There are times when I am very conscious of how many different roles I carry, both for the Parish and the Passionists, and on occasion, such as is happening now, they all seem to make demands on me at one and the same time, and life becomes a bit hectic and stressful. One of the areas of demand at present concerns the Passionist Provincial Chapter which had been scheduled for last June, then postponed because of the pandemic; rescheduled for October; postponed again because of the pandemic; then rescheduled again for next July. At present it looks as if it will go ahead, and so much work has to be done. As the coordinator of the group responsible for preparing the Chapter I have the task of liaising with all the members of the Province on the discussions that have to take place beforehand. As the chair of a number of boards in the Province for different areas of our lives, I have to prepare reports on each of these areas as part of the Chapter package of materials that need to be considered. When I put these tasks together with all the other present demands, I feel like a juggler trying to keep a whole lot of balls, or plates, in the air at one time, but expecting them to crash to the ground at any moment. Hopefully, they won’t.
A Provincial Chapter is a gathering of the members to review crucial areas of our Passionist life and ministry, and to make decisions about our priorities going forward. The Chapter used to take place every 3 years but, since 1992, it takes place every 4 years. I was trying to count how many Chapters I have participated in since joining the Congregation 1n 1975. I reckon I have now taken part in 12 Provincial Chapters. The first of these was in 1977 while I was still a Postulant. It took place in the retreat house that the Passionists used to have at Coodham in Ayrshire. Our role as Postulants was mainly in the background, helping with practical things at meal times, and also in the evenings, when there was some kind of recreation after the day’s work was complete. One of my memories was that a number of our men, being of a certain age, were very dependent upon their All Bran for breakfast. It just so happened that in 1977 there was a shortage of supply of All Bran, not just in Scotland, but in many places, due to an underestimation of demand on the part of Kellogg’s. Myself and a fellow Postulant, yet another Scot, had the task of driving all around the locality, within a substantial radius, to try and locate any supermarkets; corner shops, grocers and the like, that might have a spare packet or two to sell. This task was arguably the most crucial one of the Chapter. For the most part we were successful and, so grateful were the men, that either one of us could have been elected Provincial, even though we were hardly in the door.
The other thing I remember about that year, 1977, was that after the Chapter we made our way down to Leeds, where we would spend the rest of the summer working in a homeless project that had been set up by a fellow Passionist. There were different aspects to the project, and our student body was divided into different locations, for work purposes, but we were all staying in a Retreat House in Ilkley that was run by the Passionists in England and Wales, a place called Middleton Lodge, that later became a pastoral centre for the Diocese of Leeds. It was a beautiful place, close to Ilkley Moor, and we spent a very happy month or more there, commuting into Leeds and back again each day, a journey of roughly an hour. The work was tiring, but the retreat centre was a relaxing place to retire to in the evenings. I had a cousin living in Headingly at the time, near the famous cricket ground, and it just so happened there was an Ashes tour at the time and the Headingly Test took place while were there. Not being a great cricket fan, I discovered a new understanding of the passion that people in that part of the country hold for, what to me, had seemed a very boring sport. My final memory of that summer was that, on coming down to breakfast on our final day, ready to begin the journey back to Glasgow to spend a couple of weeks with my family, we heard the news that Elvis Pressley had died the day before. I was as much of an Elvis fan as I was a cricket fan, but I still felt sad and shocked, and will always remember where I was when I heard the news.
So,as ever, protect yourselves, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.