Vicariate for Faith & Mission Update (December 2023)

December 1 2023

Update from the Vicariate

I am delighted to share with you our Advent Reflections, compiled from around the Diocese; these provide a daily reflection that can be used individually or within faith groups. They are a timely reminder that Advent is a time for watching and waiting on the Lord.

This Advent, we are developing the website to include resources that can be used for the Year of Prayer. The Holy Father, Pope Francis, has asked that we devote this year to deepening our prayer experience and particularly praying the ‘Our Father’. More on this will come over the coming months.

Last month, we held a Spirit-filled day on synod skills at Ushaw. People from around the Diocese joined us to discuss practising and developing a synodal approach to prayer and reflection. This group is keen to meet periodically, so if you have a parish group holding synodal meetings, please get in touch so we can expand the network.

Amy Cameron, Co-ordinator for the Vicariate for Faith & Mission.


The Joy of the Gospel

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them […] No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”” [EG 3]

Evangelii Gaudium, the Joy of the Gospel, looks at the new evangelisation for the transmission of the faith and has chapters on the following subjects:

  • The Church’s Missionary Transformation
  • The Crisis of Communal Commitment
  • The Proclamation of the Gospel
  • The Social Dimension of Evangelization
  • Spirit-Filled Evangelizers

The full text of Evangelii Gaudium can be downloaded here.

Quick Link: Sharing the Faith.


Holy Hour

The Association of the Eucharist will be holding their monthly Holy Hour on Sunday 3 December at St Andrew’s, 9 Worswick Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 6UW, from 2.30pm to 3.30pm followed by refreshments. Everyone welcome. No booking required.

The Eucharist: A Gift to be Nurtured

As part of our aim to promote growth and knowledge of the Eucharist, the Association of the Eucharist offer The Eucharist: A Gift to be Nurtured, which gives us words from Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis to guide time before the Blessed Sacrament. This resource can be used by both individuals and groups.

Weekend Liturgy Resources

Suggested Prayers of the Faithful (bidding prayers) and Reflections will be updated each week.

Other resources include suggested music, Children’s Liturgy of the Word and Cycle of Prayer.

Resources and signposts to the coming weekend’s liturgy resources, kindly provided by people within our Diocese, will be available to view and access on the Diocesan website every Thursday for the following weekend’s liturgy.

Click here to enlarge image.

Visit our Weekend Liturgy section here.

Seasonal Reflections

Advent Reflections 2023

Our Diocesan Advent Reflection booklet, compiled by our writing team from around the Diocese, is now available. This booklet provides daily reflections that can be used individually or within faith groups. They are a timely reminder that Advent is a time for watching and waiting on the Lord. Visit here to view online or download a copy of this year’s Diocesan Advent Reflections.

Christmas can be a difficult time for many people for all sorts of reasons; bereavement, unemployment, being far away from family and so on. A Blue Christmas liturgy offers a way of acknowledging that and hopefully, finding the hope that will help them to get through Christmas. These liturgies are available to use as an individual or a group.

Quick Link: Liturgy & Prayer

Dialogue & Unity

Holocaust Commemoration 2024: ‘Fragility of Freedom’

The Interreligious Relations Team will be holding their annual Holocaust Commemoration on Tuesday 23 January 2024 at 7.00pm. The venue is St Mary’s Catholic School, Benton Park Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE7 7PE. The guest speaker is Mrs Deanna Van Der Velde from the United Hebrew Congregation.

Visit here for more information.

Visit the What’s On page for events and talks from various groups and communities.

Quick Link: Dialogue & Unity

Charismatic Diocesan Service of Communion (CDSC)

Called, Transformed and Sent

Around 4,000 people came together from 2 to 4 November 2023 in Rome for an international gathering of CHARIS. We hope to share more from Maria Heath, Co-ordinator for the National CHARIS team, from her experience of being there.

Watch a short video here, for a glimpse of the gathering, including Cardinal Cantalamessa and the arrival of Pope Francis for his closing address.

You can see a longer version, including what Cardinal Cantalamessa and Pope Francis had to say to all those gathered and Rome and now, us here.

You can read and watch an account of Pope Francis’s address here.

Life in the Spirit Seminars

As a team, we have been greatly encouraged by these particular words from Pope Francis, in his recent address on 4 November, about Life in the Spirit seminars:

…today I would ask you: are the Life in the Spirit Seminars being offered in a variety of ecclesial contexts, in small and remote places and among the poor and on the peripheries? One obstacle to this might be the idea that these Seminars can only be held in large venues and with well-known leaders, whereas in reality even small parish groups and local leaders can organize them and present them to people in their area.

Plans are now in place, drawing on local leaders, as Pope Francis has encouraged, to deliver Life in the Spirit Seminars from 21 February 2024, 7.00pm to 8.30pm at St Mary’s Church Hall, Sunderland. The themes and speakers for the first five sessions are as follows:

  • 21 February: Andy Drozdziak on the theme of God’s love.
  • 28 February: Amy Cameron on the theme of Salvation.
  • 6 March: John Wheeler on the theme of The New Life.
  • 13 March: Pat Kennedy on the theme of Receiving God’s Gifts.
  • 20 March: Fr Shaun O’Neill on the theme of Baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The remaining two seminars, on the themes of Growth and Transformation in Christ, will be held after Easter as preparation for Pentecost. Details of dates and speakers will be confirmed shortly.

Mass for Pentecost

We will be hosting a Mass for Pentecost at St Mary’s Cathedral Church at 1.00pm on Saturday 11 May 2024.

Pope Francis, in his recent address, also emphasised that CHARIS’ role is to point all communities of the Charismatic Renewal, which he called a “current of grace” to “communion, on the path ahead.” The annual Mass for Pentecost is proving to be a blessed opportunity for sisters and brothers in Renewal to come together in communion on the path ahead for us in the Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle.

News from the Emmanuel Community

The Emmanuel Community’s recent hosting of Chris Thomas was a great source of inspiration, reminding us all how vitally important it is for us to be inspired by God’s vision for us, the world, and all the ways we are called to contribute to the building of God’s kingdom in the world. A more detailed account of the day will be shared by Pat Kennedy in the next edition of the Northern Cross.

The next opportunity for inspiration will be from 10.00am on Saturday 20 January 2024 at St Mary’s School, Newcastle when the Emmanuel Community will be hosting David Wells. David will present on the theme of ‘Pilgrims for Hope’, in preparation for the 2025 Year of Jubilee.

On 8 June from 10.00am at St Mary’s School, Newcastle the Emmanuel Community will be meeting to reflect on the input of speakers on the previous few days. All are welcome.

We hear that Michelle Moran spoke with great power to the 4,000 people who attended the recent international gathering of CHARIS in Rome. We were greatly blessed by the Emmanuel Community’s last hosting of Michelle. The Emmanuel community will be hosting Michelle again from 10.00am at St Mary’s School, Newcastle on Saturday 12 October 2024.

Mailing List

We continue to add to our mailing list. If you would like to be added to our mailing list, please email us:

Please continue to pray for the work of our team.

John Wheeler, Co-ordinator Hexham and Newcastle Diocesan Service of Communion.


Quick Link: CHARIS

Diocesan Church Music Association

The DCMA have been asked to share information about an event titled ‘Monastic Musical Hours’ which will take place at Minsteracres Retreat Centre, Friday 8 to Sunday 10 March 2024. Led by experienced musicians and liturgists, you will experience a weekend immersed in the beauty of the monastic office hours singing and learning about these musical traditions. See here for further information and booking details.

Quick Link: DCMA

Marriage & Family Life

Marriage Preparation Days


Saturday 9 March: St Joseph, Blaydon NE21 5AE.
Saturday 16 March: St Mary’s, Bishop Auckland DL14 6PQ.
Saturday 13 April: St Hilda’s, Sunderland SR5 2JD.
Saturday 18 May: St Robert of Newminster, Morpeth NE61 1QF.
Saturday 21 September: St Robert of Newminster, Morpeth NE61 1QF.
Saturday 9 November: St Mary’s, Bishop Auckland DL14 6PQ.

(Other dates and venues will be notified to each Parish Priest and Deacon as arranged.)

Engaged couples can find more information at

To find and book on a course, please visit: or call the booking service: 0800 389 3801 (NB. In person and online courses are available).

Fees payable to MarriageCare are given on the website and will cover the costs of the resources and materials that will be provided on the day for each couple; they also include an element of cost towards the counselling arm of MarriageCare, an important facility very well called upon in present society. At the end of the day of attendance, couples will be provided with details to go online to MarriageCare to print their certificates, one of which should be handed to the Parish Priest and the other retained.

Priests, Deacons and lay people may email: for further information or Deacon Rob Wareing directly, if required.

Marriage and Family Life Mass 2024

Bishop Stephen will celebrate Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on Saturday 17 February 2024 at 12.00pm to give thanks for the Sacrament of Marriage and Family Life. This is taking place during National Marriage Week. All married couples will be invited with particular focus on those celebrating a significant anniversary together with bereaved spouses, separated individuals and families experiencing or having experienced domestic difficulties. In these unprecedented times we remember couples in crisis and individual adults and children experiencing difficulties and abuse in their family relationships. We wish all to know that none is forgotten and that the Sacramental life is very much alive and prayed for.

Anyone celebrating a significant anniversary has the opportunity to receive a certificate of celebration on the day. Anyone celebrating a special anniversary can request a certificate by completing this form or by calling the Faith and Mission admin team on 0191 243 3316.

This day promises to be a wonderful Diocesan celebration and will provide a positive affirmation of the graces of Marriage to the entire North-East community. A poster for this event is available to download here.

If you require any further information, please contact:

Deacon Rob Wareing, Diocesan Lead for Marriage and Family Life

Mobile: 07841 530991

Quick Links: Family & Sacraments Marriage Care

Spiritual Accompaniment

Exploring Spiritual Accompaniment

Spiritual Accompaniment has been part of the Christian tradition and a ministry in the Church since the days of the early Church. It is often called Spiritual Direction, although we prefer the term ‘accompaniment’ because it suggests walking alongside someone in their spiritual/faith journey, rather than telling them what to do!

Spiritual Accompaniment is not about solving problems so much as exploring our relationship with God, through prayer and reflection on our experience of faith and life.

A Spiritual Director is not there to give advice or tell you what to believe in, but rather to listen attentively and act as a ‘sounding board’ for whatever you bring to the session.

Spiritual Accompaniment sessions usually take place every couple of months or so, depending on the circumstances of the individuals involved.

Maybe you feel called to this ministry or know someone who might be interested. St Antony’s Priory in Durham offers training. Sr Sheila McNamara RSCJ, the Diocesan Lead on Spiritual Accompaniment, is part of the training team for the two-year course.

Training in Spiritual Accompaniment

Exploring Spiritual Accompaniment’ is a two-year programme of formation that provides both an opportunity for personal spiritual development, as well as offering practical and experiential training in the skills applicable to accompanying others on their faith journey.

Our approach to Spiritual Accompaniment is ecumenical, drawing on a broad range of Christian wisdom and spirituality, as well as being informed by the Guidelines for Spiritual Directors, published by the Retreat Association.

A key principle undergirding the course is that it should be congruous with the process of spiritual accompaniment itself. Rather than simply being a programme of training in skills or knowledge, it should also be seen as a process of discernment and formation in the charism of this distinctive ministry.

The course will comprise eight modules taught over two academic years. Each module will include a significant element of self-directed learning. This will provide an opportunity to reflect on matters considered between sessions, as well as enabling a focus on the development of listening skills and the practice of accompaniment.

The course has vastly exceeded my expectations on every level. The depth and spread of topics covered, the reading and the materials (physical and online) and individual and group experiential aspects have all been extremely rich and stretching.

Please see St Antony’s website – Spiritual Direction section – for more information or email Sr Sheila:

Quick Link: Spiritual Accompaniment

Deepening Our Faith

Advent Sycamore Sessions

The Lord always visits us in our lives but this reality may get lost at times as we become distracted by the many concrete aspects of our daily lives.

(Pope Francis Advent 2022)

So why not take some time out from your busy lives this Advent season and join us online for these Sycamore sessions:

  • The Search for Happiness
  • A God who Speaks
  • The Bible
  • The Power of Prayer

The focus of these sessions is on our search for God in life and in prayer and how God reaches out to us in history and through the Bible.

Some of you may have had experience of Sycamore previously, so we’ll be using an alternative set of questions which will give you more opportunities to reflect on your own experience of faith.

These sessions will take place weekly on Thursday evenings from 7.00pm to 8.15pm. The first session began on Thursday 30 November and the remaining three will follow on Thursdays 7, 14 and 21 December. You’re welcome to join us for all, one or more sessions, why not invite a friend along too?

Visit here to register your interest in these Advent Sycamore sessions or call the Faith and Mission admin team on 0191 243 3316.


Are you thinking about running an Alpha group?

Visit: or email:


The Catechism in a Year

Sign up for Ascension’s Catechism In A Year podcast with Fr Mike Schmitz, and you can:

  • Read the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church in 365 days
  • Understand the essentials of the Catholic Faith and why they matter
  • See how Church teaching is rooted in Sacred Scripture
  • Absorb over 2,000 years of Sacred Tradition
  • Encounter God’s plan of sheer goodness
  • Transform their relationship with the Church that Christ founded.

The Bible in a Year

Ascension’s Bible in a Year Podcast, hosted by Fr Mike Schmitz and featuring Jeff Cavins, guides Catholics through the Bible in 365 daily episodes. Each 20 – 25 minute episode includes:

  • Two to three scripture readings
  • A reflection from Fr Mike Schmitz
  • A guided prayer to help you hear God’s voice in his Word

Ascension’s Bible in a Year Podcast for Catholics follows a reading plan inspired by the Great Adventure Bible Timeline® learning system, a ground-breaking approach to understanding Salvation History developed by renowned Catholic Bible teacher Jeff Cavins. Tune in and live your daily life through the lens of God’s word!

Bereavement Support

People continue to request support following the death of a loved one. Most requests have come via the dedicated phone (07732 980740) and people are put in touch with a member of the Bereavement Support Team very quickly. Some people have been personally encouraged by a friend or relative to contact our service.

The Emmaus Bereavement Support Service number is 07732 980740 a member of the team will contact you promptly.

Quick Link: Accompaniment in Difficult Times.


Fr Sean Hall continues to offer his weekly reflections on the Sunday Readings and Pat Kennedy her monthly reflections, both available to read online or download in the Prayer Resources section.

Contact Us

Contact the Vicariate of Faith & Mission by email: or by telephone 0191 243 3316 / 07375 934713 during office hours.

Visit our Vicariate for Faith & Mission News page here.