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House Report: Doncaster


Franciscans in Doncaster

Malcolm SSFpage 12 top picture cropped version

On Sunday 30th June, 2013, the brothers said a sad farewell to the church family at St. Peter`s, Bentley as well as to our many friends, some of whom had travelled a good way to be with us. We celebrated the Eucharist together and then had a party of thanksgiving, a party to say thank you for the countless blessings received during our years together.

As you may imagine it was a very moving occasion, tears of farewell were shed, but there was much laughter and rejoicing as well. The brothers have been greatly blessed over ten years by loving and generous folk who have their hearts set on God and his Kingdom.

How quickly the years have passed. We began our ministry and presence there on the 22nd May, 2003. At the invitation of the former Bishop of Sheffield, Jack Nicholls, Brother Malcolm was instituted as vicar of St. Peter’s, together with Brother Paul Anthony who was licensed to share the ministry with Malcolm. We had moved into the Vicarage a couple of weeks before and had received a wonderful Yorkshire welcome. It was certainly going to be a challenge, there was so much to learn, we felt more ‘willing than able’, but were confident in the love and grace of God to make up for our shortcomings and lack of experience. We could not have even begun without the love and support that we received from the church family. Establishing a new Franciscan presence is a real privilege as well as a responsibility and we look back on those early days with a particular fondness. Bentley had never seen friars before but people soon got accustomed to our brown habits, as with every new venture there were a lot of questions to be answered: ‘who were the brothers? What was their purpose for being in Bentley?’ Yes, it was exciting and exhausting too, meeting new people, doing things for the first time!

Parish ministry offers a rich variety and there is a constant call on one’s time. As Franciscans our priority is to a life of union with God through prayer and the community life, out of these two comes our ministry to others. It was not always easy to get the balance right. We tried to keep an open house where all could feel welcome and accepted and it was good that so many came to see the Vicarage as a place where they felt loved and cared for.

St. Peter’s has always had strong links with the local community. Next to the church is the community hall, which is maintained by the church. Each day it is used for a variety of activities and provides a much needed resource in an area where resources are often scarce. South Yorkshire folk are fine and proud people and it was a great blessing to get to know so many and be involved in their lives.

Although we were two brothers in the beginning, over the years a number of brothers shared in the life and ministry of the friary. Benjamin, who though living and working in Birmingham, came to share our life at the week-ends. Nathanael, John, Benedict, Gerardo, Barnabas Francis and Cristian Michael – all of them contributed their many gifts and talents, their selves, to our Franciscan presence and are remembered with gratitude.

Those of you who are regular readers of franciscan will remember that Brother Paul Anthony died on Christmas Eve 2010, after a long illness. Paul was an inspiration to us all and a greatly loved brother and friend to many. The people of Bentley will never forget him and his rich ministry among them.

St. Peter`s is a truly Christian family where the Kingdom values of love, forgiveness and justice are lived out day by day. We thank God for the wonderful opportunity that he gave us to share with them in the abundance of his unconditional love.

In conclusion I would like to end with a prayer that we often prayed at St. Peter’s. For me it sums up the essence of gospel living:

Heavenly Father,

draw us nearer to yourself

that we may know your will;

Loving Lord Jesus, fill us with all joy and peace

that we may respond to your call;

Holy Spirit, inspire us that we may celebrate our faith

And give glory to you, God, ever blessed Trinity,

Now and forever. Amen. f