This week we have been celebrating our annual Novena to Our Lady of Sorrows and marking the 150th anniversary of the opening of the present church at St. Mungo’s. The preachers have been wonderful, each of them with a very different approach and style. The first preacher was Fr. Aidan Troy, at present parish priest of our iconic church of St. Joseph’s at Avenue Hoche in Parish, the church where Oscar Wilde was received into the church by the English Passionist, Fr. Cuthbert Dunne, in 1900, and also where the actor, Martin Sheen, made his Confession before retuning to the practice of his faith. He was followed by Fr. Paul Francis Spencer, no stranger to the people of St. Mungo’s, having served on the altar here as a boy, before joining the Passionist Congregation, and having spells as vicar, rector and parish priest. His love and knowledge of St. Mungo’s is second to none. He is at present parish priest of Mount Argus in Dublin and Vocations Director for the Passionists in Ireland and Scotland. Then came Fr. James Sweeney, who in 2016 was elected as the first ever Scottish Provincial of St. Patrick’s Province. In earlier days Fr. James was chaplain to St. Mungo’s Secondary School and Vocations Director for the Passionists in Scotland; he was also Rector of our former Retreat Centre at Coodham in Ayrshire, where my own Passionist Vocation was nurtured in the early 1970’s; he then served the Congregation in various leadership roles before embarking on an illustrious academic career. At the time of writing we are nearing the close of our Novena when the final Mass to mark our Jubilee Year will be celebrated by Archbishop Philip Tartaglia. It has been a truly blessed and grace filled time.
While the Novena has been progressing, there has been extraordinary work going on behind the scenes to prepare for the closure of the church on Monday morning, the day after the Novena ends. This is to allow for very necessary refurbishment work in St. Mungo’s Church to lay a new floor; replace the old heating pipes; create a suitable access ramp in the porch area, and to provide an accessible, ground floor toilet. This work was made possible by a bequest from a lady who stipulated that the funds should be used on the church, and so we want to do her proud. We have always looked on this as a jubilee project and an act of hope in the future as we move on from the first 150 years of St. Mungo’s into a faith-filled future.
During this period Masses and other services will be in the hall. We have created an intimate setting for the Celebration of the Eucharist and one of the interesting features as, for health and safety reasons, we won’t be able to burn candles, is the introduction of a prayer tree. The idea is that people can write a petition, or simply the name of the person they wish to pray for, on a cut-out leaf. The leaf can then be hung on the tree, and over the 11 or so weeks that we will be in the hall, the leaves of red and brown and gold will build up into a beautiful array; every leaf representing someone’s prayer, and these petitions will be remembered at every Mass and prayer time; every period of Eucharistic Adoration, and every quiet moment spent in the Lord’s presence We may not be in the church, but we are the church, and by gathering in His name, we know the Lord will be present just as powerfully as ever.
During this time, also, there will be a nostalgic and poignant return to the old Retreat at 52 Parson Street. The Parish Office and Reception will be there, providing all the necessary elements that people generally come to the office for; and we will also have the daily Confessions there, utilising the former priest’s Confessional room just as you enter in through the double doors. We hope that God will bless this work and we commend it to your prayers that everything will go well because, if the Lord does not build the house, then they labour in vain that build it. (Psalm 127:1). And another appropriate psalm verse for the occasion:
They are like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in due season. Their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. (Psalm 1: 3)