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Diocese of

Hexham and Newcastle

Bishop Robert Byrne CO

Stockton Area Mission

Parishes that took part in the Stockton Area Mission:

  • English Martyrs and SS. Peter and Paul, Stockton
  • St. Bede’s, Stockton
  • St. Cuthbert’s, Stockton
  • St. Joseph’s, Norton
  • St. Mary’s, Stockton
  • St. Patrick’s, Fairfield

Schools that took part:

  • Our lady and St. Bede Catholic Academy
  • St. Bede’s, Stockton
  • St. Cuthbert’s, Stockton
  • St. Gregory’s, Stockton
  • St. Joseph’s, Norton
  • St. Patrick’s, Stockton

Events:

The Mission in the Parishes

The theme of our Mission was 'God's Love for you is unbroken'. Our parishes began the mission with launch Masses in all our Stockton family churches over the weekend of the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary time and then, on Sunday afternoon, we held a faith, photos and fun day, where we had the opportunity to chat with and get to know people from our partnership family and to share a little about ourselves. We enjoyed tea and cake as well as swapping memories and looking at old photos of past events and former parishioners.

On Monday at St. Joseph's we had the opportunity to look at the Sacred Objects in the afternoon and on the evening a healing Mass was celebrated at which boxes were blessed and sent out to the housebound. These boxes had a candle, a copy of the mission prayer, a program of events, a bottle of holy water and a rosary. These were very much appreciated by those who received them.

On Tuesday at St. Bede's, Mass was celebrated in thanksgiving for the Gift of Faith at all ages. We heard from 4 people, including a grandmother about how she was trying to pass on faith to her grandchildren. Deacon Jeff Parkes then spoke about faith in families and Luke Wilkinson on faith as a convert. Finally, Mr. Alan Guile spoke about his faith journey. All of the speakers inspired all who were there!

On Wednesday morning, at English Martyrs and SS. Peter and Paul (EMSPP), we had a 7.00am workers Mass, which was very well attended, followed by a cooked breakfast. At 7.00pm the same day we had our Stockton Bereavement service at St. Joseph's Church, when we remembered all those who have gone to their rest over the last year. This was a lovely time when families were invited to come along to pray and light a candle for their loved ones. Thursday gave us the opportunity, during Adoration, to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

On Friday at EMSPP we had a family Mass with refreshments afterwards and on Saturday we had a Praise and Worship evening followed by a shared table. On the Solemnity of 'Christ the King' our mission came to a beautiful end with a liturgy of the Crowning of Jesus, Christ the King.

It had been a wonderful week of celebration and, although not everyone could attend all of the events, I believe the whole of Stockton will have benefited because of all the prayers offered over the week.

 

The Mission in the Primary Schools

As our Mission neared staff across the primary schools were eagerly planning, while pupils were enthusiastically volunteering their services. Pupil chaplains were the first to become involved in preparations as they came together to design their own school banners for the mission. St. Bede’s Primary School were the welcoming hosts and children enjoyed juice and biscuits whilst enthusing each other in a relaxed environment. The banners were simply beautiful.

making a bannerSt. Joseph’s Primary School decided to use ‘The Parable of the Prodigal Son’ to explore the theme ‘Unbroken’. This was organised into daily themes; Gospel, saying sorry, forgiveness, unbroken love and joy. Across the week pupils and staff conveyed these themes through drama, crafts and music.

School families and parishioners were invited to an afternoon of music and nostalgia; pupils from Nursery to Year 6, each performed their favourite hymns, delighting their audience. The afternoon’s ‘grand finale’ was the showcasing of our ‘Unbroken’ song (written by a staff member), which was accompanied by the performance of a beautiful liturgical dance.

Over at St. Gregory’s, their ‘Messy Church’ was a particularly well attended event. This was aimed at pre-school children and their families. The young children experienced prayer in a creative way and made a lovely wall hanging based on the ‘Unbroken’ theme. Families were joined by parishioners and they engaged with each other, as they crafted Advent wreaths and Christmas baubles.

Teachers and support staff took on new challenges during Mission Week; challenges which they initially thought too difficult. God was clearly with them as they prepared the most reflective and thought provoking prayer stations. During the day pupils were given time to quietly reflect and talk to God, leaving their intentions at each station. Parishioners and parents were also invited to participate and share in these special moments. There were tears, hugs and a real sense of community spirit. One such event, was followed by an early evening liturgy which took us outside, in the dark, with our candles and a fire pit to keep us warm. We were in fine voice, once again as we sang ‘Unbroken’ together.

stockton pondRelationships between parishes and schools flourished as they joined together at family and whole school Masses; such encounters strengthened their communion with Christ and with each other. Following one of our Masses, a procession to the local duck pond with primary school children proved to be an amazing ‘coming together’. Pupils, staff, parishioners, families and clergy, circled the duck pond, before truly joining together, hand in hand. It was a sight to behold and a true witness to our faith.

The Mission week, was a time for new experiences. Across the schools we agreed that it would be a perfect opportunity to introduce our young people to the joy of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The children took this quiet time to converse with God in a very personal way; talking with Him as they would their best friend. They found this experience to be both prayerful and peaceful and expressed a wish to attend Adoration in the future. Many parishioners commented on the reverence of our pupils. One couple spoke of ‘hope’ for our young people and told us, “Seeing those children, so prayerful and so reverent, before the Blessed Sacrament, was the highlight of our week.

We must make sure this continues beyond the Mission.

'Joy' was the final theme of the week at St. Joseph’s. ‘Expedition’ were invited to lead the children and staff in lively worship. We sang, danced and laughed; a truly joyful expression of our faith. In the words of a Yr6 pupil chaplain, "At the end of the day, we sang and jumped and danced for God!"

Stockton Area Mission will be etched in our memories forever. Much hard work resulted in pride and thanksgiving; pride, because we didn’t think we were capable of such wonders and thanksgiving for what we now know we have – each other. We pray that our Mission continues and that, in particular, staff feel closer to God, in their own work.