When I first arrived in Luxembourg, I was invited to attend a symposium (a grand name for meeting!) for priests serving in English-speaking parishes in Europe. I wasn’t able to attend at the time, but happily accepted the invitation to attend the next symposium to be held in Madrid. I arrived in Madrid not quite sure what to expect, hoping and praying it wouldn’t just be just an academic exchange. I needn’t have worried. Our host, Fr Ron (Madrid) made us most welcome, and helped set the informal, fraternal tone. The convenor and organiser in general, Fr Sjaak (The Hague) was accompanied by Deacon Paul, who minister together; Fr Kevin (Vienna), Fr Urs (Zug, Switzerland), Fr Aidan (Paris) and myself made up the group. Apologies had been received from colleagues who couldn’t attend.
It was very encouraging, informative, and inspirational to hear the stories of other English-speaking Catholic communities in Europe (I have stolen so many ideas!). It quickly emerged that we all share common issues:
- How to maintain our Anglophone identity, yet be welcoming to all who attend our Masses and events
- How to foster and maintain good relations with neighbouring diocesan parishes and with the diocese itself, respecting cultural differences
- How we fulfil our missionary role, reaching out to those who are not members of our community (including tourists)
- How we manage our social outreach (ministry with and to refugees was an important concern here, as was ministry to and with people struggling financially.
- How to achieve good practice regarding, for example, Safeguarding.
- How to ensure support and mutual encouragement for each other
I have come away from this meeting enriched by what I have learned, but even more so by the encounter with my brother priests and deacon who are ministering with faith, commitment and enthusiasm. Our next meeting is scheduled for 2018 in Paris (with Luxembourg as Plan B just in case!)