Friday 12 October

I wish I could report that my house repairs were complete but unfortunately my terrible contractor turned up with a set of doors and side lights which did not fit. Unfortunately also he’d ripped out the old ones so then had to board up the gap where french doors used to be. That was three weeks ago and I rang him today and discovered that he will visit on Tuesday afternoon. Believe me I want him out of my house!

Towards the end of September my eldest niece Bethan returned from her travels in Australia. On 3 October she again appeared at EmFest, an annual music evening organised by family and friends in memory of her older sister Emily who sadly took her life in 2015. Bethan is such a talented song-writer and altogether warm person. I regret that when I return to UK in November she will have left a few days earlier to continue her travels.

Over the last three weeks there has been quite a lot of disturbance to my normal working patterns. This has been caused by having to play for funerals on what might have been my days off. Also when the priests go away for their annual Convocation the day of the School Mass gets changed to when they are back … also a day off for me. One funeral was particularly poignant. Ann Leto was about 93 when she died and had been a member of the choir for almost as long as St Lawrence Church had existed. When I first met her she told me to ‘let her go’ when she could no longer deliver the goods. Of course, I never did. She was part of the choir family and a lively part of it at that! So when the time came for her funeral I was delighted at how many turned up to sing. I’m sure she would have enjoyed hearing her music choices once again. She would also have enjoyed hearing the hearse’s car alarm sounding because her daughter had gone to retrieve some box meals she had left there so that those travelling on to the burial could be fed! The family had asked for donations to the Choir in place of flowers. we’re hoping that there will be sufficient funds to do some regulation work to the recently acquired piano in the music rehearsal room. It will be a suitable memorial to Ann.

When I worked at Hallam Diocese I was fortunate to work most of the time with Bishop John Rawsthorne. He’s now retired but we are still in contact. In fact I wrote to him recently about the canonization of Archbishop Romero on 14 October. He got back to me straightaway. He was on a train returning from a Romero Trust meeting in London. It is wonderful to hear from him that so many catholic cathedrals in England have celebrated the memory of Romero. I learned also that my old stamping ground of St Ignatius, Stamford Hill has recently commissioned and blessed a picture of Rutilio Grande SJ and ++Oscar Romero! Bishop John will be in Rome with Julian Filochowski both of whom have done so much to increase awareness of the holiness of Romero and his preferential option for the poor.

It is strange that in Tampa, closer to El Salvador than UK, the awareness of Romero is diminished. Even clergy seem unaware of his impact or the reason for his canonization. Perhaps it is because they have become so obsessed by the clergy sexual abuse scandal that nothing else seems to matter? Fortunately the worldwide catholic church is more wise. In times when there have been too many examples of evil among the clergy we need to celebrate true holiness in clergy of living memory. So on Sunday Pope Francis will canonize Archbishop Oscar Romero, Pope Paul VI and four others who founded orders and communities of prayer. For my part I have sought to bring to the notice of parishioners the story of Romero, which I have been close to for over 25 years. The Pastor generously allowed me to write the ‘Pastor’s column’ in the church bulletin and to send out e-blasts regarding relevant TV programs about Romero and Paul VI. It has not been without challenges but at least no one can say that they were uninformed! I am hoping this will be welcomed by both the English and the Hispanic speakers of our parish.

I’ve been asked to present the annual Advent Gathering for the Diocese of St Petersburg. I’ll be talking about our duty as baptised to be prophetic and seek to examine the areas in which this might be practised. I’ll be drawing very much on material and experiences of the Iona Community which is barely known in these parts. having said this last week I was introduced to an Associate of the Community who ministers in St Petersburg in the Episcopal Church.

During the day I’ll also use the music and morning prayer from the Community and we’ll celebrate Mass with the bishop before eating a fine lunch at the Diocesan Retreat Center.

Hurricanes are no stranger to Florida but during the last week the whole world will have witness to their power as ‘Michael’, having gained such strength from the warmth of the Gulf of Mexico hit land as a Category 4. Its devastating power decimated townships along the coastline of northern Florida. Fortunately I live further south in Tampa and although there was concern (because they can change direction quickly) we really only suffered heavy rain and some extraordinary wind gusts. My heart goes out to those who are now homeless.

As I type I can look, through the window of my office on the upper floor of my house, into the park just over my garden fence. Workmen have been there for months installing a splash pool for the kids. It has not been the best season to work outdoors with so much rain during the Florida summers but they appear to be nearing completion. There are child-friendly soft floors covered with artificial grass and new play equipment. It will be good to hear the sound of happy voices replacing the sound of tractors and generators.

The sun sets a bit later now at 7pm but the day temperatures are still in the high 80s. My garden responding well to the little care I can afford to offer it and the pool continues to be clear. I am glad that my earlier removal of five trees from my property has decreased the likelihood of property damage  and the amount of leaves falling into the pool.

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