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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Lent talks open with news of the church ‘enlarging its tent’

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

Irish Chaplaincy’s Lent retreat happens every weekday morning this week from 9.30 am (and lasts 30 to 40 minutes).

Do join Debbie Thrower when she speaks about Anna Chaplaincy on Wednesday morning, 8 March, (which is of course also International Women's Day).

Elizabeth Palmer, the chief executive of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), opened this morning with a powerful talk about creating ‘a community that cares’.

Reminding everyone of the three foundational principles of SVP: social action, spiritual formation and fraternity… she told the story of ‘Ryan’ who attends one of their nine community centres – his local one is in Cardiff.

Ryan wrote to SVP to explain how last year saw his biggest low and his greatest high. Ryan spent much of the year joining people regularly at the men’s group ‘which involved a lot of coffee and playing cards!’ It also gave him access to people who offered help and support. In time this has enabled Ryan to receive, as he puts it, ‘insight into my purpose’. He now wants to offer the same help and support he has benefitted from, to others.

St Vincent was ‘the father of the poor’, and the picture Elizabeth chose to accompany her talk was of St Vincent joining others around a meal table where Christ’s face is imprinted, to symbolise his presence with all. Elizabeth spoke of the church reflecting, through the synodal process, on how it should ‘enlarge its tent’, making room for everyone.

Ryan had glimpsed SVP as ‘a community that cares, that doesn’t judge and which offers support’ which, in his case, has helped him at the age of 24 – and having battled with mental health problems since he was 17 – to transform his life, giving it vital purpose.

Book a free place at any of Irish Chaplaincy’s Lent Retreats via Zoom – any or every morning this week Monday–Friday, 6–10 March. Contact:

Tomorrow, TuesdaySr Monica Kileen Sister Monica is a Sister of Mercy and following her initial formation in religious life in North London, she trained as a primary school teacher. Her first appointment was to a school in Commercial Road, East London, with later appointments being to Dorset, South Wales and Somerset. Following early retirement from teaching she became a prison chaplain at Feltham Young Offenders Institution and later volunteered as an airport chaplain at Heathrow. During the last six years, she was a member of the leadership team for her congregation. She now lives in Feltham and works in the parish with another sister to support older/sick members of the parish.

Wednesday – Debbie Thrower Debbie is the pioneer of Anna Chaplaincy for Older People at BRF. She is a former journalist and broadcaster working for both BBC and ITV. In less than a decade, the Anna Chaplaincy network offering spiritual support has grown from just one – Debbie was the first Anna Chaplain – to more than 270 nationwide.

ThursdayJudy Powell Judy is a licensed lay minister in the Church of England, based at St Paul’s Church, in Camden Square not far from the London Irish Centre. A native of York, she worked in the motor industry before retirement and also spent a short time as a member of an ecumenical lay community in Surrey.

Friday Bishop Paul Dempsey Bishop Paul is originally from Carlow but lived most of his life in Kildare, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1997 for Kildare and Leighlin Diocese. He has worked in parish life, youth ministry, vocations promotion and local radio. In January 2020, he was appointed bishop by Pope Francis to serve in the Diocese of Achonry in the West of Ireland. Achonry Diocese covers a small part of Roscommon and extends into Mayo and Sligo. He is Chair of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Emigrants

Irish Chaplaincy… Looking ahead with hope




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