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Usually published around Christmastide each  year, the most recent is displayed on this page, with an archive of previous  letters below.  


Christmas 2021

Christmas 2020

Christmas 2019

Christmas 2018

Easter 2018

Christmas 2017

Easter 2017

Christmas 2016

Easter 2016

Easter 2010

Christmas 2009

Easter 2009

Christmas 2008

Christmas 2007

Christmas 2006

Christmas 2005

Christmas 2002

Christmas 2015

Easter 2014

Christmas 2013

Easter 2013

Christmas 2012

Easter 2012

Christmas 2011

Christmas 2010


Dear Friends and Family

Christmas 2021 will be the first Christmas spent without either of my parents.  My Mum died peacefully in the summer of this year.  She coped remarkably during lockdown, bubbling with my sister’s family, keeping in touch with the rest of us through daily phone calls,  and  learning  to  Zoom  into her parish Mass and sometimes joined there by my youngest brother from Canada. As lockdown eased she was happy to still be able to make the daily walk to church for weekday socially-distanced Mass.  

Apart from a short period in college digs in Boston, Lincs in the 50’s, my mother moved straight from living in her parent’s home to living with my father in their married home; 2019 – 2021, following the death of my father, was the first experience she had of living on her own.  What a time to choose!  The occasional respite from solitary living into the cosy crowded noise of a hospital ward as her medical conditions began to catch up with her seemed to suit her, and she was relaxed and at ease when she finally died at Rotherham General Hospital in July.  Covid restrictions for her funeral gave us scope to include some elements which would not normally be de-rigueur, including the recorded music of the Poor Clare Nuns of Arundel which  she  often  said  was  her  daily  sustenance  during  lockdown.  It was a lovely, affectionate, family day, and we even succeeded  in  running  the  crematorium service ourselves, sharing the minister-roles amongst the six of us, sprinkling her with the copious  bottles of Lourdes water she brought back  from  Dad’s last pilgrimage, and feasting on the fruit cake she had already prepared for Christmas.  I think Mum would have loved it all.

I too learned to Zoom!  One of the sustaining features of lockdown has been online “attendance” or participation in virtual church events. A regular lay-led Sunday parish slot has been a real revelation in exploring a different model of church.

“The Church of God is convoked in Synod”.  With these words - and with very apt timing  -  Pope Francis invites all of us (lay, consecrated, ordained, devoted, disaffected, distanced) to “question [ourselves] on synodality: a decisive theme for the life and mission of the Church”.  A Synod on synodality?!  I am looking forward to contributing some of what we learnt from virtual church to the forum, and hope and pray that we be heard from within and without the pews. I occasionally dip in at the edges of Voices of Faith (working to empower women into decision making roles in the RC church), and the Centre for Ecclesial Ethics (enabling,and equipping the Church … as the pilgrim people of God), and sense a stirring of the Spirit.  Let it be so.

The  other major  delight this year  was participating  again in  Pilgrim Cross  –  a pilgrimage I have walked several times to Walsingham during Holy Week (previously known as Student Cross). The pilgrimage was run online again this year, and I have been impressed to discover how genuine community could be built through the screen of a small laptop.  Having had such creative, inspiring and supportive experiences (and a lot of fun & holiness!) during Holy Week 2020 and 2021, the Pilgrim Cross community decided that they wanted to continue to offer the opportunity to be part of the pilgrimage when it starts walking again to those who, for whatever reason, are unable to join the walking legs in person.And so Xleg has been created.  It is a new, virtual, online and ongoing member leg of the pilgrimage in its own right.   

Xleg is a journey of the mind – community – study – prayer.  I was so moved by my experiences of the last couple of years that I have even volunteered to help lead it!  If the idea of a Holy Week pilgrimage (walking or virtual) piques your interest, then you can find out more at https://pilgrimcross.org.uk/  and about Xleg specifically here: xleg.schdn.co.uk.  This is one of those rare make-friends-for-life opportunities.  But don’t let that put you off.

I was also privileged to provide a bit more copy for the Redemptorist’s Sunday Bulletin.  This series was written for the “Season of Creation”  which is in early September.  I used it to share some of the lore and spirituality of St Cuthbert which was a lovely thing to be able to do.  You can find the pieces beginning here:  

http://www.stcuthbertshouse.co.uk/seasonofcreation1.html  Sorry for the low res print  -  I was sent electronic proofs this time so didn’t have any control over the scan quality.  Hope it doesn’t spoil your enjoyment too much.  

I am excited for 2022! Hoping to resolve some medical stuff early in the New Year, which might mean I can finally quit the purdah  of shielding.   AND  (aid & abet of Covid 19)  there  are  signs  that the restless spirit of the pilgrim church might, tentatively, cautiously, be beginning to get in the way of business-as-usual in Rome, which feels hopeful. I am heartened, and reflect on the verse which was somehow omitted from the Gospel passage this first Sunday of Advent.  “Look at the fig trees and all the trees.  When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.”  Indeed, let it be so.

God’s blessing on you and all of yours this Christmastide and for the whole of 2022.  God is with us. +

Rachel Er.dio.