Cold Ash was wonderful. We were spoiled, welcomed and could relax when we were not around the conference table. The national council meeting was a very different experience to anything we have ever done before. It was our first meeting at the Barton premises. We did not have Franciscan accommodation and had to look for places to stay that were relatively cheap. This meant that we were some 3 miles from Barton, not on a direct public transport route. 3 people had cars but there was an overflow so we had to use taxis for some journeys. Breakfast and evening meals were quite cheap. The Friday evening meal was in a pub, next to one of our motels, and we planned to eat at 7.30pm in order to have a full working day on Saturday. This worked but it was all out of our comfort zone.
We learned a lot during our stay. The seat/office has not yet been fully cleared and remains too dusty so we have asked for both these issues to be addressed. It is basic. As Franciscans that should not bother us, providing it is serviceable and does not jeopardise health. One of our regional ministers was thrilled because this is the centre for the Crusade of Mary Immaculate. This is one group we are benefiting by our rent payments. We are also helping the OFM Conventuals to keep the building going. St Maximilian Kolbe would be the obvious Patron Saint if this site is to work. We will be praying to him as we continue our work there.
We had a packed lunch on Saturday. Pam had secured 2 urns, so we just made hot drinks when we were ready. This meant we had a very good and long working day. It was up to council members to decide if we can make this place work for at least the year to which we are already committed. I was relieved when the council agreed. We also met from 9.00 – 1.00 on Mother’s Day – of course we had not realised we would be away on Mothering Sunday when we fixed the date.
Since the council members have agreed, I have now to let you know that we have to pay £10 a day for the building. For this we have a lot of room – office space, storage and meeting facilities – plenty, providing our concerns can be addressed and, as I have indicated, these are considerable. We have no other outgoings for the accommodation – heating is provided, all insurance and maintenance is covered, we have wifi. It is the condition and dinginess of what was, after all, a purpose built printing unit, that we hope to be able to address when we have clear space. Councillors have already offered to come and help, whether practical cleaning and decorating, or on our paperwork – administration and archives. It is spacious so can house our archives. However, we cannot fund it without help from our members.
We decided the way forward is to turn this into a project. The increase in capitation was necessary to enable us to carry out our work – it cannot stretch to this. One region has already offered to pay a months rent. Other regions may offer to do the same. Some individuals and local fraternities will make it into their charity, or make this an additional charity, and agree to make regular or one-off donations. Some members might pay for paper or cartridges, or other stationery that we will need. Some might help with the cleaning costs. In time we may be able to fund raise at the premises.
So this is a major leap of faith. It was essential that national council came and saw, so we could discern. You will understand why it is only now that I can put you all fully in the picture.
I will fill you in on what we have been doing at another time. Here is a document on why we have to have a national seat.
Most importantly this whole project needs prayer.
I hope we all have a reflective Passiontide until Easter and then I wish everyone a happy and joyful Easter season.