Fr. Stephen Wang with Author - Hannah Vaughan-Spruce (centre)

Fr. Stephen Wang with Author – Hannah Vaughan-Spruce (centre)

Dynamic new Confirmation programme makes young disciples of Christ
At a vibrant gathering last Wednesday, catechists from around the country celebrated the launch of a dynamic new Confirmation programme - Transformed in Christ – which has helped many young people aged 12-16 become disciples of Christ.
The year-round programme was piloted over three years in Holy Ghost Parish, Balham, south London, between 2010 and 2013, where scores of young people took part.
Programme author, Hannah Vaughan-Spruce, said: “Not only did young people continue attending Sunday Mass after Confirmation, they built strong Christian friendships, got involved in the parish’s youth ministry, and grew in a personal relationship with God.”
“It is often thought that 22 sessions is too much to expect of Confirmation candidates,” she added. “We found that the opposite was true. It took time for young people to be open to the real possibility of a personal relationship with Jesus, and as the year went on, candidates loved meeting each week, at the same time growing in discipleship.”
Fr. Tom Smith and Xanthe Dell

Fr. Tom Smith and Xanthe Dell

The Diocese of Portsmouth UK has chosen to adopt Transformed in Christ as its recommended Confirmation programme, and will offer training for catechists at the end of September.
The Rt Rev Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth, said: “This course not only informs its participants but helps them become, by God’s grace, intentional disciples, focused on the love of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.”
Fr Stephen Wang, Senior University Chaplain in the Archdiocese of Westminster said it was, “an outstanding catechetical resource. It can be highly recommended for Catholic parishes and schools. It provides a rich faith formation in well-structured sessions that will appeal to the minds and hearts of young people.”
Fr Stephen Langridge, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Southwark, and parish priest at Holy Ghost when the programme was created, said: “The challenge facing the Church today is not so much teaching the faith as forming Christian disciples. Transformed in Christ is an outstanding course because it leads young people on a journey of faith and encourages them not only to think more deeply about what we believe but to begin to live that faith in prayer and in Christian discipleship.”
Xanthe Dell, a youth worker who trialled the programme said, “For so long it has been a challenge to lead our young people from the teaching to the real life-changing encounter with Christ that stops Confirmation being the “exit” rite. Having tried a few sessions I am thoroughly excited about the impact I know this will have on our youth.”
Fr Tom Smith, a parish priest who piloted the programme in his parish in Warminster, said: “Using Transformed in Christ has completely changed the way I understand and deliver catechesis in the parish context.”
Who's that dodgy woman??!!

Who’s that dodgy woman??!!

The programme has now been published by Gracewing and consists of two beautifully-produced books: a 430-page, spiral-bound Catechist’s Guide (£29.99) and a 176-page, full-colour Candidate’s Workbook (£9.99), available to buy at Twenty-two well-laid out sessions, with clearly defined objectives, are given, in addition to an outline for an evangelisation retreat and numerous other resources.
The programme is also supported by a dedicated website where catechists are offered ongoing support.



At morning Mass last week i was soooo sleepy and having difficulty concentrating after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. I apologised to Him and tried really, really hard to concentrate (you know when you try to pray so hard that your face actually screws up into a ball?! – well that’s what i was doing.)

“Why are you projecting all your prayers outside of you? I’m here within you!”

I became very strongly aware of Jesus’ presence within me, and then also within all the other people in the church who had just received Holy Communion. I stayed within this reality as Mass ended and watched in wonder as the congregation left, one by one – each one of them a little Tabernacle taking Christ out into the world.

I wondered how many of them knew what they were carrying…

Ten Commandments - 1

For those who have not seen already, here is my new newsletter: Catholic Parent

It is to replace the weekly Gospel reflections i was doing. More and more i realised that ordinary Catholic parents do not know the basics of the faith. I wanted to create a resource that will enable them to Understand, Live and Transmit the faith.

It will be a weekly production with the first series focusing on the Ten Commandments. Then there is the Creed, the Beatitudes, the Sacraments, the Mass, the ‘Our Father’ etc…

There is so much to cover! And it will all be done in the light of inviting the reader into a personal relationship with Christ.

Please visit the website and take a look at the first post and then let your Headmaster or Priest know about it. I have no funding to advertise so the only way this will circulate is if nice people like you decide to share it with the people who can implement it into their school or parish.

Lets work together to support parents and educate the laity!

Please sign up to the blog  and come and like the Facebook page


Many thanks!

Clare x


Yesterday at Mass my 8 year old proved to me that God reveals Himself to whom ever he chooses. I also learned that i cannot do the job of the Holy Spirit.

Watching the priest during the epiclesis he leant into me and whispered excitedly “Look Mummy! He’s going to do it! – Look! He did it!”  

Then on going up to receive communion he says to me “Mummy when i have Jesus in communion i feel different. It feels like i’m really special or something.”

I told him i was very pleased about this and that he was right in what he felt.

Now i have never really gone through the Mass with him with a fine tooth comb. Even into adulthood i wrongly thought the point of transubstantiation was when the priest elevates the host. It seems my son has grasped things much earlier than i did! Through his purity of heart, simplicity and trust, my 8 year old has demonstrated that he not only knows about the authority of the priesthood and the real presence, but truly understands it and (through the Eucharist) is having a relationship with Christ.

It’s so beautiful. He is so beautiful. I’m so happy for him.

“…for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” – Matthew 16:17


I have been involved in a few discussion recently about Pope Francis. I cant decide whether he is a eloquent subtle genius or a twittering idiot?

When he was elected Pope i really liked him. He is obviously a man of great humility and i liked his simplistic attitude and little acts of kindness. However, as time went on i felt he was a little wishy washy on BIG issues, and really was taking this whole Pope thing in a rather relaxed fashion. Then there was the “Who am I to judge?” comment – that was taken out of context by the press, but none the less…

Anyway recently in one of his homilies he said “…And for this reason the Church asks us, all of us, for a few changes. She asks us to put aside decadent structures: we don’t need them. Instead to take up new wine skins, those of the Gospel…”

I found this statement rather unsettling. What changes? What decadent structures? Changes within the church? The upcoming Synod on the family perhaps? Changes regarding marriage and communion? On homosexuality? 

Discussing these fears on Facebook i was then aware that i was not the only one who felt like Pope Francis is a bit of a loose cannon. There was also a huge amount of negativity from really good faithful catholic’s about Pope Francis in general and lets not forget how everyone misses Benedict.

But this didn’t sit very well with me either. If i really look at the actions of Pope Francis i can see he is a truly faithful orthodox Pope. He has never actually done anything i would regard as unacceptable or even vaguely liberal in nature. He is obviously a prayerful man with great humility. It is just the way he speaks to the world that leaves me feeling a bit, well, nonplussed.

Benedict XVI,  Pope Francis

When Benedict spoke to the world he didn’t mince his words. i always remember how i laughed out loud at the utter honesty and truthfulness of his Judas comment followed up by a comment by Msgr. Barreiro, who said “for those Catholics who cannot bring themselves to believe the formal teachings of the Church on life and family matters it would be more honest to leave the Church rather than betraying Her.”

Francis seems to be continuously speaking to catholic’s on the periphery. Why doesn’t he step it up a bit? C’mon Francis – say something controversially orthodox for goodness sake! Lets shake up the church a bit! Speaking to peripheral catholic’s is boring. Most of the catholic’s you are addressing don’t even believe in the real presence. Most of them don’t even go to church. Stick to the faithful.

Benedict’s papacy was for the more  conservative traditionally minded catholic. I felt totally comfortable with him, totally comfortable but…

“…you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.” – Pope Benedict XVI

He’s right. And if there was one group Benedict never connected with it was the peripheral catholic’s. Francis on the other hand, does. I re-read some of his recent comments and saw a totally different man. Here is a Pope who whilst remains faithful and orthodox at his core, charms the peripheral catholic’s by speaking subtly subconscious, wishy washy worldly words (try saying that after 3 glasses of wine!) and seems to be having some success in it. One cannot deny how he has been embraced by the media as the “hope” for change in the church. But what they fail to realise is that as he romances them into the possibility of a relationship with Christ, the real change will be happening within them.

Francis’ papacy is as much for the faithful orthodox catholic as it is for the peripheral catholic – just in a different way. He certainly doesn’t waste time preaching to the converted. For the faithful orthodox catholic he challenges us, presenting us with an example to copy. Francis teaches us how to coax our lost brothers and sisters back into a relationship with Christ and His church. He is in fact, showing us how loving patience, true humility and service are key aspects of the New Evangelisation. 

For those who have also felt a little negative towards Francis’ Papacy, i would invite you to do as the great Carmelite saint Teresa of Avila suggests and “Look again”.





The Catholic Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Galway has donated €45,000 to local gay rights group AMACH!. The money donated came from the Maureen O’Connell fund. Ms Nula Ward from AMACH! says she is thrilled about receiving such a large amount of money from “such an esteemed organisation”: “We are delighted to announce solid support from SVP Maureen O’Connell Fund in the form of a grant! €45,000 over three years has been awarded to AMACH! towards the AMACH! LGBT Resource Centre project.”


Chair and Vice chair of AMACH! John Corcoran & Nuala Ward pictured here signing the contract at the SVP, Maureen O’Connell fund office.

In 2007, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Galway received a bequest of €7.8m from the late Maureen O’Connell, following the sale of her landmark Galway property “O’Connell’s” public house. The St. Augustine Conference is managing the spending of the bequest according to the terms of the Will, which states that “…funds should be used for the work of the SVP in Galway City and County.” The Conference is comprised of members of local SVP Conferences from throughout Galway.

Priorities of the Fund
In accordance with the aims and mission of the Society, the Maureen O’Connell Fund aims to tackle poverty in all its forms through the provision of practical assistance to those in need, specifically addressing poverty and isolation among older people, family poverty, child poverty, educational needs of disadvantaged children, young people and adults and homelessness. It will support innovative projects which complement the activities of SVP
Conferences which add value to existing services or fill gaps in existing services for the most disadvantaged groups.
Peter Quinlan, Acting President of St Augustine’s Conference, emphasises that “St. Augustine’s Conference is particularly anxious to help individuals or groups in need who have fallen through the cracks in the system and are not being helped or are being inadequately helped by other agencies.”
In September 2009 St Augustine’s Conference appointed a Project Manager, Annalisa Murphy, to manage the administration of the Maureen O’Connell Fund.

Annalisa Murphy

Annalisa Murphy

Project Manager, Annalisa Murphy says:
“Listening to the needs of disadvantaged people is what SVP volunteers do best and the reason Maureen O’Connell bequeathed her funds to this organisation. It is critically important to develop systems and procedures to ensure the Fund is managed in a fair and transparent manner. Maureen O’Connell entrusted her funds to the Society because she believed in what the Society stands for and the work the volunteers do. We in turn owe it to Miss O’Connell to be one hundred per cent accountable in the stewardship of the Maureen O’Connell Fund.”

The question of course is would the late Maureen O’Connell approve of the way the funds are being used by this Catholic organisation. She left her money to SVP in good faith that it would be used to help the poor and needy of Galway. I have difficulty understanding how a resource centre for the gay community falls into this category.

If SVP wants to support the gay community then why didn’t it use the €45,000 to set up a local branch of the amazing Catholic group ‘Courage’ who offer support, education and understanding of people who experience same sex attraction and also want to remain faithful to the Catholic Church? What an opportunity missed.

Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway has written to Galway SVP regarding this issue and is awaiting their reply.

Sources -

gay 5

As you can see from the above message, St. Paul’s Catholic high school, county Armagh, Northern Ireland invited it’s pupils to represent the school at the 2014 Newry Gay Pride march.

  Gay pride 1

Gay pride

The pupils attended in full school uniform and were accompanied by members of staff. Here they are pictured at the march meeting the Northern Ireland education minister Sinn Féin politician John O’Dowd. The invitation was widely publicised by the school via its website, Facebook and Twitter pages. 

School Principal Jarlath Burns claims to be committed to the schools Catholic ethos. But when questioned about this on Twitter he reveals the fact that he either does not know the church teaching on sex and marriage, or he is just completely disregarding it:

“Our pastoral care policy is light on dogma and heavy on compassion and celebration of diversity.” - Jarlath Burns ‏

Principle Jarlath Burns

Principal Jarlath Burns

He claims he would “die for Catholic education” but also that on the issue of Homosexuality he says “This is one area of Church teaching where I part company completely with the Church.” I wonder what pupils who support the Catholic teaching on marriage felt when called to attend this event. Not very ‘included’ I would say. What is he doing to support them? Or how about those incredibly brave individuals who struggle with same sex attraction and who wish to remain celibate out of love for our Lord? Has Burns considered them in his ‘celebration of diversity’? Does he even know the Catholic view on homosexuality? 

Here’s what the Youcat (Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church) has to say about the topic of homosexuality:

Youcat CoverThe Church believes that, in the order of creation, man and woman are designed to need each other’s complementary traits and to enter into a mutual relationship so as to give life to children. That is why homosexual practices cannot be approved by the Church. Christians owe all persons respect and love, however, regardless of their sexual orientation, because all people are respected and loved by God.

“There is no man on earth who is not descended from a union of a mother and a father. Therefore it is a painful experience for many homosexually oriented people that they do not feel erotically attracted to the opposite sex and necessarily miss out on the physical fruitfulness of the union between man and woman according to human nature and the divine order of creation. Nevertheless, God often leads souls to himself along unusual paths: a lack, a loss, or a wound – if accepted and affirmed ­– can become a springboard for throwing oneself into the arms of God: the God who brings good out of everything and whose greatness can be discovered in redemption even more than in creation. (Youcat, 65)

God created man as male and female and destined them for each other in a bodily way as well. The Church accepts without reservation those who experience homosexual feelings. They (persons who experience homosexual feelings) should not be unjustly discriminated against because of that. At the same time, the Church declares that all homosexual relations in any form are contrary to the order of creation. (Youcat, 415)

The twitter debate continues:

“I’ve a feeling @jburns834 (Burns) thinks ‘Catholic ethos’ means whatever he says it does. Compassion is part of CC teaching. So is marriage. A conception of marriage that Pride events want to redefine & re-conceptualise. Sending pupils in their uniforms looks like using them to make a statement. And a statement that compromises Catholic schools, the one place where Catholic teaching ought to be respected & defended.”

“What Burns does in his own time is no bodies business but he has no right 2 hijack a school 2 push his own agenda. He can support what he wants but he should leave the school out of it. All girls as well. The boys must have told him 2 stuff it.”

“He (Burns) supports redefining marriage & seems to think it’s ok to use the school & its pupils to make a statement about that. Even posting images of the pupils on his Twitter.”

“After the child abuse scandal the leaders r now 2 spineless 2 stand up 4 their own teachings. Has allowed chancer’s like Burns 2 push agenda.”

“I hope @stpaulsbbrook clarify their position on marriage & whether the school will be used for more events where promotion of Same Sex Marriage is one of the main purposes.”

“I thought as a teacher you had to subscribe to church teachings?”


“…it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted abusive and harmful.” ~Peter Tatchell, main speaker at Newry Gay Pride 2014.

There was plenty of anti Catholic agenda at the march. But it gets worse. It seems that the main speaker at Newry Pride 2014 was none other that Peter Tatchell:

“All just “dogma”. Peter Thatchell is the person Catholic schools want to listen to? He was at Newry Pride. I wonder does @jburns834 endorse his extreme views on age of consent? If they don’t know Peter Tatchell, they should have informed themselves of his extreme views b4 sending pupils along.”

“That b the same Tatchell who endorses adult child relationships. I don’t think 2 many ppl realise Tatchell’s support 4 child adult ‘consensual’ sex.”

“Yep. There’s no way pupils should have been at an event where he was the main speaker. I wonder were parents of @stpaulsbbrook pupils informed that P Tatchell was the speaker & what his views are? Schools are for learning, not for political campaigning. And Catholic schools like @stpaulsbbrook send their pupils to listen to P Tatchell! who @stpaulsbbrook thinks pupils should be listening to as anti-Catholic as any public figure out there.”

“Tatchell believes St Pauls has no right 2 exist. So much 4 diversity.”

“Any political campaigning or marching is not a matter for school endorsement. Particularly when that campaign (redefining marriage) goes agst CC teachings. And particularly when the guest speaker says the CC ‘blights the lives of millions’. Grandstanding of that type cannot be dressed up as compassion. All the hallmarks of political exploitation and faux compassion.”

For those who don’t know Peter Tatchell’s views, here is a little snippet:

“The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.” – Peter Tatchell

You can read more about Peter Tatchell’s views on child/adult sexual relationships by clicking here.

gay pride 3

A man dressed up as a Catholic Cardinal at Newry Gay Pride.

Is it really possible that Jarlath Burns does not know Peter Tatchell’s views? Or does he agree with them? Does he think it appropriate that his school pupils should be at an event in their school uniform where this man is the key speaker? Did he inform their parents Peter Tatchell would be there? What is the real agenda here?

Would the school put as much effort into encouraging pupils to attend a pro-life event in full school uniform? I think not. It seems to me that Jarlath Burns is a man who is more concerned with popularity, forwarding his careerer and making a name for himself as a ‘progressive’ than actually fulfilling his responsibilities as a Catholic Headteacher. 

As a Principal of a Catholic School, Jarlath Burns has a duty to remain faithful to Catholic teaching. UK Statutory legislation makes provision for schools with a religious character to maintain their relevant religious ethos. Section 60 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 makes the following provision:

(4) In connection with the appointment of a person to be headteacher of the school (whether foundation or voluntary controlled) regard may be had to that person’s ability and fitness to preserve and develop the religious character of the school.

(5) If the school is a voluntary aided school – (a) preference may be given, in connection with the appointment, remuneration or promotion of teachers at the school, to persons:

(i) whose religious opinions are in accordance with the tenets of the religion or religious denomination specified in relation to the school under section 69(4), or 

(ii) who attend religious worship in accordance with those tenets, or 

(iii) who give, or are willing to give, religious education at the school in accordance with those tenets; and 

(b) regard may be had, in connection with the termination of the employment of any teacher at the school, to any conduct on his part which is incompatible with the precepts, or with the upholding of the tenets, of the religion or religious denomination so specified.

In short I believe that through either ignorance or disobedience, Principal Jarlath Burns has clearly demonstrated that he is not in line with the Catholic Church in his personal or professional views and he should get the sack. He is failing the children in his care.

The time has come for you to make a decision Mr. Jarlath Burns: Will you choose the Rainbow flag or the Cross? I’m afraid you can’t have both in the Catholic Church. And if you really can’t choose between the two, i’m sure there are plenty of Protestant churches who would welcome you with open arms.

I have written to Cardinal Brady and Archbishop Eamon Martin (both at to express my disgust at Jarlath Burns’s actions and very much suggest you do the same. 


The boy in the picture is an 11 year old son of an IS soldier. He is being brought up by parents who have taught him that he must fight the evil of this world. It just so happens that the evil they are fighting is anyone who disagrees with them. I can understand that from this young boy’s point of view that what he is being taught must be true, because it is being taught to him by people who love him. He believes it, as does his Father, and his Father before him. 

He has been taught that everyone who does not follow the exact same flavour of Islam as he does is an infidel and God hates them. It is his duty to rid the world of these infidels to create a pure state under Islamic rule – for this would be pleasing to God.

Do i hate this young boy? No. Do i hate his parents? No. Do i hate the young British man who beheaded James Foley? No. 

To hate these people would be to reduce them to the indignity of their cause. It would be to do the exact same thing they do to me as an ‘infidel’ – to de-humanise me. I refuse to de-humanise them. God loves them as much as He loves me – they too are made in the image and likeness of God.

As a Christian i am called to love my enemies, no matter how much i feel like hating them. To love my enemy is the exact opposite of what IS preaches. It is a confusing and confounding Christian paradox that could possibly be the biggest witness to the truth that these brainwashed young men well ever encounter. We are to be Christ to them.

In our families, let’s not preach hate. What ever their actions, lets not respond by de-humanising them. Under each balaclava, under each burka there is an individual, a mother or father, son or daughter. There is a person. 




“God is in the pots and pans.” – St. Teresa of Avila 

St. Teresa of Avila tells us that we are never closer to God than when we’re immersed in the ordinary moments of daily life. I love this part of the Carmelite spirituality because it plonks you right back down where you are supposed to be. 

There is a false notion that God is only found in church on Sundays. Wrong! Or that spirituality and holiness are these mysterious lofty ideals that can only be accessed by Priests and Nuns. Wrong! God calls each and everyone of us to holiness. That’s right – even YOU! Our job is to find God in the tiny moments of everyday normal life: Our journey to work, folding laundry, sitting at our desk, changing nappies, texting, cooking, moments of silence, the words we use… everything. Little acts of love, kindness, self sacrifice and beauty. 

If we remain mindful of this reality during the day, then it becomes apparent pretty quickly that God is present in everything we do each day. It also becomes apparent how we all rush around so busy busy busy, yet miss so much hidden within the finer details. 

After practising this for just a few days i have also become aware that the people God is calling me to evangelise are right in front of me. Just like charity, The New Evangelisation begins at home. We all have members of our family, close friends, work colleagues and neighbours we see regularly. These are the people God has put in your life for you to witness to. You have the opportunity to be the bridge of trust they need, to come to know and start a relationship with The God who loved them into existence and then died for them out of the same love, to give them the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. How is God moving in their lives at the moment? Can you recognise Him in them? Can they recognise Him in you? 

So as i cook for my husband and my kids tonight, i will pray for them. I’ll marvel at the fact that God has provided us with incredible foods that come out of the ground, and that He has given me the creative talent to turn these into dinner! I’ll thank God that we have a home to eat this food in, and i’ll remember all the mothers in Iraq who don’t have it as easy as i do at the moment. I’ll remain mindful that God is right here, in amongst the pots and pans.



The sad news of Robin Williams death this week brought back memories for me of 6th January 1998 – the day i tried to take my own life. It was the worst and the best day of my life.

As an 18 year old almost sick to death (literally) with depression i had been prescribed Paxil Seroxat which was later banned in 2003 for under 18’s because it was found to increase risk of suicide.

I was begging God for mercy. My parents had had Mass said for me even though i had not been to mass for the last 5 years. I had no idea what was going on but can only describe it as a body-spirit split in which i was experiencing the most utter desolation and despair to the point in which it actually physically felt like my soul was being burned alive. This went on non-stop for 3 weeks.

“I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME?!” No profanity was to great to the God i had always believed in – but just hated for the last 5 years or so. Finally, not being able to withstand the torture i was experiencing any longer i felt i had no choice but to end it.

“I’m sorry, i don’t want to kill myself, but i just can’t live in this pain any more.” And after a failed attempt with a bottle of paracetamol, and knowing i was beaten, i turned to God and just surrendered.

“Clare, I’ve never forced you to believe in me” were the words i heard. I was aware of Jesus standing next to me, and behind Him was His Mother. And behind her were hundreds of saints all routing for me to come back to the faith.

“After everything i have done over the last 5 years, you still want me?”

“I love you.” 

And that was the first day of the rest of my life. The day of my conversion. The day i returned to the Catholic church. I guess you could say that i had some sort of an Epiphany (6th Jan – get it? Boom-Boom!!) Straight after that experience i felt the utter desolation lift and i was then able to cope with and slowly recover from what i would describe as ‘normal’ depression. 

Sometimes you have to come completely undone to discover who you are in Christ. Whatever it was that happened to me back then, however painful it was, it was pure grace. God knows where i would be now if i had not gone through that. It was so life changing i had no idea how to cope with it, so i did the normal 18 year old thing and got a tattoo. It is a picture of an electronic heart trace to remind me of the day my heart almost stopped beating, and then beat again for the first time as a new creature in Christ.

Interestingly, this evening i was just going through a box of old paperwork and discovered my baptism certificate. It seems that the date of my baptism was 6th Janurary 1980. Who would have thought that the Lord would use this date 18 years later to bring me back into His church? Unbelievable!


Follow Faith in our Families on

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 163 other followers