Diocese of Salford, St Philip's presbytery, Church and Hall were purchased to eventually house the Spiritan community and the Just Youth ministry lay team. The Province also has a designated retirement community in Bickley and a pastoral and mission outreach community in Carfin , Scotland .
We also staff 4 parishes, New Barnet, Hassop, Leicester, and South Norwood on behalf of various Dioceses, and are due to staff another in Birmingham .
Religious and Community Life
3 of our parishes have only one person and there are 3 other people living alone by choice but keeping in touch with their local Spiritan communities. The annual retreat and Assembly provide significant moments of celebrating our Spiritan life together and the feasts of the Congregation provide opportunities for us to share our charism at a more local level. An annual Pentecost Novena is well supported among our many friends.
A three year spiritual programme of reflection was initiated leading up to our Chapter in 2009. Year one, “the calming of the Storm”, will conclude at this year's assembly. Year two will focus on the spirituality of “walking on water” and year three will inspire us as “fishers of people” leading us to re-examine and affirm our Spiritan mission at the next Chapter.
Individual renewal courses are encouraged especially for those moving on to a new phase in their Spiritan vocation. However, it is sometimes difficult to find people willing to engage in such and a fear of self-examination can be a block for some. In the last two years two people have taken time off to renew themselves.
There is a lack of understanding and sympathy for those who have gone through or witnessed trauma and although not affecting a great number it is an area in which we need to be more professional in our approach. Unhealthy lifestyles in eating and drinking are also tendencies that we need to be aware of among us which are not presently being tackled adequately.
Mission is not geographical. The poor and marginalised are found among us in people with addictions living in despair and homeless, in asylum seekers and refugees deserted by the state, in young people who find life a bore and who mock religion, in broken families, in those marginalised by their sexual orientation, in prisoners. The projects founded by Spiritans at Kairos, Revive and Just Youth continue the Spiritan charism of our mission to the most deprived here in out home Province. The continuity of these works is sought by forming them into registered charities and /or by support from the energy of our younger Spiritans on first appointments.
The Spiritan Parishes and communities continue to be a support to those seeking solace, support and justice. It is not unusual for people feeling abandoned by their own church community to come to us for the welcome and availability they perceive we have.
While our age profile prevents a large number working overseas, we still are proud of the influence of a relatively big number of us working in mission animation, formation and projects in other countries around the world. From the aboriginal and parish mission in Australia to the support of family life in South Africa, from the consistent, faithful ongoing parish support in Makudi to the formation of young Spiritans in Ejisu and Tangaza and from the specialised ministry on the campus at Duquesne to the expertise and professional missiology taught in Chicago and around the world, we all take great inspiration. We are doing wonderful work for God and we should be immensely proud of it. And we still have people to give support to the general administration in Paris and Rome . We may have been dealt a hard blow with the untimely death of Brian Fulton in Vietnam but the mission continues and we serve it with generosity and with great dedication and ability. “Well done” is not good enough to describe our shared mission. It is a magnificent effort especially considering our small numbers
New approaches to mission in the Parishes of Southwark and Birmingham will no doubt also inspire and challenge us and we thank the Nigerian and WAP Provinces for supplying Spiritans to these specialised works. I envisage that this will have a major impact on the life of the Province.
We made a noble start at forming a JPIC plan but have faltered after a very intense assembly devoted to it and animated by John Kilcrann . I think we may need help to rekindle this process in a way which engages people at a grass roots level and is not just a paper exercise. Can we not have copies of those plans already written, for example, the one achieved with acclaim by the Portuguese Province to help us adapt our own. Good practice and ideas should be shared.
The Live Simply Campaign promoted by CAFOD is an area we need to critically examine ourselves on. I am told we are one of the few religious communities in England that have not signed up to it but I am reluctant to sign up to something we are not willing to take seriously and live out. I am convinced we can do a lot more to live simpler lifestyles. We seem to want for nothing at times – the latest technological gadgets, use of cars, holidays in the sun, personal bank accounts, to name but a few. I do not want to prevent people having access to the tools for their mission or having reasonable leisure breaks but I think we could be more careful in what we spend and so have more resources to support those in greater need. Unless we are willing to accept a reduction in living standards how can we promote JPIC!? The witness of our lifestyle is the bedrock of our mission.
There was a recognition at our last Chapter that we are not doing enough to promote vocations. It was hard for us to find someone to take on this task. However, Uche Njoku appointed from the Nigerian Province has agreed to take on this portfolio and we are in the early stages of forming a plan and guidelines for this.
We have no initial formation programme. Any interested people will spend a year's postulancy in our youth ministry community. After that we would need either to join another Province for first cycle or move to support from within one of our parishes or communities a person attending a diocesan seminary now that the MIL is due to close its doors.
The formation of Lay Spiritans is another area we are assessing. We wish to expand this group. There is a guideline of a “Way of Life” but we need to have chaplains or formators to support our present group and other groups we may wish to encourage. There is still a question among a minority about the whole concept of Lay Spiritans. A few object to their attendance at Spiritan retreats and events. We plan to evaluate and examine the role of our Lay group at an extended council meeting this Autumn.
Material and Financial Situation
Last year the Province had an expenditure of about £1 million and its income almost matched that sum. These figures are presently being audited by our accountants; however, an indication as to the income and expenditure for 2006 is attached.
It should be noted that the Province's income is entirely made up of donations and investment income. Donations are primarily from the annual mission appeal and legacies.
On the expenditure front, the mission of the Province is growing with the investment in our Youth Ministry and Asylum Seekers and Refugees. As well as these areas of expenditure the Province has to ensure that an adequate sum is set aside for retirement as we have no pension entitlement from the state. On top of this there is also the general expenditure on administration and the support for our communities, which includes the maintenance of the properties.
During 2007 a significant sum of money is needed to develop our Youth Mission. £250,000 has already been spent on purchasing St Philips and another £500,000 will be needed to develop the property. This will be using funds that have been allocated to this purpose, however, it will be a significant loss in our investment income. This should be off set to some extent from our investment in Languages Express Ltd, once the structure of this company have been finalised. However, other means of income need to be explored to cover our overheads and missionary obligations and to ensure the there are sufficient reserves for the needs of our retired and sick in the future. We envisage that the proceeds from the sale of the MIL will offset our losses and provide for future stability of our mission project and retirement costs.
As regards judicial regulation, the Province is a registered charity with both the English and Welsh Charity Commission and the newly established Scottish Charity Commission (OSCR); registration is currently still to be finalised with the latter. This means that we are subject to stringent rules on our income and expenditure and charitable operations.
In practice all communities and parish based Spiritans live within an agreed budget and there are limits to how money is spent. Extraordinary expenditure needs the approval of the bursar or PLT.
We do not have ‘personal' bank accounts but any accounts held in an individual name must have at least two Spiritan signatories. However, there is some confusion over holding money for others or acting as second signatories on accounts outside the Spiritan charity as there can be tax implications to this. The same confusion exists over Patrimony. The law of the land and canon law seem to be at odds over this.
The employment of a lay bursar with banking and project management credentials has been a great asset to us and is helping us put our finances on a better footing.
We keep good relations with the local church and care for parishes under their jurisdiction with their gratitude. Revive is officially “a project of the Spiritans with the support of the Diocese of Salford”, Kairos and Just Youth are well appreciated by the local church.
We are members of the National Conference of Religious and they have invited Just Youth to be the main presenter at their AGM this autumn on the theme of the evangelisation of young people.
Lay involvement in our parishes and communities is at a very good level. Perhaps we could initiate more theological/scriptural training for our laity.
Relations with the Spiritan Region of Europe
We have attended all the European meetings except “Call to Mission” and “Formation”. We struggle with personnel to participate in these but it is our intention to try to rectify this. We have good relations with our neighbouring Provinces and are ready to assist whenever possible with solidarity of personnel or finances. Our Bursar helps the CESS committee with its finances.
The lack of personnel to staff our essential works is a major problem for us. We do not have the mature experienced and active men to be Superiors of our communities, especially Carfin and Bickley with its specialised ministry of care of the retired and sick.
The Lay Spiritans need expanding and better formation programmes initiated for them. They need a designated professed Spiritan to accompany them.
There is a question over whether we should be staffing parishes such as Hassop or New Barnet as they do not easily fit into our Spiritan Charism.
The first appointees have been thrown into specialised work without any long experience or opportunity to look at cultural adaptation. The integration into the Province of the increasing number of our African Spiritans is an important priority. Better induction into the life and work of the Province is needed.
There is concern that with the closure of the MIL there will be no Catholic missiology taught in the UK.
Just Youth is a major commitment of the Province both in terms of active pastoral personnel and finances. The development of a new site at St Philip's will give the opportunity to offer much better facilities for the Spiritan and lay team as well as for the young people. It is envisaged that finances from the sale of the MIL will eventually cover the development costs of this project.
Revive has had major problems of restructuring but could be a unique example of ongoing support for Asylum seekers and refugees. The challenge to re-engage the local church in its support will be a major priority and the increased financial support from the Province would hope to increase its professional outreach. There is a need to have more Spiritan personnel involved – particularly, a chaplain is needed.
Languages express Ltd is now set up as a company wholly owned by the Spiritans. All its surplus profits will be used for the charitable purposes of the Province. However, there is a need to ensure adequate staffing structures and premises over the next 3 months.
Ensuring adequate modern retirement facilities is a debate that the Province must grasp. The question of doing this in the context of the Bickley building or elsewhere is an important debate for us.
Building up and renewing links with Kairos is an important pastoral development.
The spiritual renewal of each of the members of our province must underpin all our activity and remains one of our top priorities.