Sisters of Saint Joseph of Annecy

Feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple

All over the world February 2nd, the feast of the Presentation, is the Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life. For us in the English Province, the big difference this year was that we were no longer able to offer Llantarnam Abbey as a venue for the religious of the Archdiocese of Cardiff. Instead, we all met at St. Mary’s Church in Newport where Archbishop Mark celebrated Mass for us – for parishioners and for children from St. Mary’s Primary School. After a buffet lunch in the church hall and a time to relax together, Archbishop Mark consulted us about the possible merger of the two dioceses in South Wales, Cardiff and Menevia. The gathering was enriched by the presence, for the first time, of Dominican priests from Nigeria, and the Collettine sisters who have recently moved into the Poor Clare monastery in Much Birch. Some of the Dominican priests run All Saints parish of which St. Mary’s is one church community; others serve elsewhere in South Wales.
As ever, the Sisters of St. Joseph, for all our diminishment, formed the largest group attending. There were also Rosminian priests, our Vicar for Religious Fr. Matthew Carney OSB, Sisters of Mother Teresa, Ursuline Sisters, a Sister of Mercy, Sisters of Nazareth, a Poor Clare Sister and representatives of the Cardiff Oratorians. Both dioceses were well represented.

Archbishop Mark addressed his encouraging homily in the morning specifically to the religious, apologising to the children and parishioners and explaining it was our special day. He clearly looks to us all for support in the challenging task he has leading the two dioceses in difficult times. In the afternoon, he gave us some history of dioceses in England and Wales, sharing copies of an 1851 map that showed how Wales then had just two dioceses. In the north there was the diocese of Shrewsbury and, in the south, the diocese of Newport and Menevia (no mention of Cardiff!). For mission management reasons, there had been changes over the years until we arrived at the present situation of the diocese of Wrexham in the north and the two dioceses of Cardiff and Menevia in the south.
With the number of Catholics attending Mass having fallen rapidly since 1990, especially since Covid, the resulting reduction in income and the decline in the number of priests, the Archbishop explained the strategic advantages of merging Cardiff and Menevia into one diocese. He was sensitive to the kind of human issues that arise with change and already had in mind ways to ease the way forward, suggesting, for example, that Menevia’s cathedral in Swansea should become a pro-cathedral.

After Archbishop Mark’s talk, Sr. Susan invited us to discuss in small groups any or all of these three questions:

How can we reach out to those who do not believe in Jesus, or do not have faith?

What strengths and what challenges do you see in uniting the Dioceses of Cardiff and Menevia?

What structures in your parish or in the Diocese help you in this? What structures hinder this?

The discussion time flew by, most groups staying with the first question although all three were tackled in some way. Someone from each table then reported back the main points of their conversations to the plenary group. It was a good opportunity for synodal listening, both for Archbishop Mark and the rest of us.
When this was complete, the Archbishop decided to ask for a show of hands to discover whether we were in favour of the merger. We unanimously gave him our support. Ultimately, however, the decision will be taken in Rome.

It is now for us to remember the dying words of St. David, patron saint of Wales, quoted by Archbishop Mark in his homily:
“Be joyful! Keep the faith - and do the little things that you have seen and heard with me.”