Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Nativity

Just a heads up to watch The Nativity on BBC One this week. Having started last week I'm a little late in letting you know!

Its on 7pm BBC One from Mon 20 Dec, for four consecutive nights.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols recommended The Nativity on the Diocese website.

It's a touching interpretation of the love between Mary and Joseph - Mary played by Tatiana Maslany, who I hadn't heard of before, captures Mary's purity and calm. Joseph at first comes across as a honest, sweet man - slightly bumbling, but always sincere. If the story were told in a modern drama outside of the Bethlehem setting - it would be akin to a contemporary romance.

There's a sense that a dramatic licence has been taken with some elements of the tale, which is expected. Though Tony Jordan (Hustle, EastEnders,Life on Mars), the scriptwriter, doesn't let the story descend into a EastEnders style family scandal which was some people's worry.

All in all its a cheerful, human portrayal of a familiar story.

Hopefully it'll be a great portrayal of the Christmas story too!


Monday, 13 December 2010

Life in Newman House

As we are drawing close to Christmas and we have been on the Catholic Parliamentary Internship Scheme for almost three months, it is a good time to give you a taste of life at Newman House.

The five of us on the London based internships live at Newman House, which is the Catholic chaplaincy centre for the students in Central London. Sixty-two students live there as well as the chaplain, Fr Peter Wilson and the Pastoral Associates, Chris and Kate.

The interns are fully integrated into life at Newman House. We take part in house duties which include singing and reading at mass, preparing coffee for after mass, cooking Sunday lunch, maintaining the blogs and serving behind the bar.

Andrew can often be found playing some tunes on the guitar or the piano and starting a spontaneous sing-a-long. You might find Danny arguing over some details of Conservative Party policy at the bar. Jo-Anne can often be found watching Corrie or Eastenders whilst simultaneously taking part in a theological debate with another member of the community. You will find Naomi, with a glass of wine in her hand, cooking dinner to share with hungry Newman House inmates. And Nick, if he isn't still at work, you will be sure to find him watching Question Time on a Thursday evening.

We are very fortunate to be living at Newman House and very grateful to everyone for making us feel so welcome.

Please join us at Mass which is at 10.30am every Sunday and talk to us at coffee after Mass if you would like to find out more about living at Newman House and the Catholic Parliamentary Internship Scheme.

Naomi Brandon
Public Affairs Intern at CESEW

Monday, 6 December 2010

Photoshoot in Westminster Hall

Last Thursday we popped over to meet up in Parliament for our 'photoshoot'. The scheme is about to open applications for next year (you can find the links here) so after writing our quotes on what we think of the scheme we posed in the freezing cold in Westminster Hall for the CBCEW photographer.

While some of us seemed more at home in front of the lens than others, it was an experience we all seemed to enjoy - and we're all now well practiced in the art of prolonged smiling!

Hopefully you'll see the fruits of our labour on the website soon!

After the 'shoot it was time for a warm tea in the House of Commons cafe, and then Mass in the small chapel off Westminster Hall. Rubbing shoulders with the MPS for a lovely sung Mass was an enjoyable end to our Wednesday.

Until next time.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Catholic Parliamentary Interns Retreat

Danny Howard reports on the retreat to Drumalis

On a dreary November morning we left behind the frenzied months of work we have undergone in the capital for our much anticipated (and much needed) retreat. A short flight over the Irish Sea took us to Drumalis; a religious retreat centre overlooking Larne on the County Antrim coast.

The crisp country air, with its splendid view of the pale winter morning was a welcome transformation from the pollution and dreariness we have grown accustomed to in London. The aesthetic beauty of Drumalis was coupled with dedicated service from the wonderful staff. Alongside their faithful dog - Scotty - Sisters of the Cross and Passion; Sr Anna and Sr Margaret Rose, led a small but devoted team who catered to every need and ensured our short stay was a happy one.

The purpose of the retreat was to take a step back from our busy weekly schedules, and to observe and reflect what we have experienced, and how by strengthening and deepening our faith, we might prepare ourselves for the future.

Directing this core spiritual element of the retreat was Father James Hanvey SJ, who we have been fortunate enough to have had guiding us these past few months. The essence of this retreat was one of reflection and development; of how we converse with God and how we might strengthen this bond through the ever deeper use of scripture and prayer.

This enrichment took a number of forms throughout the three days, including the study of scripture, regular conversations with Father James, group meetings and the use of prayer. Furthermore, Sr Anna was kind enough to guide us through the extensive collection of religious art within Drumalis. As evening drew in we would retire to the beautiful oratory to celebrate mass and observe the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We also enjoyed long walks along the beautiful coast line.

As the third day drew to a close, we all observed how enlightening and rejuvenating the retreat had been. Though sad to leave the tranquillity of Drumalis and the company of those who had joined us, we travelled back to London fully refreshed, confident in our Catholic faith and ready to take on the rest of what this year may bring.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Theos annual lecture 2010: Ex-police commissioner says we must all "doubt" our faith

Myself and Naomi attended the Annual Theos Lecture - this year delivered by Lord Blair. It provided an interesting talk, despite the fact I disagreed with his main point that we cannot have a true faith - that there must be doubt. Alternatively I would have argued that we cannot have faith without enquiry, questioning it in its application to our lives - though his points on social cohesion were spot on and publicising religion's good works more to bring religion back into a positive light. Below I have written up a report covering most of his points/topics that may be of interest.

Ex-police commissioner says we must all "doubt" our faith

Lord Blair, ex police commissioner who led the police service during the 2005 July bombings, delivered the Theos Annual Lecture last night. In his personal testimony, entitled ‘Religion and Public Order’, Lord Blair highlighted the pitfalls of religion as a source of intolerance and violence in society but said he believed that religion was “simple” and a “force for good”.

Lord Blair said: "All religions have, as their core belief, the need for love, for respect for others, for tolerance….The greatest achievements and ambitions of human social history, such as the abolition of slavery and the provision of universal education or free health care for all have had their origins in religious impulse."

"Religion should be the most peaceful of all the agencies of social cohesion," he said.

Good acts

"Its infinite number of unseen and unsung acts of charity and love are not known individually but in total they are part of public consciousness.

"They should be and remain the glue that permits modern society to exist, particularly in an increasingly urbanised age - in other words, they are a bulwark of public order, in the sense of orderliness and tranquility."

A religious babel

He admitted: "This is not the image of religion in this past century or this past decade."

Adding he was confused by how this had happened: “I wonder how we got to here, this religious version of Babel.”Lord Blair, a practicing Anglican, spoke of his own faith journey saying he “wrestles” with his own faith and citing the Acts of the Apostles as the reason he believed the Bible was true.

However, he shared his confusion over the “obsession” with the ordination of women clergy in the Anglican Church and why it was “tearing itself apart” over homosexuality”, he also said he did not understand the Catholic Church’s need for priestly celibacy, and the Muslim arguments over Mohammed’s successor.

Old-fashioned and violent

He continued: "The horrors of clerical child abuse and the arguments over homosexuality ... are obscuring the basic decency that comes from the commandments to peace contained in all religions, a commandment which in the Christian church, for instance, requires each member of a congregation at every service to greet his or her neighbours with the words 'Peace be with you.'"Lord Blair argued that to most people faith looks "irrelevant, clannish, prejudiced, old-fashioned and violent".

He stressed the importance of doubt in religious belief: "Doubt is part of the mortar of a building faith," he said.

Doubt in faith

"Unless your faith has been tested by doubt, it is not faith but just an attitude, a retreat from the modern world.

"Doubt in the very nature of faith can surely be a useful companion to a necessary lack of shrill conviction that our own faith is more valuable than that of another."

Lord Blair suggested that to move forward that people of all faiths should move "beyond arguments between and within different religions and recover their confidence in the beneficial nature of religion per se."Concluding the lecture, he said "We should be aware of the horrors which organised religions have inflicted on the world, we should respect the views of others without faith but be unapologetically confident that, now, in our society, the religious impulse provides goodness in a manner unequalled by any other aspect of our communal life."


Lord Blair was made a cross-bench life peer in Gordon Brown's Dissolution Honours List earlier this year. He previously held the top policing job in the country from 2004 until his resignation in 2008. Five months into the role the London bombings of 7 July took place.John Humphrys, writer and broadcaster and star of Mastermind chaired the talk. The lecture was held at One Birdcage Walk, it was well attended with notable attendance by MPs, peers, academics, business people and religious leaders.

Monday, 15 November 2010

CAFOD's annual lecture

On Friday 12 November, Andrew, Nick, Danny and Naomi attended Cafod’s annual lecture which took place at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster.

The lecture, an annual event for Cafod’s supporters and staff, is inspired by the late Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical letter, Populorum Progressio, published in 1967, in which the Pope urged people to work for a better world through an active spirit and the practice of global solidarity.

The lecture, entitled Life to the full? Development in solidarity was given by the General Secretary of Pax Christi and former Prime Minister of Haiti, Claudette Werleigh.

In January, a devastating earthquake forced Haiti into the international spotlight. In her lecture, former Haitian Prime Minister Claudette Werleigh explored the deeper issues behind the headlines when she discussed how true development, based on peace and justice, can enable all to live life to the full.

About 400 supporters attended the event, including Bishop John Rawsthorne, Bishop of Hallam and Chair of CAFOD, Bishop Patrick Lynch, Auxiliary Bishop in Southwark, and Bishop William Kenney, Auxiliary in Birmingham. The evening was chaired by Channel Four news presenter Jon Snow. Reflecting on her recent visits to Haiti, Werleigh spoke of the need for NGOs to work in partnership with local institutions, empowering the people of Haiti to participate through Consultation, in the decisions that determine the country’s recovery and development. Demonstrating trust, Werleigh says, plays an important part in recognising the dignity of others, and is a key factor in the international development process. Greater consultation will allow a more sustainable, deeply rooted process of recovery.

She draws on rich experience: “I have been blessed to have worked both in rich countries and one of the most impoverished ones, at grassroots level and at top level. I have learned that we all need to acknowledge our differences, to accept the other as equal and to cooperate in order to improve life.”

Naomi Brandon
Public Affairs Intern at CESEW

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Open House - Serving the Homeless

Andrew reports on his evening at St Anne's Church, Soho

Today after work I popped along to St Anne's Church in Soho to do a spot of volunteering. Having connections with the church, students from Newman House can go every week and help out. I really enjoyed it, even after a day in Parliament. It definitely pops the Westminster bubble and bring you back down to earth.

From 5.30-6pm I helped set up tables and chairs with cutlery and condiments. Our customers queue from 5pm (or earlier) for the food, drink and hospitality on offer. After some prayers, food is served. It's good grub, cooked by some amazing chefs in advance, and much better than my solo gastronomic efforts!

My job as a first-timer during the meal-time was to serve milk to those drinking tea and coffee, not all too easy as demand was high this late October evening.

I was really impressed by the volunteers who turn up every week to make the operation happen - it's quite a sight to see so many people fed in a fairly short turn around period of under 90minutes (although a lot of preparation time is needed).

I'm definitely planning to make it a regular part of my time during my internship to go work at Open House. It's enjoyable volunteering with others from NH and others in the community. I just hope I have the stamina to keep it up with my other internship commitments - Heythrop, Cardinal Hume Centre, Newman House... oh and Parliament!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Catholic Parliamentary Interns 2010-2011

Andrew Duncan

I'm very much looking forward to the CPI. After the election it's an interesting time to be working in Westminster in a period of transition. I'm keen to see the process of law-making in action and learn how politicians work together, elements perhaps not always picked up in the press. To continue living in a student environment at Newman House and study at Heythrop College is very much welcomed too, this perhaps will release me gently into the "real world"!

Chris Morillon

Having known past interns, to various degrees, I witnessed first hand how the experience of the CPI helped them to develop themselves spiritually, personally and professionally. As a fresh-graduate everyone is on the look out for as inspiring a position to kick-start their post-uni career as possible; after much research into various graduate schemes, I believe this is the best one out there (and I'm not just saying that!). This year I'll be working in the European Parliament in Brussels with a French MEP; I'm expecting to learn more about economics and I look forward to gaining familiarity with how it is applied in practice, particularly to help the disadvantaged. Time to get stuck in!

Daniel Howard

I’m very excited to be on the CPI scheme this year. Having previously studied Politics and International Relations at University, it is a great honour and privilege to immerse oneself in the mother of all Parliaments, working for a Conservative MP after 13 years on the opposition benches shall surely prove a unique and exciting experience.
The CPI scheme incorporates so many elements of both public and religious life, and studying at Heythrop College will surely add to this education. In addition, I am eagerly anticipating life in Newman House; living in London for the first time, in a friendly and communal environment will not only help the transition from university to work, but also help foster a strong friendship between all of this year’s interns.
I am greatly looking forward to playing my part in helping my MP in her duty of public service, whilst applying Catholic principles to the everyday business of government.

Jo-Anne Rowney

I'm very excited to finally be started the internship, especially since I'll be based at Archbishop's House, working with the Public Affairs Office. I recently graduated from the University of Hertfordshire, after reading English Literature, Journalism and New Media Publishing for the past three years - so it'll be great to put my training into practice! I start work just before the Papal Visit so I plan to fully immerse myself in the excitement and media bubble. With working in the PA Office, studying at Heythrop and living at Newman House I'm sure we'll all be very busy!

Naomi Brandon

I'm incredibly excited about working as a Catholic Parliamentary Intern for the Catholic Education Service. I was absolutely thrilled to be selected and I can't wait to start. I think the multidimensional quality of this internship, combining the political work placement, spirituality and academic study, makes this internship really special and unique. I have just graduated from Manchester University having studied Politics and International Relations, so I am looking forward to putting my politics and my faith into action and to getting a grip on the complex and fascinating policy area of Catholic education. This year is going to be busy, challenging and lots of fun and I can't wait for it to begin!

Nick Keilty

I've been excited about coming London to start the Catholic Parliamentary Internship, so now it's actually happened I can't quite believe it! I'm working in Parliament for Simon Hughes MP, who is currently deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons. The first few weeks have been really intense with the coalition government's comprehensive spending review providing all of us who are working in Portcullis House with a varied but very busy time!
I'm looking forward to incorporating elements of my faith such as Catholic social teaching and spirituality into my everyday work and then taking a retrospective look at how this affects my decision making. This will hopefully be propagated by living in community at Newman House and by the education we are receiving via our MA in Contemporary Ethics at Heythrop College.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Tablet Lecture 2010

Now well into our respective internships, on Thursday we met on a nippy October evening to hear Francis Campbell speak about his time as Ambassador to the Holy See in the Vatican.

While doing the best we could to bring the average age of the audience down, we listened with great interest to the outgoing ambassador's personal take on the Holy See and its external operations, relations with the UK - and what lies ahead for British-Vatican ties after a successful Papal visit in September.

Of particular interest was how small the Vatican press office is, and yet conducts clear and strong communications with over a billion Catholics and heads of state across the world.

Campbell contrasted the Holy See's operations with conventional foreign offices, and conveyed how decentralised many decisions were, instead of power being wielded at the centre and delegated outwards to the periphery.

To the dismay of some (particularly journalists in the audience) Campbell's talk did not linger near controversial topics or reveal more sensitive ambassadorial work. However, this kind of diplomacy has contributed greatly to Britain's excellent relations with the Holy See.

Campbell leaves big shoes to fill, whoever his successor may be.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Catholic Parliamentary Interns 2010-2011

We have been in London for almost a month now. We love living in Newman House. We have all started our jobs in Parliament, the Archbishop of Westminster's Public Affairs Office and the Catholic Education Service. We have also started our ethics lectures at Heythrop College which have been intellectually challenging. Our spiritual direction with Father James Hanvey has commenced and our mentoring training session with the Cardinal Hume Centre has taken place. The first month has gone so quickly but there is still lots to look forward to.

Danny, Nick and Andrew outside the Palace of Westminster

Profiles and pictures coming soon - watch this spot!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

It begins…

Or rather it began! Three months into the internship we thought it was about time we posted something, so that this year’s applicants know what they’re letting themselves in for! The first term’s been hectic but we’ve all learnt a lot and are really settling into our jobs and life at Newman House. Now the first term is over this is a natural point to reflect on what has gone by.

The first two weeks were a series of induction events; by the end of it we had introduced ourselves to many of the movers and shakers in Catholic London, ranging from Cafod through to Archbishop Nichols. It was immediately off to St Bueno’s in rural north Wales for our opening retreat. Silence at mealtimes was only punctuated by the light fizzing of Frisbee through the cold Welsh air. The full complement of interns (those based in London and in Brussels) drank tea with James Hanvey SJ, who led our retreat, walked through the beautiful countryside and enjoyed the peace and quiet away from London. We shared our faith journeys, explored different types of prayer and walked through the dark to the local pub.

This jetsetting life continued as we represented the Bishops’ Conference at the first Catholic Social Days for Europe in Gdansk, along with Philippa Gitlin, the Director of Caritas Social Action. At 4 in the morning, with a taxi driver only staying awake thanks to copious amounts of Red Bull, ‘To Luton airport please?’ said Will. The driver blinked thrice and moved into second gear. Highlights of the conference included a lecture by Professor Gosta Esping-Andersen on solidarity in the family and a German MEP falling asleep whilst taking part in one of the panel discussions. We also took a trip to the Westerplatte where World War II began, participating in a service of remembrance, and touring the important historic location. We also experienced an evening in a Gdansk parish, enjoying the hospitality of a very kind priest.

As soon as we returned back from Poland, the House returned from the summer recess and we swiftly settled in to the routine for the next nine weeks. It was also an opportunity to get to know the rest of the Newman House community a bit better. Part of last term’s excitement in Parliament included tickets to PMQs, seeing the Queen in all her robes and finery at the State Opening of Parliament and the Parliamentary Carol Service sitting two benches along from David Cameron, John Bercow and Jack Straw! We went to lectures, hearing the Chief Rabbi, John Varley, and Baroness Shirley Williams. Other highlights included a visit to the Cardinal Hume Centre and meetings with Catholic journalists.

Our lectures at Heythrop College in a Masters in Contemporary Ethics are challenging and interesting. We all passed the first piece of coursework and are looking forward with trepidation to completing two end of year essays during a general election campaign!

Having enjoyed the build-up to Christmas together, including a Christmas meal at Newman House and various Carol services in and around Westminster, we went our separate ways for a well-deserved Christmas break!

Stay tuned for the next instalment!