The last few years have seen a change in the way that Reconciliation and Holy Communion have been celebrated. The preparation for these sacraments now takes place in the Parish (no longer through the school) for children aged 9 (Year 4 of the school year.) Reconciliation is celebrated during Advent, and Holy Communion during Eastertide.

Baptisms are arranged by prior appointment with the Parish Priest.

Bringing Holy Communion to the Housebound and Sick is a vital aspect of our service to the Parish. For those who have, year in, year out come to Mass, yet now through failing health can no longer make the journey, it is only right and proper that we should come to you.

Anyone can receive the Eucharist in his or her own home. Those wishing to may simply contact us through the home page. Initially, you will receive a visit from the Parish Priest who, if it is appropriate will reconcile you to the Church and administer Holy Communion. He will then arrange for a named Eucharistic Minister to contact you that you may agree with them when they will bring Holy Communion to you.

In accordance with Diocesan policy all of our Eucharistic Ministers have had a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly CRB) check, covering working with children and vulnerable adults. We want you to feel comfortable with all those whom you invite into your home.

Any couple wishing to be married at St Stephen’s or at St Bridget’s are requested to contact the Parish Priest to arrange a meeting. At that meeting a date would usually be agreed for your wedding and the initial marriage preparation enquiry would take place.

Information for those who are preparing for the Sacrament of Marriage (PDF, 1.9Mb)

Who can get married in a Catholic church?

You are eligible to be married in a Catholic church provided that:

  • at least one of the parties is a Catholic; 
  • neither party has been married before, even civilly in a Register Office.

In England and Wales neither party has to have received the Sacrament of Confirmation in order to be married but it is hoped that this Sacrament may be considered during the time of marriage preparation because of the grace it bestows on those preparing for Matrimony.

If one of you has been married before, it may still be possible for you to be married in Church. However, a talk with the priest will help to establish whether or not this is possible.

When can we get married?

Generally speaking, marriages can be celebrated any day of the week. The exception to that is during Holy Week and the Easter Triduum: (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday). It is also likely that priests would not ordinarily welcome celebrating Marriage during the penitential seasons of Lent and Advent. Sunday celebrations are not always possible because of parishes masses and baptisms which  tend to take up most of that day. In addition, Marriages should normally be conducted during working hours since Civil Registrars are required to register your wedding.

Can we get married in a Catholic church outside the parish or abroad?

Sometimes those who live in the parish wish to celebrate their wedding in another church – perhaps where they grew up or where their parents live or indeed in another country.  Once initial contact has been made with the chosen church to see if they will accommodate your wedding you will need to make an appointment with the parish priest at St Stephen’s as he is responsible for preparing the necessary documents required by the Church for your wedding to take place outside the parish.  You will need to allow plenty of time for this process especially if you are planning to get married abroad. The same conditions forwho can get married in a Catholic church’ apply.

This booklet (PDF, 0.3Mb) concerning getting married abroad may be of help.

Apart from First Confession which takes place each Advent as part of the First Holy Communion preparation the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) can be celebrated at any time upon request.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation, apart from the Octave of Easter, is also available as a norm at the following times (please check the current newsletter for any changes):

 DayTime
St Stephen’sSaturday9.30am prior to Mass
St Bridget’sSaturday5.00pm prior to Mass

What to do in Confession!

Confession begins with the sign of the cross:

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

Then the priest sometimes greets you with a word of welcome.

Then you tell the priest how long it has been since you were last at confession:

Father, it has been __?__ weeks/months/years since my last confession.

Ideally, we should all try to make confession at least once a month.

Then, if time allows, the priest or YOU may choose and read a text from Scripture.      Some suggestions from the New Testament are: Matthew 6:14-15; Luke 15:1-7;  Ephesians 5:1-2; 1st Letter of John 1:6-7/9, Mark 1:14-15, John 20:19-23, Colossians 1:12-14, Luke 6:31-38, Romans 5:8-9, Colossians 3:8-10/12-17.

Then you name your sins – genuinely reflecting on what is holding you back from truly loving and serving God in the things you have said or done or failed to do and say.

The priest then asks you to do a penance or you might like to choose one for yourself. The penance is done some time after the Confession has finished. A penance is not something we do to try to balance out our sins – a kind of restitution – it is simply a token gesture in gratitude to the Lord for his mercy and forgiveness. In that sense the penance might be a short prayer, or you may decide to carry out an act of kindness.

Then the priest asks you to make an Act of Contrition. The Act of Contrition is a prayer of sorrow asking God for forgiveness and asking for strength to try to do better in the future. You can write your own Act of Contrition or you can use one already written or you can use the following:

O my God, because you are so good, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you and my neighbour and with the help of your grace and strength I will not to sin again.  Amen.

The priest then says the prayer of Absolution and then gives the blessing after which he says: Go in Peace. You reply AMEN and then leave the room.

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ON THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE

“Be courageous and go to Confession!”

Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Through the Sacraments of Christian initiation – Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist, man receives new life in Christ. Now we have this life “in earthen vessels” (2 Corinthians 4:7), we are still subject to temptation, to suffering, to death and, because of sin, we can even lose this new life. This is why the Lord Jesus wished His Church to continue His work of salvation also to her members, in particular with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that of the Anointing of the Sick, which can be united under the name of “Sacraments of Healing.” The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a Sacrament of healing. When I go to confess myself, it is to heal myself, to heal my soul, to heal my heart and anything that isn’t going well. The biblical image that expresses best their profound bond, is the episode of the forgiveness and healing of the paralytic, where the Lord Jesus reveals himself at the same time  as doctor of souls and of bodies (cf. Mark 2:1-12; Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26).

  1. The Sacrament of Penance and of Reconciliation flows directly from the Paschal Mystery. In fact, on the very evening of Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples, locked in the Cenacle and, after greeting them saying ”Peace be with you!” he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (John 20:21-23). This passage reveals to us the most profound dynamic that is contained in this Sacrament. First of all, the fact that the forgiveness of our sins is not something that we can give ourselves. I cannot say: I forgive my sins. Forgiveness is asked, it is asked of another and in Confession we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is not the fruit of our efforts, but it is a present, a gift of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with the purification of mercy and grace which flows incessantly from the wide-open heart of Christ crucified and risen. In the second place, it reminds us that only if we allow ourselves to be reconciled in the Lord Jesus with the Father and with our brothers can we really be in peace. And we all have heard this in the heart when we go to confess ourselves, with a weight in the soul, a bit of sadness; and when we receive the forgiveness of Jesus we are in peace, with that peace of the soul that is so beautiful that only Jesus can give, only Him.
  2. In time, the celebration of this Sacrament passed from a public to a personal  and reserved form of Confession. This, however, must not make us lose the ecclesial matrix, which constitutes the vital context. In fact, the Christian community is the place in which the Spirit is rendered present, who renews hearts in the love of God and makes all brothers one in Christ Jesus. See then how it is not enough to ask forgiveness from the Lord in our own mind and heart, but it is necessary to confess one’s sins humbly and confidently to the minister of the Church. In the celebration of this Sacrament, the priest not only represents God but the whole community, which recognizes itself in the fragility of each of its members, which is moved on hearing one’s repentance, which reconciles with one, which encourages and accompanies one in the path of conversion and of human and Christian maturation. One may say: I only confess with God. Yes, you can say to God “forgive me” and say your sins, but our sins are also against the brothers, against the Church. For this it is necessary to ask forgiveness from the Church, from the brothers, in the person of the priest. “But Father, I am ashamed….” Even shame is good, it is healthy to have a bit of shame; to be ashamed is healthy. When a person doesn’t have shame, in my country we say that he is a “sin vergüenza” (without shame). But even shame does us well, because it makes us more humble, and the priest receives with love and tenderness this confession and in the name of God, forgives.

Even from a human point of view, to vent, it is good to talk with a brother and tell the priest these things, that weigh heavily in my heart. And one feels that they vent in front of God, with the Church, with the brother. Do not be afraid of Confession! When one is in line to confess, they feel these things, even shame, but then when Confession is ended, they feel free, great, beautiful, forgiveness, white (clean), happy. And this is the beauty of Confession! I would like to ask you – but don’t answer out loud, each one responds in their heart -: when was the last time you confessed, that you have confessed? Each one think about it…Has it been two days, two weeks, two years, twenty years, forty years? Everyone takes count, but everyone ask themselves: when was the last time that I confessed? And if a long time has passed, don’t miss another day, go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is much better than the priests, Jesus receives you, He receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!

Dear friends, to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation means to be wrapped in a warm embrace: it is the embrace of the infinite mercy of the Father. Let us remember that beautiful, beautiful parable of the son who left his home with the inheritance money; he squandered all the money, and then, when he didn’t have anything, he decided to return home, not as a son, but as a servant. So many faults he had in his heart and so much shame. The surprise was when he began to speak, to ask forgiveness, the father did not let him speak, he embraced him, he kissed him and made a feast. But I tell you: every time we confess, God embraces us, God makes a feast! Let us go forward on this path. May God bless you!

(Pope Francis’ Catechesis: General Audience, St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, 19 February 2014)

In years gone by, the church would readily dispense to those in serious illness or need Viaticum or, as it became popularly known the Last Rites.

Viaticum, including anointing, confession and Eucharist, were dispensed in the knowledge that the end of your earthly life approached and the Eucharist was received as “food for the journey” from this life to the next. The down side of this was that the priest only came and prayed with you when you were close to death and many people wished that they could receive the sacraments before illness became too serious.

To this end, this sacrament is now celebrated with the Housebound and Sick in Church four times a year:

  • in March and September at St Bridget’s and
  • in June and December at St Stephen’s.

It is on these occasions that we make a special effort to bring people to the Church who may not get another opportunity to come to Mass. It is also a chance for old friends to come together again after some time and catch up with one another.

Who can receive the Sacrament?

Anyone who feels infirm in mind, body or spirit of any age who wishes to receive the sacrament can contact the priest who will come and pray with you and your family and anoint you.

We celebrate this sacrament in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and in the home as well.