Thursday, 02 February 2017 11:35

Never Forget

Holocaust Memorial Day is marked on the 27th January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi Death Camps. It is a chance to pause and reflect and remember: to remember the millions of people who have been murdered or whose lives have been irrevocably changed by the holocaust and by subsequent and ongoing genocides.

It is a time to look back, to create a safe space to grieve for lives damaged and lost: but it is also a time to look forward: to a time when we can truly say "never again". The value of our history is to be found in the lessons we can learn for our future

Birmingham commemorated Holocaust Memorial Day with an event at the Town Hall on Sunday 22nd February. Past and present suffering were powerfully evoked amidst a reminder that it is all of us, and each of us, who hold the responsibility to ensure that "never again" becomes a reality.

One speaker, who had been a child refugee welcomed to Britain during the Second World War spoke of visiting the Calais Jungle, connecting it to his own experience. This matters to me, he said, because I too was a refugee. He told the story of how his mother, who should have been able to join him in the UK in 1940, was prevented from doing so by bureaucratic delay … until it was too late: another life lost. He mourned for how little seems to have changed, how little has been learned. Bureaucratic delays still keep people away from our shores. I wonder if anyone is counting how many deaths have their names in piles of paper on a home office desk.  

One of our own Sudanese students dared to stand up in front of a crowded banqueting hall to tell his own, more recent, experience of surviving genocide and escaping Darfur. It was a story of destruction and pain and separation and suffering. He demonstrated overwhelming courage to share so articulately the story of things which no-one should ever have to experience. It was a story which was hard to speak but which he realised needed to be heard. It was a story that included the words "It is not just me. Everyone from Sudan, they have terrible stories." He wants the world to know, because he wants the world to help. How we wish we knew better how we could. 

There is much to weep over: in our history, and in our present. But running throughout the event there was also a thread of hope: the indomitable human spirit which, while clearly capable of great cruelty is also capable of great acts of humanity, loyalty and love. It was, as an Auschwitz Survivor who shared their experiences at the event said: "Love and life itself which allowed me to go.”

We all play a part in creating the future: we must decide what we want that future to look like. Genocide never “just happens”: the possibility of it is spawned from a language of exclusion and hatred and fear; it creeps up, fed by policies and practices designed to sow division and distrust; fed by our reluctance to rock the boat and the complacency of our comfortable life. 

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems of our world: but to do nothing is not a solution. To stand by and watch the suffering of others, or to turn the other way so we don't have to watch is not a solution. We have to begin somewhere, but most of all we have to begin. Each of us, all of us. In our own small ways, we can choose gestures of trust instead of fear, of welcome instead of exclusion, of love instead of hate. 

Here we will begin by saying to those who come to our shores seeking the freedom and safety they so desperately need, “you are welcome here” We will aspire be symbols of that "love and life itself" which allows hope to go on.

Published in St. Chad's Blog
Wednesday, 19 August 2015 13:29

The Sanctuary Summer School: A week of fun and activities!

Asylum Seekers in BirminghamLast week, the Sanctuary held its yearly Summer school. The school provides an opportunity for our students and volunteers to come together, have some fun and try something new outside of our normal timetable. It was a week of varied, creative and some unusual activities. Monday hosted poetry and craft workshops in which the students were able to express themselves and create beautiful glass artwork. Games for beginners took place on Wednesday and on Friday our students enjoyed Jam making and guitar lessons. Whenever the activities were not taking place, there were games and refreshments available so people could sit, relax and bond. 
Tuesday and Thursday were a little different. On Tuesday, we all jumped on a coach and headed over to the National trust site Hanbury Hall. As we drove out of the city and into the Countryside our students were so happy to see animals and lots of greenery, reminding many of their homes. We were welcomed by the volunteers at Hanbury Hall and enjoyed a musical picnic as our Jesuit friends played instruments and sang to entertain us all on what turned out to be a beautiful summer’s day. We spent the day exploring the gardens and the hall before travelling back into the city to finish off the week!
Thursday was our big day! We all celebrated the end of the ESOL year and awarded the students their certificates during the annual summer BBQ. We prayed for good weather, and clearly fortune was on our side as the glorious sun shone throughout the entire day! The day was held at the Archbishop’s beautiful and colourful garden, which was filled with our 

students, regular visitors, benefactors and friends. We were lucky enough to be joined by some young people from NCS The Challenge. The young
 people entertained everyone with their drumming and singing and even started an impromptu and highly competitive game of football with our students. Alongside the wonderful sunshine and games, we feasted on BBQ food until the presentation ceremony began. Each student was awarded their certificate and the ceremony closed with one of our students asking to say a few words. He pulled out a carefully folded piece of paper and began to share his dreams of being able to read and write in English. Here he was in front of everyone, reading a speech exclaiming how grateful he was for all the help he’d had; help which allowed this very poignant moment to happen. Never had we heard such an applause and we ended the day with warm hearts and happy faces, already looking forward to next year’s BBQ. 
Each year both volunteers and students say the Summer School is a great way to be able to spend some time with each other and get away from the usual busy week at The Sanctuary. This year we felt this was so true and so important, that we have decided to incorporate some aspects into our new and revised timetable (to be released soon) to ensure we keep the feel good factor all year round. 
To everyone that was involved in any way in the Summer School, thank you for making it such a fantastic week and anyone who was unable to come, there’s no excuse for next year!
Published in St. Chad's Blog
Wednesday, 10 December 2014 00:00

A Few Reflections


Steph at St Chad's Sanctuary

Steph’s Poem

Being with the ESOL students at St Chad’s has inspired the following poem. I’m not sure, really, I have the right to write from the perspective of an asylum seeker, after all, what would I know? But with that proviso, and in the hope that those who have lived the experience for real would understand that I hope to express something in support of them, not belittle their experiences, here it is:


-Am I here ?

I am here

And in amongst
The cold grey concrete
Is a silence
Which does not sing
Like the warm red dust
Of home

That offered hope
That does not seem
So golden as it looked
When glimpsed
From in amongst
My shattered
war torn

And will you look
And try to see
That I am me
Just me

Or will you turn
Your eyes away
From all I’ve lived
And loved
And lost

And will you hear
My children’s tears
For what they hoped
And dared to dream
That cannot be

Or will you turn
Your ears away
From faltered words
That cannot say
All I have brought
And wish to

And all is cold
So cold
As I stand hunched
Against harsh grey skies
Of biting wind
And bitter, angry fear

You hold
A hand out to me
And speak
A whispered breath
Of warmth
And welcome

When you notice
That I
Just I
I am here

by Stephanie Neville



Blessed Nicolas Barré

Nicolas Barré founder of the Infant Jesus Sisters was born in France on October 21st 1621.  He was educated by the
Jesuits, joined the Order of Minims of St. Francis of Paola and ordained priest in 1645.  He died in Paris on May 31st 1686

17th century France suffered the ravages of war, a terrible plague and in 1662, when the Institute of Infant Jesus Sisters had its beginnings, half the children in Rouen died of famine.  Many were homeless and wandered the streets as beggars and for some, prostitution was the only means of livelihood.

Nicolas Barré was very concerned about those who were ‘far from God’ and very disadvantaged.  He saw the need to make basic education more accessible to all. Nicolas deplored what he considered to be a great evil: the lack of education and learning.  There were hardly any schools for girls and very few for boys. Most primary school teachers were poorly educated and religious education was almost non-existent; there was profound ignorance of the gospel.

Nicolas invited others to join him in meeting this need and the first non- fee paying school was opened near Rouen in 1662. He urged his teachers not to wait until pupils arrived at the school; they were to seek out especially those who might have been at risk.   He also set up Trade Schools so that girls could earn their living.  Again, the education offered was to be entirely free and any profit derived from the pupils’ work was to go to them.

Nicolas encouraged the first members of the Institute to offer human and spiritual support in a variety of ways depending on the needs of those they met.  He encouraged them to go out to people in their surroundings; to find those who had lost direction in their lives and to look after people who were sick and abandoned.  He led them in ‘prayer of the heart’ by contemplating the mystery of a God who out of love for humanity became ‘even a little child’.  This way of praying deepened their humility and their abandonment to the will of the Father in union with Christ.  The history of the Institute up to the present day bears testimony to an amazing spirit of courage and daring born from this dependence on Providence, especially when its members are faced with what may seem like insurmountable obstacles!  Here is one of my favourite quotes from his writing:

‘It is in the valley of the greatest misfortune and tears that God is pleased to bring the soul to the heights – heights that reach even the infinity of God’s greatness.  Experience shows that one can see the stars shining more brightly from the bottom of a well than in full daylight from the ground above’.  (R.R.)

The work of Nicolas Barré is carried on today by the international Institute of Infant Jesus Sisters and by lay women and men who are inspired by his spirit.  Nicolas Barré was beatified on March 7th. 1999.

Margaret Walsh IJS (Infant Jesus Sister)  (October 2012)


For further information:




Novena to the Holy Spirit:


After his resurrection from the dead and before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples tostay in the city until they are‘clothed with power from on high.’ (Luke 24:49)

Faithful to the Lord’s wishes, the disciples returned to the Upper Room in Jerusalem where ‘they all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus’ (Acts 1:14). When the day of Pentecost came, the promise of the Father was fulfilled and ‘all of them were filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 2:4).

To be a follower of Christ, we, like the first disciples, need to be clothed with power from on high, and filled with the Holy Spirit. Pentecost Sunday falls onMay 19th this year. Beginning today, May 10th, we might wish to return to our own special ‘upper room’ and make a Novena of prayer leading up to this celebration.



Let us pray:

Divine Being, in possession of my soul,

Holy Spirit, hidden in my inmost being,

Sacred Flame, consuming from within my bones,

Spirit of the spirit of my flesh,

No longer need we search for you abroad,

since you surround us on all sides,

and are present in the very depths of our being.

We imagine you as dwelling in the highest heaven,

yet you are to be found here among us

in the lowliest places. (Nicolas Barré: Spiritual Canticle 1)

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.

And kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.

And you will renew the face of the earth.

O God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of your faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise, and ever rejoice in your consolation.

Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Published in Reflections
Friday, 26 September 2014 11:37

A poem by one of our Asylum Seekers, Agnes.

Agnes Tanoh is a regular attender at Sr. Margaret’s BSOL (Bible for Speakers of Other Languages) class. The class have been studying the Lord’s Prayer, and were asked to write their own versions of it for homework.


A word to my God.


Why can’t I overcome?

These are the questions I ask myself daily.

Even though times are hard,

In this difficult situation,

I have taken the decision to have confidence in You.

You are the same today and tomorrow,

You are faithful for you have never let me fall.

This is why I have never doubted You

You provide for my needs according to Your generosity.

You are my support, my refuge and my stronghold

Apart from You, I have no one else to call on

Even if everything is hard, I have decided to believe in Your word.

YawheJire, you will provide.

Glory to You for all eternity. Amen


by Agnes Tanoh

Published in St. Chad's Blog
Friday, 05 September 2014 11:31

Poetry by St. Chad's Sanctuary Asylum Seekers

After a very successful summer school in August 2014, we can now start to see the fruits of our Asylum Seekers’ labours.


Stephanie Neville ran a Poetry workshop and below is one group’s poem. Well done Steph.


Poetry Group at St Chad's Sanctuary


The Magic Box

(Inspired by Kit Wright’s Magic Box)

By Murad, Hamid, Nasradin, Adel and Fadi


I will put in the box

The fresh sea air blowing across the beach

The joyful sounds of splashing and laughter

The taste of salty sea water on the tip of my tongue


I will put in the box

My first innocent idea when I wake up in the morning sunlight

The glorious adventure of a wonderful childhood

The happy memory of the days of my past where there were no cloudy skies


I will put in the box

The journey to discover a world I have never seen before

The sound of new languages when I travel the world

A carnival atmosphere where everyone understands the language of dancing and music


I will put in the box

My first kiss, my first sadness, my first forgiveness, my first goodbye

A rainbow of emotions over which I fly with bird-like wings

A celebration of the memory of the first day of a new life


My box is fashioned from dreams becoming a new reality,

with smiles on the lid and laughter in the corners.

Its hinges are the innocent kisses of children.


I shall surf in my box

On the great high-rolling breakers of the wild Atlantic

Then wash ashore on a yellow beach

The colour of the sun.

Published in St. Chad's Blog
Thursday, 31 July 2014 10:58

St. Chad's Sanctuary Summer School

We had another successful Summer school this year.  We had a variety of activities, gardening, Let’s Cannon Hill Park, singing, Fun English, photography, a Garden Party and a trip to the Black Country Museum!  For more photos, please see the photo sets in Event Pictures, in our media section.

Published in St. Chad's Blog
Friday, 11 April 2014 11:22

Artwork for the new St. Chad's Sanctuary brochure

Thanks to Carol Meredith for her painting that we have used on the cover of our latest brochure. Thanks Carol, it looks fab! What does everyone think?

Artwork for the new St. Chad's Sanctuary brochure


Artwork for the new St. Chad's Sanctuary brochure

Published in St. Chad's Blog
Thursday, 13 February 2014 11:12

Computer goes pop, and Aria to the Rescue

And when our old office computer went pop and we had the blue screen of death, who steps in to the rescue with a new computer, our knight in Shining Armour, our Secret Millionaire, Aria.


Thank you so much Aria and everyone at Aria Technologies.

Published in St. Chad's Blog
Thursday, 06 February 2014 11:05

Christ The King Visit St. Chad's Sanctuary

We recently had a lovely hour with some of the teachers and pupils from Christ the King Roman Catholic Primary School. They had several collections for hygiene items for the Asylum seekers visiting us at St Chad’s Sanctuary.


It was lovely to chat with you all. Thank you all very much for your support and efforts.

Published in St. Chad's Blog
Thursday, 06 February 2014 00:00

Take the Lead with Pierre

For those of you who love to dance, you might have heard of Pierre Dulaine, whose life was the inspiration for the Hollywood blockbuster film ‘Take The Lead’ which starred Antonio BanderasPierre’s sister Amanda is a volunteer teacher at St Chad’s Sanctuary. Pierre recently visited us at St Chad’s Sanctuary…but at this time Sister Margaret took the lead!

Pierre Dulaine at St Chads Sanctuary

Published in In the Media
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