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Formation for Discipleship: a letter from Fr Martin to the young men and women of the parish

Young brothers and sisters in Christ

I am writing directly to you but also indirectly to your parents and, indeed, the whole parish family. I’ve been thinking about this letter for some time and have kept putting it off. But even though it’s difficult to write someone a personal note when you don’t know them and they don’t know you, now is the time to do it and trust in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

When I was on holiday during the Summer, I read these words: “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.” The words really touched my heart. They challenged the ways I have been thinking and prompted me to think about new, fresher ways by which we might encounter Jesus. These words were written by Pope Francis. If you’re interested, you can read where they come from: search Evangelium Vitae at

Being sealed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit confirms and strengthens an already existing relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of you already enjoy that relationship. Since the day of your baptism when the seed of glory was planted in your souls and supported by your families, your relationship with Jesus has been developing. Sometimes, in small, almost invisible ways. Sometimes, in dramatic ways. But now that you have grown into a young adult, Jesus offers you the fullness of His Spirit in the sacrament of confirmation to further nourish your relationship with Him and embolden you to live as a young adult disciple of Christ. This calling will ennoble your life and your youthful witness to the love and mercy of Christ will renew the faith of the whole parish community and spill out into the world.

But I’m also aware that some of you might have a weaker, damaged or poor relationship with Jesus. Maybe you’re no longer sure what that relationship is meant to be? Perhaps the multiple voices of the influencers and youtubers; the noise and distractions of the world around you have drowned out the voice of Jesus quietly calling you to Himself? Maybe it’s that you have learnt “things” about Jesus but you have not come to know and love him personally? You understand Jesus as an idea, but not as a friend. Or maybe, it’s something else…

But what a lot of people who think deeply about these things say is that faith can no longer be taken for granted. When I was your age faith was absorbed and supported by the family, school and society but that is no longer the case. We cannot assume, for example, that because someone goes to a Catholic school that they are practising their faith and desire to have a relationship with Jesus. At the same time, there are very loud voices in our society telling us that we do not need to entrust our lives to God but that we can manufacture ourselves and answer all our questions, needs and desires without listening to His desire for our happiness. We are all influenced to some extent by these voices and the white noise of our culture. It takes real strength to stand against the tide and profess, “I am a Catholic, a follower of Jesus Christ. I am proud to be so.”

There’s something else I want to mention. I think it is almost impossible for a young person in our culture to remain close to Christ without the support of others. You need the support of other young Christians. You need the prayerful support of the wise and the holy. You need the support of your parish family. The trouble is that the elders in a parish especially the priest can be so concerned about providing catechetical programmes and sacramental courses that we can sometimes overlook the fundamental question: do our young men and women know Jesus, the Son of the Living God, as their friend and Saviour?

All this is a long way of letting you know that the discipleship formation for the sacrament of Confirmation will not begin until September 2024 and for those of you entering Year 12 (16–17-year-olds). Why are we making these changes?

There will no longer be a Confirmation programme. Instead, we want to offer you six creative encounters with Jesus as part of your formation as disciples. After these “encounters”, you will be better equipped to make a decision about receiving the sacrament of confirmation and continuing your journey as disciples.

If we are going to make these “encounters” worthwhile and meaningful, we need time to gather together a team of leaders who will shape these “encounters”. By pausing this formation, we are taking the time to create experiences that will stir in you a greater love for Jesus. We thank you for your patience and understanding.

An essential part of your formation will be helping you to recognise Christ in the weakest and most vulnerable. As Pope Francis reminds us

“…we are called to find Christ in them, to lend our voice to their causes, but also to be their friends, to listen to them, to speak for them and to embrace the mysterious wisdom which God wishes to share with us through them” (Evangelii Gaudium, 198). Faith teaches us that every poor person is a son or daughter of God and that Christ is present in them. “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).”

By raising the age when this formation begins you will be better able to respond to that conversion of heart that Jesus calls each one of you to experience. Now that there are no AS levels, you will be freer to reflect on your relationship and to do so in a more grown-up way. Pope Francis says to all of us:

“Today each one of us should take a bit of time and think: Jesus, you are within me. I want to encounter you each day. You are a person, not an idea. You are a companion on the journey, not a programme. You are love that resolves so many problems. You are the starting point of evangelization. You, Jesus, are the source of joy.”

For those of you who have drifted away from Jesus but “at least have an openness to letting him encounter them”. Great. Even the smallest opening proves that you have not slammed the doors of your heart to Jesus. The ember of desire for Him still glows within you. Do not be afraid to allow the Holy Spirit to blow on that ember and for it to ignite into a flame. We look forward to you joining us for this future formation.

To those of you who are practising their faith, I encourage you to continue the journey, knowing Jesus is by your side. He is the source of true and authentic happiness. Your energy, hopes and freshness rub off on the rest of the parish family and helps us to stay young in Christ.

We thank you for your witness. We thank you for being part of our family. But, most importantly, you are in our prayers.

Fr Martin Boland


#Godfirst #WansteadDisciplesofChrist



CAFOD Israeli-Palestinian Crisis Appeal

CAFOD Israeli-Palestinian Crisis Appeal

Donate to CAFOD’s Israeli-Palestinian Crisis Appeal at or call   0303 303 3030 to support those affected and get funds to local trusted experts in Gaza and southern Israel who have been  working alongside communities helping those most in need.

Your  donation will help support aid workers providing urgent  humanitarian aid including food, water and emergency shelter to those in need.


Formation for Discipleship: the reception of Holy Communion

Formation for Discipleship: the reception of Holy Communion

We can imagine that the sacraments are “things” that we collect during our lives in order to gain spiritual rewards. The danger with this view is that we make sacraments about us and our wants, rather than about God and his desire for us to share in his life.

Sacraments are the sure and certain ways by which we encounter Jesus. The life of grace that flows through them deepens our relationship with Jesus; gives us the courage to live as more faithful disciples; renews our sense of mission. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Every Sunday, the crucified and Risen Christ waits for us to gather as a community in this sacred place. Though we arrive as many members, He transforms us into one body by feeding us with his living word through the Sacred Scriptures and nourishing us with His Body and His Blood in Holy Communion. For this great gift, we praise and thank Him. In this way, we become more like him and are strengthened “to go in peace, to love and to serve the Lord” in our daily lives.

It is for this reason that the preparation for the reception of Holy Communion is the responsibility of the whole parish community and takes place within it because it is here that our children will take their place alongside us at the table of the Eucharist. It is within this community that their discipleship will be nurtured and fortified by God.

Jesus says to us, “I do not call you servants any longer…but I have called you friends” Preparation of our children for the reception of Holy Communion will bear little lasting spiritual fruits unless we help them to see that Jesus, the Son of the Living God, wants to be their friend.

To encourage this, the formation for the reception of the sacrament of Holy Communion will now take the form of six sessions lasting no longer than one hour each. The aim of these sessions will be to provide the space for our children and their families to come to know Jesus a little better, to love him and to know that he is truly present in Holy Communion, the sacrament of his sacrificial love for us.

Over the coming months, those involved in the formation of our children will tailor the content of these six sessions in ways that will hopefully prove engaging and inspiring.

Once the formation begins, other resources will be made available to those parents who may wish to further enrich their child’s relationship with Jesus in the home setting.

To respond to that call to friendship requires a certain maturity. This is because it is not about preparation for a “special day” but rather something more fundamental: formation for a lifetime of discipleship.

The age for formation for the reception of Holy Communion will now be raised from Year 3 to Year 4. The difference in maturity between a 7/8 year old and an 8/9 year old provides a better opportunity for our children to forge a more personal friendship with Jesus before receiving His Body and Blood as a member of our Eucharistic community.

At the same time, we are very aware that the Covid pandemic has meant that for many of our children and their families there was an extended break of many months, even years, from participating in the Eucharist. As in so many other areas of our lives, Covid has had an impact on our spiritual lives. Raising the age for the reception of this sacrament allows families to restore their practice of Sunday Mass and thus lay the essential foundations for a true relationship with Jesus.

If we want our children to respond to Jesus in a mature fashion, then their parents and families must also be treated in an adult and respectful manner as it is they who are called to be “the first and best teachers of their children in the ways of faith.” (Rite of Baptism)

There will be no registers, no homework and no Zoom meetings for parents. The dates for the First Holy Communion Masses will be made available to families at the very beginning of the time of formation.

For those parents who have drifted away from the practice of their faith, I make this simple appeal: Come back. Come back to Sunday Mass. Come back to Christ. Rebuild your relationship with him. Do not be a stranger to the parish family. We want you and your children with us.

For those parents who are practising their faith and doing their very best to help their children to grow in love of Jesus, thank you. I do not underestimate the challenges, demands and busyness of your lives; that you have given priority to your family’s relationship with Christ speaks of your commitment to your Catholic Faith, your love of Christ and His Church. Thank you for your powerful witness.

The care, generosity and witness of our catechists who have helped to prepare our children in the past is appreciated by the whole community. But this is now a very small group and we need to ensure that there are women and men volunteers who will guide, encourage and support our children and their families in the future. Please consider volunteering.

At the beginning of July 2024, parents in the parish whose children will be going into Year 4 in September of that year will be invited to register their child for the reception of the sacraments of Holy Communion and Penance. At that point, more practical information will be provided to those parents.

What happens in the meantime? The formation for discipleship is not something for next year, but happens now by us committing to that weekly encounter with Jesus at Sunday Mass; by punctuating our daily lives with prayer; by a real care for the weakest and the poorest; by each one of us, young and old, contributing to our parish family. The friendship that Christ offers us demands a personal response, a “yes” that alone gives our lives a meaning, a peace that the world cannot give and the promise of future glory.


Fr Martin Boland, October 2023

Canon Patrick Sammon’s Books/CDs

The library and CD collection of Canon Patrick Sammon have been kindly sorted by Father Stewart Foster. Many of his theological
books have been taken to a seminary so that future priests may benefit thereby.

On the weekend of 21/22 October, in the Parish Centre after all the Masses, there will be a sale of the remaining books and CDs.
£1 per item will be charged and the money raised will be sent to the Brentwood Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage Fund to assist those
who wish to go to Lourdes but who might find the cost of the Diocesan Pilgrimage beyond their means. Fr Pat was the Director
of the Lourdes Pilgrimage for many years and did much to assist needy pilgrims.

Certificate of Catholic Practice

A certificate of Catholic practice is required by those parents who are making applications to Catholic schools this year. If you are a practising Catholic (that is, coming to Sunday Mass here at Our Lady of Lourdes) and you require a Certificate of Catholic Practice, Fr Martin will be giving out Certificates at the following times:

i) Catholic Secondary School Applications:    Wednesday 11th October 4.00 -7.00 p.m. at Clergy House.

ii) Catholic Primary School Applications:       Wednesday 8th November 4.00 -7.00 p.m. at Clergy House.

PLEASE NOTE that Fr Martin will not give out Certificates at any other time, so please make sure that you collect the Certificate on the relevant date above


Fr Martin’s Homily from 3rd September 23

Some twenty two years ago, an assistant priest, packed his boxes to leave from here to become the chaplain at the University of Essex. He had only been an assistant at Our Lady of Lourdes for a year but it had left a deep impression on him. He had learnt so much from his parish priest, Fr Pat Sammon, and from the people of the parish. As the curate was leaving, Fr Pat gave him a spare bed to take with him saying “you’ll need this to lay your head on.”

That assistant was me and never did I think that I would return to Our Lady of Lourdes as its parish priest. But God’s plans for us are often surprising and very different to those we might manufacture for ourselves. But what is clear, it is Christ who has brought me here, not a removal van. His plan, not mine.

And it is an honour to re-join your wonderful community of faith. Some of you may be able to retrieve a vague memory of me from my brief time here, others of you will have no idea who I am. But just as I am not the same person I was twenty odd years ago (these grey hairs are evidence of that), so you will have changed, matured, developed, collected a few battle scars along the way as individuals and, indeed, as a community.

I said that I remember this as a wonderful community of faith. This recollection is not to flatter you but just to acknowledge a truth: across the Diocese and beyond Our Lady of Lourdes has long been considered a flagship parish not simply because of the numbers of people who have gathered here to worship God but also because of the quality of their faith, if one  might dare to speak in such crude terms. Men and women, a pilgrim people, who have a real love for Jesus and His Church, a boldness about proclaiming God’s kingdom; heralds of God’s truth; disciples of Christ.

These were the hallmarks of this parish. I sense already that those hallmarks are still in evidence.

More than ever, we need communities of faith and hope, communities that declare aloud that God is steadfast: that He is our rock and our shield. He is love. We need men and women who by their lives proclaim that love’s victory has been won for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. A community that says life is worthwhile; that justice is worth striving for; that beauty, truth and goodness are what make us truly alive.

That community is not some religious fantasy. With the Holy Spirit, the Lord the giver of life, that idea of what we are able to become takes flesh. That community sits in front of me.

But I am also aware of the many challenges that your community has faced in recent years and done so with great dignity and resilience. Like all parishes, you experienced Covid and so many of our communities are still suffering from a spiritual long Covid, a loss of many of our brothers and sisters combined with a certain loss of confidence about their purpose and future. At the same time, Fr Pat Sammon became ill and just over a year ago died. Fr Adrian, a newly ordained priest, was left to care for and steer a course for the community during those uncertain and sad times. He did so with great spiritual and pastoral care.

In the 1970’s there were four priests resident here, then three, two and now one and if you are not depressed enough, it gets even worse, you have ended up with me.

But God’s plan, not ours and maybe this is an opportune moment for us to pause and discern God’s will for us, to become more sensitive to the movements of the Holy Spirit, to find our spiritual bearings and to face the future together with great hope and a renewed sense of mission.

I ask for your prayer, your understanding and your help. If I am to be a teacher, I need to be a learner; to learn from your experiences and how God has touched your lives. If I am to be a man of prayer, I need to be surrounded by your prayer. If I am to take up my Cross and follow the Lord, I invite you to help me to shoulder any trials and challenges we will face together. If I am to be a witness to hope, I need your witness to sustain and strengthen me.

I put before you today a single appeal. Listen to the call of the Holy Spirit. We must grow in trust of God and not fall into the trap of thinking that it all depends on “me”. It doesn’t. It cannot. But together, Our Lady of Lourdes will flourish again as a refuge of prayer and hope for those who are lost, bruised and hurting; a sanctuary of praise for those who wish to give thanks to God.

By the way, I still have and use the bed. I do have somewhere to lay my head. I feel very blessed and humbled to be back.

Fr Martin Boland, 3rd September 2023

Message from Fr Adrian 27.08.23

Dear Friends,

We welcome Father Martin Boland as our new Parish Priest next weekend and I know that you will receive him with the same warmth as you received me three years ago.

I move on to Saint Edmund of Canterbury in Loughton during the week but will always have a special place in my heart for the parish where I was first a priest and that taught me such a lot.


You are caring and vibrant group of parishioners that does much for the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Say a prayer for me from time to time if I come into your mind. Thank you to all who continue to help out in so many ways and have supported and encouraged me during my time at Our Lady of Lourdes.

I will return the parish in the 17th September to celebrate the 6.30pm Mass (with refreshments afterwards) and look forward to seeing you then.

With my prayers

Fr Adrian

Clergy Appointments from 2/3 September

Dear Friends,

Bishop Alan has announced the parish appointments in our diocese for this coming September. Father Martin Boland comes to us in Wanstead as our new Parish Priest.

Father Martin brings many years of priestly experience and was once an Assistant Priest here in the parish. He will be ministering as the only priest in the parish. Bishop Alan has asked me to take up the appointment as Parish Priest of St. Edmund of Canterbury, Loughton.

Please keep all the clergy who are moving this September in your prayers

God bless

Fr. Adrian


The other moves are as follows;


Fr John Harvey: from Loughton to Cathedral

Fr Mark Reilly: from Wickford to Hornchurch, St Mary

Fr Martin Fletcher: from Hornchurch, St Mary to Epping

Fr Britto Belevendran: from Hornchurch, English Martyrs to Wickford

Fr Linu Thankachan: from Ilford, St John the Baptist to Hornchurch, English Martyrs

Fr Clement Orango: from Nottingham Diocese to Stansted as Priest-in-Charge

Fr Henry Mobela: Zambian Chaplaincy in London to Chadwell Heath as Priest-in-Charge

Fr Tarciziu Erdes:Assistant Priest to Parish Priest ofThe Assumption, Hainault


Fr Paschal Uche: from Colchester to Chelmsford, Our Lady Immaculate, Holy Name & Springfield

Fr Jerold Terrence: Kerala to Manor Park

Fr Philip Okoli: Resident at Community of St John, Forest Gate to Colchester

Holy Week 2023




Thursday 9th March 10.30am to 3pm and repeated Saturday 11th March, 10.30am to 3pm.

“Journey in Faith towards Easter”
A time to prepare for this great Feast of the Resurrection in a prayerful environment at The Convent of the Assumption, 13 the Avenue

All are welcome and a light lunch will be provided.