Message from the Administrator
Christian symbols of the great Feast of Christmas are everywhere about us. Wreaths, bows, lights, carols, Santa Clauses, menus, cocktails, and more ‒ the greatest of these symbols, though, is none other than the Christmas tree. With its fragrant scent, twinkling lights, graceful form and grand décor, the Christmas tree transforms any room. The tree makes it know to all that the time of year is different. It is a time marked by something, marked by a series of very grand events, which we are invited to recall, praise, and contemplate each December. So, what does the tree mean? What does it proclaim?
The Christmas tree symbolises both sin and redeemer. A tree was the occasion of sin in the Garden of Eden, and a tree the instrument of salvation through the wood of the cross. As St. Augustine says, ‘Adam despised the command of God, plucking the apple from the tree; but all that Adam lost, Christ found upon the cross! It is at once a symbol of shame and a sign of victory.
Perhaps above all, the Christmas tree’s lush green colour calls to mind life and growth. It is the tree of the cross that gave life. Moreover, green is the colour of hope. St. Paul assures us, “Hope does not disappoint, but the love of God has been poured into our hearts”. There’s nothing beyond the work of the redeemer. There’s no family struggle, no situation at work, no question of faith that the Infant Saviour cannot touch with the special grace of hope this Christmas. The great work of our redemption, undertaken by the Son of God coming into the world, offers to us all the confident and enduring hope that only heaven can send.
The invitation of the Christmas Tree, to rejoice and be merry, bespeaks the greatest grace of Christmas, which is joy. ‘With His luminous presence’, said Pope Benedict XVI, ‘Jesus had dissipated the shadows of error and sin and has brought to humanity the joy of divine blind love, of which the Christmas tree is a sign and a reminder.
This year has been a memorable year in a number of ways. The year began with essential maintenance work being done to the Cathedral, costing £115,200.00. More work is needed, particularly the pointing on both side exterior walls to keep the damp out. The difficulty is that the damp is causing damage to the beautiful mosaic on the internal walls. At least three of the windows need maintenance to ensure that dampness is controlled. A restoration committee has been formed to assist with obtaining grants for this work. I thank them for their efforts.
Given the fact that we will be celebrating the bicentenary of the Cathedral on 21st July 2029, parishioners would want the Cathedral to be looking its best. An application will be made to the National Lottery to carry out this essential maintenance. One of the requirements to obtain this grant is the support of the community. The National Lottery is anxious to find out how significant the Cathedral is to the parishioners of Newry and to the people of the Diocese.
Your help is needed and will be greatly appreciated when we forward the application. Please put into writing what the Cathedral means to you and hand it into the Parish Office.
There is tremendous work done in the parishes of Newry & Saval by the various groups. It is the various individuals, groups and societies that are the backbone of any parish.
We extend our sincere thanks to the Staff of the Parish Office, the Parish Pastoral Council and the Finance Council in each parish for the great work they do. Thanks also to the Readers, Eucharistic Ministers, the Organists, Musicians and Choir Members, those who arrange the flowers each week and enhance the celebration of the Eucharist. Thanks to the Sacristans and the Stewards who do great work and those who clean the Churches. Your support is invaluable.
Thanks also to the Knights of St. Columbanus, the Parish Management Committee, the Online Media Team, the Youth Director and her team, the Bereavement Ministry Team, the Baptism Ministry Team, the Team working with the schools to help parents and pupils prepare for the Sacraments of First Penance, First Communion and Confirmation. I have no doubt that the parishes are further enriched by the contribution of each of these groups.
The Gardening Committee this year have made a great contribution, and the Cathedral garden is already a more welcoming place. I commend them for the great work done and it will be a more inviting place for the parishioners to enjoy. It will be ideal for photographs after First Communion and Confirmation, and weddings.
The ‘Giving Tree’ in the Cathedral is a tremendous success. Many young and not so young people have benefited this Christmas, thanks for your generosity.
I extend a special thought to the Sick and Housebound. We are delighted to be able to visit you, and I am glad that you are able to follow Mass on the webcam daily.
On behalf of Archbishop Eamon Martin, Fr. Alphonsus, Fr. Wojciech, Fr. Carlos, Deacon Francesco and me, I take this opportunity to wish all our parishioners in Newry & Saval a joyful and peace-filled Christmas. May you enjoy an opportunity to relax with your family.
Canon Francis Brown