Monday, February 28, 2011

Notre Dame Retreat

Last weekend, eleven intrepid London Centre students left the comforts of central London for a retreat adventure to the seaside, near Portsmouth. Typical of intrepid frontiersmen, two of the company nearly missed the bus, due to their fascination with the architectural wonders of Victoria Bus station or some such excuse. All however arrived safely at Portsmouth Harbour where, thanks to mobile technology, Fr. John managed to meet them at the Gosport Ferry. Boarding our ferry on this naval-themed weekend, we passed the cream of the British Navy past and present, before alighting at Gosport and getting to our retreat centre St John Bosco House, Alverstoke. Sister Ann welcomed us with tea and home made cakes, a foretaste of what was to come.

'Cooking up a storm' or 'cooking for victory'  would be an accurate motto for Sister Ann. Mountains of pasta with three sorts of sauce followed the soup, which was succeeded by mouthwatering home-made dessert, 'all of which is to be eaten!' as Sister Ann said. Only the first of our endless succession of meals, cooked breakfast, lunch and supper were to follow. One might wonder whether Jesus saying that 'those demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting' had been mixed with that other saying of Jesus about not fasting while the Bridegroom was with them. Our retreat experience was a wonderful celebration of feeling at home in Sister Ann's wonderful home from home, sitting round the log fire, walking along the beach and talking into the wee small hours.

The theme of our retreat was 'Story,' and one of the highlights was Sister Ann's own story of her vocational journey, which involved being rescued by Bedouin in the desert after having turned over her car. She was at death's door for weeks in a Cairo hospital and made a miraculous recovery thanks to, by her account, a novena said by --- [I forget which students or friends]. Following this ordeal, and her decision to enter the convent, Sister Ann's father left her his house provided it wasn't sold, meaning it could become a centre for welcome and retreat for groups like ours.

Another highlight of the weekend was our visit to the flagship of the British navy, the HMS Victory, in which 200 years ago Admiral Lord Nelson defeated the combined French and Spanish fleets at the battle of Trafalgar, thus saving Britain from a Napoleonic invasion. To stand at the spot where Nelson was wounded and in the bowels of the ship where he died three hours later left another vivid impression of continuity of British history and tradition.

All in all a memorable weekend, where as we listened to one another, we recalled that text from the Gospel of Luke: 'Did not our hearts burn within us as He talked to us on the way.' As we listened to one another and reflected ourselves, we sometimes recognised the voice of the Master himself calling to us.

Fr John Dickson SDB

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Torch of St Benedict

London is to host the lighting of the Torch of St Benedict in March 2011 with ceremonies due to take place at Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

The Torch of St Benedict, a symbol of peace, hope and unity, is the main feature of an annual pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Benedict in Monte Cassino led by the Abbot and monks of Monte Cassino.

At Westminster Cathedral at 10:30 am on 3 March 2011, Mass will be celebrated by the Archbishop of Westminster, The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols. Present will be all the Abbots of Benedictine monasteries in the UK and a delegation of monks from the Abbey of Monte Cassino. 

More information is available at:

Source: RCDOW.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


Matthew Howson, President of NewLaw, which is a group for Catholic law students or people interested in a career in the law that meets once a month at 7.30pm in Newman House to discuss issues such as careers and legal ethics, reports on the speakers they have hosted so far this year.

When NewLaw speakers come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. This term, due mainly to the astonishing persuasive abilities of Fr John, the Newman House Law Society has had a veritable legion of high-powered speakers (and attendees) with more to come. And if we had to produce a theme, I think it would be, like the Prince of Denmark, a concern for the reality of power. These are lawyers who are aware that law does not always create justice; lovers of justice who long to see it achieved through the law.

Dr Peter Roebuck, former Provost of the University of Ulster, is an English Catholic who has lived and worked in Northern Ireland for thirty years, and as such has a unique, penetrative and clear-sighted view of the province. He graphically described the difficulty of removing sectarian emotions in even the young people growing up even after the Good Friday Agreement, including his own children: educated, liberal, born to an English father, yet who are still fighting the old wars.

Rt Rev Abbot Richard Yeo, Abbot President of the English Benedictines and former Abbot of Downside Abbey, argued strongly from his experience of the Cumberlidge Commission for a more full-hearted yet thought-out to the clerical church abuse scandal. By rooting out abuse we are doing more than appeasing the world: what we do for the least of these, we do for Christ. But it must be an approach that acts with purpose and swiftness, and not waste years of innocent priests' lives in suspension from their duties, as happens now.

Joe Glacken, Africa Director of the national charity Hope and Homes for Children, similarly emphasised the reality behind pious platitudes in a heartfelt but witty discussion. He described how charities compete for government funding with eye-catching short term proposals,and how a high-level charity worker worked with street children for many hours in silence because she assumed they could not speak English. If you wish to learn what would really, actually, help a local community, you should sit and listen.

And then our very own Ellie Kirby, long-time and beloved resident of Newman House. Ellie will shortly begin a training contract with an ultra-sharp corporate law firm. Yet she saw that the South African constitution she explored by day, despite being one of the most progressive and articulate pieces of legislation in the world, was vastly different from the reality she saw in her Cape Town evenings. Law may ban wife-beating, but if the police consider it normal and do it themselves, what is law? Law may try to support the abused, but if the abusers misuse legal processes to get round the law, what is law?

Next month we have Paul Ridge, a partner at Bindmans LLP, arguably the top Human Rights law firm in the UK, and also my Bible teacher, so I love him dearly. Originally an atheistic socialist, his eyes were opened at Bindmans to the fact that it is not the law that makes people good.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Newsletter Issue 3

In this issue:

  • Fr Peter Talks Politics
  • Out All Night in Solidarity
  • News about the University Catholic Lecture
  • To Thine Own Self Be True

and much more!

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Progressio: Empower

Progressio Empower is a brand new scheme run by Britain's most brilliant Catholic development charity. If you're 18-22 (or older if you want to be a leader), you could be heading to Malawi, Peru or El Salvador for 10 weeks in July, October or January, possibly for FREE. You'll find out about life in a developing country, make a real difference overseas and bring back your experiences to your community in the UK. But act fast - places are limited and if you want to go for the summer you'll have to apply by March 13. Register now to be among the first to apply at

There's also a Facebook Page.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

University Catholic Lecture 2011

Religious Freedom: Pope Benedict's Vision for a fractured world.

Religious freedom, the key to all other rights and liberties, is increasingly under pressure across the world from both religious and secularist fundamentalism. Dr Austen Ivereigh, journalist and campaigner, author of Faithful Citizens and co-founder of Catholic Voices, will show how the Pope's promotion of the "first human right" will help define the political arguments of the 21st century.

Date: Monday 7th March
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Newman House, 111 Gower Street WC1E 6AR

Press Release
Click here for full details.

Friday, February 04, 2011

A Resident's Perspective

To continue our series on Newman House residents we shine the spotlight on Monica Guly. Monica has a special connection to Newman House, and is living at the chaplaincy House for her second year.

Where are you from and what do you study?

I am from Devon. Now I am in my third year in Politics and East European Studies at University College London.

How did you hear about Newman House? I lived in a typical student hall of residence in first year at university. My parent both went to Newman House during their years in University in London so I always knew about it. I moved to 111 Gower Street in my second year as a  student.

What’s the different about living in the Catholic Chaplaincy compared to other student residence?

There is something extra here; it’s an extra dimension. It’s the people who live here. Students are just more personable and friendlier here. Everyone holds here has something in common. Despite all being so different, we all have our Catholic/Christian faith in common. In first year when I lived in a student residence I would see the same people day after day but there was little mixing. Everyone sat together at meals but only in their tight groups so we didn’t get to know each other. In Newman House everyone intermingles. Its more than just participating in a church on Sundays.

What was your favourite experience here?

There are many. The competiveness of apple bobbing on All Souls Day or being taken by limousine to an unforgettable Newman House boat party on the Thames.

Any advice to students coming to London?

Don’t be afraid to visit and immerse yourself in the activities, whether you live here or not. In my first year I didn’t visit as felt I would be out of place but I was so wrong. Events like bar lunch on Sundays after mass will give you a chance to meet so many people.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Grill the Bishop!

Martin Smith, who is studying for a Masters in Christian Theology at Heythrop College attended the special session of Oasis on Wednesday evening at which attendees were invited to 'Grill the Bishop'!

Newman House was very privileged to welcome Bishop Alan Hopes this week for an informal session at which we were able to ask him about his pastoral ministry and issues relating to personal faith. The Bishop began by relating the process through which one is asked to become a bishop, of his surprise at being asked and the formal procedure the Church undertakes. He also recalled the challenges he faces, the importance of maintaining a Christ-centred faith (following the teaching of the Pope) and his own personal prayer life. It was an insightful evening and we are very grateful for the time he was able to spend with us.

Bishop Alan Hopes and Father Peter Wilson

Newsletter Issue 2

Read the latest edition of our new Newsletter below.

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