Holy Cross, Leicester: Nurturing New Growth

Holy Cross, Leicester: Nurturing New Growth

During the summer the Leicester community elected a new prior, Fr John-Patrick Kenrick. He, Fr Anthony Rattigan and Fr Luke Doherty are kept busy with the ordinary round of parish life and during lockdown they keep in touch with the parishioners by phone. Fr John-Patrick is also student chaplain and Fr Anthony confessor to Mount St Bernard abbey. 

A number of the brethren have moved to other priories but the community has been enriched by the arrival of Fr John Farrell, and more recently Fr Richard Ounsworth, who are fully engaged in the routine of priory and parish life but also do much more besides. 

Fr John Farrell’s retreat work has been affected by the virus, but he is still teaching at Valladolid by Zoom, giving some retreat talks ranging from Scotland to Zimbabwe, and keeping in touch with our Lay Dominican group. 

The garden has seen a complete make­over at the hands of Fr John Farrell (pictured, above). It was beginning to choke on its own growth. Plants long lost in the former jungle have been uncovered and nurtured and new plants have also been judiciously introduced to create a harmonious integration of several smaller spaces with their own distinct shape and character. It is not only the brethren who appreciate the new order. The many varieties of birds that visit this secret garden protected by the walls of our priory and parish halls have clearly been delighted by easier access to the soil and a clean bird bath and renovated feeders.

Fr Richard has also been using Zoom to give his lectures on the New Testament (including a new course of lectures on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark) and to give tutorials to students as far away as the USA. He has also given study days for Lay Dominicans and day retreats to Dominican sisters. On Tuesdays, Fr Richard guides and inspires the keen members of the Leicester scripture group. Thanks to his culinary skills, the brethren now regularly enjoy home-baked bread. He feels he has ‘cracked’ normal bread and is ready to move on to other types! His cakes are delicious (his gingerbread and lemon drizzle are irresistible) as are his meals that are lovingly created in our priory kitchen. Fr Richard is currently busy making mincemeat for Christmas.

Although the rhythm of priory life has changed more than once due to the Covid crisis, the work we do has not changed that much. We still celebrate Mass at the usual times and hear confessions. When allowed, we have baptised babies, celebrated marriages, held funerals and even during lockdown we regularly visit the sick and dying in Leicester Royal Infirmary.
The Covid lockdown has produced some new opportunities. The need for live-streamed Mass led to requests for an improved system; paid for by generous donors, it has resulted in vastly improved quality of transmission and repeated appreciative comments.

Fr Luke divides his time between Leicester prison, a handsome building which some innocent tourists use as a backdrop to selfies, and his very demanding role as bursar, which at present includes overseeing the repairs to the parish centre now called The Frassati Centre after Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. The project of restoration begun under Fr David Rocks is making steady progress (see photos, below). Old and decrepit kichen and toilet facilities are being replaced with new ones. The refurbished building will be a great parish asset and provide new opportunities for parish social life, for parish catechesis and evangelisation.

As prison chaplain, Fr Luke regularly visits the prisoners who are most vulnerable, and brings the light of Christ into what can be a very dark place. Every day, chaplains visit men who are in the segregation unit, and this unit can be one of the most challenging environments in the entire prison system. Sometimes the intervention of chaplains can help the inmates open up more about either their own experiences and hopes for the future, or their interest in religion as part of their rehabilitation. Prison chaplaincy is both a preaching opportunity and also a chance to answer questions which the inmates may have about God, religion, or scripture. Some inmates will find a great deal of consolation in their faith, at a time where they may be isolated on and off from their families. Normally, Mass is said in the prison every week and the chaplains will put on classes to increase knowledge of the Bible, or classes on how to pray the Rosary.

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