May I begin by thanking you for your support over the first full year of my serving your parish. I thank, especially, the Parish Council, the Fabric Committee and the Finance Committee. Without their efficiency the general administration might be a little chaotic.
As your relatively new incumbent, I am adjusting and being adjusted. I trust you find the running of the Parish reasonably satisfactory. 1 also hope that the spiritual and sacramental needs of the community are being fulfilled. I would also like to thank you for your financial support. The Parish has no debt and has been instrumental in raising money for a number of charitable works. The only major expenditure in the immediate future is the outstanding balance of £7,758 for the new disabled lift (the total cost being £14,106).
Bishop Hugh Gilbert has intimated that a number of changes are likely to be made in the diocese as far as deployment of priests and parish boundaries are concerned. These changes will not interfere or threaten the autonomy of St. Ninian's. The only change, to date being the establishment of the new independent Parish of St. Columba, Culloden. St.Ninian's will no longer be responsible for the area east of the A9 - the A9 forming the official boundary. Many of our parishioners live in that area and their continuing loyalty and financial support of St. Ninian's would be appreciated. Fr Domenico Zanre will begin his new charge as Parish Priest of Culloden on the 1st of June 2015. It is my intention to give him as much support as I can without weakening the autonomy of St. Ninian's Parish. St.Columba's and St. Mary's will be independent of each other and administered accordingly. I have not been privy to any arrangements made by other clergy and depend solely on the instructions of Bishop Hugh.
Nothing has been discussed at deanery level and the only consultation has been the need to change our parish boundary. I understand that Fr Colin Davies is to leave Beauly and become Parish Priest of Wick and Thurso. Fr Domenico will be resident at Beauly until the new presbytery is built at St. Columba's, Culloden. I have been asked by Fr. Bell to go on a Rota to cover Beauly, Cannich, Eskadale, Ullapool and Poolewe and I await confirmation from Bishop Hugh – he may have other ideas
The situation in Raigmore Hospital is even less satisfactory than last year. Sadly, Clara Dungey, the Chaplaincy Secretary, has left and no provision has yet been made either for her replacement or to cover her pastoral work. Clara was the only means of practical communication with the other departments in the hospital and her departure leaves a vacuum.
May I emphasize the very serious need for people and clergy to inform me directly as to who might be in hospital. I have no other effective means of finding out. Very few patients have been referred officially to the Catholic Chaplain since Clara's departure. It may need an approach to higher authority if the system continues to be ineffective. The spiritual welfare of all patients - especially Catholic patients - is paramount. A need hardly recognized by today's society. Although the provision of a Catholic Priest involves no cost to the Health Service we are thrown back on our own devices, despite all the claims about 'wholeness' and 'spiritual needs' of patients and staff.
The parish is indebted to the Dominican Sisters of Cecilia in Elgin for their talks and lectures given over the last year. May I also thank them for their very effective work with our young people. I also appreciate the need for the Sisters to work in conjunction with the catechists in the sacramental preparation of our children. Their welcome expertise must not undervalue the equally professional work undertaken by our own catechists. May I take this opportunity to thank all our catechists most sincerely for the way they attend to the needs of our young people both in preparation for the Sacraments and with the Children's Liturgy. I offer them every assistance. The Sisters have asked to start 'fund raising' for youth events — a request to which I have agreed, subject to reference to our catechists and Parish Council.
It would be good to increase lay involvement with both the everyday working of the Parish and in specific events. This ought to lighten the load of those already committed. The first practical application of this policy has been to recruit additional help to organize and run the Summer Fair. The Open Meeting on Tuesday 19th May was very well attended and much help has been offered. More helpers are needed but the general organization is well in hand. A new team of helpers will supplement the regular faithful in organizing the erection and manning of stalls, the catering and the count of proceeds. It would be good if people were to provide transport for those unable to drive. Please bring along as many children and young helpers as possible. The Summer Fair is our principal social and fund raising event of the year - please come along and bring your friends. Additional offers of help and new ideas to: Gerry Grant, Trish Hallam, Sheila Lamont or Fr. John, please.
Music in the Parish is gradually involving more people- Paul remains on the organ but additional interest is being shown to supplement the Folk Group, The Saturday practices focus on the children and more young musicians are needed to join the group. Many thanks to Archie and David. The Folk Group will be playing at the Summer Fair -additional artistes are welcome to play or sing.
Next year there will be a 'Parish Holiday' in Malta – details will be discussed at the next Parish Council Meeting on Tuesday 2nd of June. The idea is to provide an affordable and flexible holiday for up to 53 people. It will not be under the guise of 'a pilgrimage' and is likely to be a little 'unholy' (Although accommodation will be in a remote priory). I hope non-Catholic spouses might join us.
We also need to remember and support the National Pilgrimage to mark the 400th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of St. John Ogilvie that takes place on Saturday 4th July in Keith. Mass will be at 3.p.m. The main celebrant is Archbishop Leo Cushley and the preacher Bishop Hugh Gilbert. There will be representatives from other denominations, the Civic Authorities and members of the Ogilvie family. This is the National Pilgrimage for 2015 and people will attend from all over Scotland. Please do your best to be there (it has not yet been decided whether to cancel the Vigil Mass in St. Ninian's). There will be a coach leaving from St. Mary's - please make contact if you wish to book a seat.
The Parish List is still very much incomplete and there is no way of contacting many of our parishioners. This is a failing that becomes apparent when urgent contact is necessary. Would those who have not given their details please think of doing so.
The services at Christmas and Easter were well attended but on some Sundays our numbers appear depleted. The annual Head Count in November 2014 was 266. The number of First Confession: 5. First Holy Communions: 5. Confirmations: Nil (11 in December 2013). There were 8 Baptisms, 1 Marriage and 10 Funerals. Please remember all these children, young people, adults and faithfully departed in your prayers,
There has been very little ecumenical activity among the churches and there appears to be a lack of serious interest. Various parishioners are involved locally with charitable endeavours and I am very grateful for their representing our Church.
Thanks are also due to our Eucharistic Ministers, Altar Servers, cleaners and gardeners (remembering especially Neil Leonard for keeping our grounds so beautifully - ready for the Summer Fair!). And our sincere thanks to all of you for participating in the family of St. Ninian's.
With my prayers and God's Blessing.