It was the Feast of the Epiphany – Sunday 5th January 2020 – when a large number of parishioners gathered in St. Joseph’s Hall. They were some of the people who minister and volunteer in the parish, who had been invited by the Clergy Team to a festive afternoon tea party as a gesture of their thanks.
The guests arrived to a warm welcome and found a buffet of ‘goodies’ laid out with festive decorations, and tables adorned with placemats.
Whilst welcoming everyone, Mgr. Tony pointed out the geometric patterns on the placemats, explaining that the design represented the layout of ornamental gardens he had visited at the Château de Villandry in the Loire Valley, not far from Tours. He mentioned that the juxtaposition of the four gardens brought to his mind the four church communities of the Guildford Parish, their inter-relationships and inter-dependencies. Some of those listening may have wondered when Mgr. Tony had time to visit the château, let alone be inspired by its gardens to think of his parish back at home!
Mgr. Tony addresses guests and explains the 'four gardens'
Mgr. Tony thanked the guests on behalf of the Clergy Team and also paid tribute to the help and support of Ian Hunt and Seán Evans - both in formation for the Diaconate – who together with their wives Sandy and Anna had assisted the clergy in preparing for the party and worked hard in the kitchen throughout the afternoon.
Mgr. Tony thanks Seán Evans (left) and Ian Hunt
Whilst the thanks were in progress, one person was heard to whisper “we should be thanking them…”. It was a good point. It is nice to have a pat on the back occasionally, but it certainly works both ways. And do we stop to think of all that the Clergy Team does for us? Many of us see the them only when they are ministering to us in our own churches or working with us, and it’s perhaps easy to forget that the other churches, and their many other commitments and involvements, also consume their time. The workings of a large parish are diverse and complex, and extend through our church communities into schools, hospitals and prisons.
We are blessed with a team of priests and deacons who are most generous with their time, and for that we are all grateful. At the time of writing, after the sad news that Fr. Sebastian will be leaving Guildford very soon, we know that the burden of parish work (even if they would not describe it in that way) will rest even more heavily on the shoulders of Mgr. Tony, Fr. Roy and Deacons John and Michael.
Final note: A little research on the jardins de l’amour – gardens of love – reveals that they symbolise ‘four aspects of love’, Tender Love, Passionate Love, Fickle Love and Tragic Love, so we trust that the Monsignor’s analogy does not extend too far!
Many thanks to Rosaline Brothers for the photographs.