Ignatian "mash-up": Southall parish mission


Hearts on Fire banner created by St Anselm's parishioners

Many of us from the tape-recording era used to compile tapes made from our favourite tunes. Today we’d call it a ‘mash-up’ (combining in one, things from different sources) which is quite a good analogy for the Mission held at St. Anselm’s Jesuit parish in Southall from 3-10th October.

Take a team from the Mount Street Jesuit Centre made up of spirituality volunteers, staff and Jesuits: mix it with parishioners and Fr David Stewart SJ leading on the Apostleship of Prayer and what occurred was an Ignatian ‘mash-up’!

It was a logistical feat of great complexity but with much generosity, grace, co-operation and goodwill we helped facilitate nine days of grace and mercy: ‘Hearts on Fire’.

Our task was to present and encourage the parishioners to try praying in new and different ways – imaginative contemplation, lectio divina, a daily offering, the Jesus prayer, the examen and repetition.

Each morning, Mass was celebrated and Fr David presented an aspect of the Apostleship of Prayer. Mass was followed by a series of workshops discovering different ways of praying and then parishioners were offered a time for prayer guidance or spiritual conversation. As one parishioner put it: ‘The one-to-one made me feel grateful and blessed.’

The feast of our Lady of the Rosary occurred in the heart of the week, so the idea was to contemplate more deeply on these mysteries. Every evening Brian Purfield gave a scriptural introduction to one of the joyful mysteries of the rosary, introducing us to the land, the history and the characters, which we then subsequently met in the contemplative journey of prayer led by the Mount Street Volunteers. One parishioner said: ‘The mysteries were brought to life and made me think more deeply about God’s working in my life and his love.’ The silence at the end of the contemplations was extraordinary with a profound sense of listening: God was listening to his faithful, and God’s faithful were listening to him. Indeed, Friday 9th was the feast of Blessed John Henry Newman, where we took great inspiration from his motto: ‘Cor ad cor loquitur’ – ‘Heart speaks to heart’. Indeed, hearts were on fire!

On the final Saturday there was an Ignatian retreat day where parishioners were led in reflections and times of prayer on the Prodigal Son. God’s mercy, soon to be celebrated in the Jubilee Year of Mercy, was at the heart of the day. There was space, too, for the children who created some beautiful pictures of God’s loving mercy. The sense of gratitude and of being blessed was made very real in the wonderful buffet provided by the parishioners. A banquet the prodigal son would have loved!

At 3pm, the floor was given over to the teenagers and their ‘Dream Team’ of helpers, parishioners and Jesuit priests and scholastics, who had run a month-long summer camp in the summer. The day was voluntary and over 40 returned to continue the party! Fr Kilbert spoke very movingly of his time as a refugee, fleeing by night on a flimsy boat across the ocean for over 18 hours, and Brother Sandeep spoke of his time as a novice, caring for a person with leprosy, cleaning and dressing his wounds every day. Filled with fear, God’s presence filled them with hope and courage. Hearts on Fire!

No sooner had large quantities of pizza been appreciated, than the young adults began preparing a service of reconciliation. Fr Gerard Mitchell SJ (parish priest) had invited Jesuits from the Mount Street community to help with the sacrament of reconciliation and a Goan priest enabled other parishioners to celebrate the sacrament in their mother tongue. Then the movement was outwards. The young adults, prepared and led by Sr Anouska FCJ from the Mount Street Young Adult Team, opened the doors and their hearts to ‘Night Fever’. Going on to the main street outside the Church, they invited passers-by if they would like to come into the Church, to light a candle and say a prayer. There was constant Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and beautiful, meditative music in the background, led by a very talented group of young parishioners. One of the very first to enter was a homeless person, walking slowly up the aisle wrapped in his blanket, accompanied by two people carrying lanterns giving him a guard of honour. Exactly one hundred candles were lit.

So, this ‘mash up’ , made of different elements, led by different people, was, amazingly, not a ‘mish-mash’ of random, separate events and individuals, but an experience of a community, living, working, praying together, forgiving, being forgiven, celebrating together, listening to God and to one another, to the world and to ourselves, listening to the heart beat of Hearts on Fire.

On behalf of all of us who came to the parish, we are hugely grateful for the welcome we received and for the ways in which you deepened our faith, hope and love. As one of the team commented: ‘All in all, I am getting so much more back from this than I am putting in. It’s been such a gift. It’s a privilege to be part of such a powerful manifestation of grace.’

Sr Elaine Rawlins and Simon Bishop SJ