Hospitality, perpetual adoration planned near Olympics

From the Catholic Herald: 

Twenty-four hour exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will be held in St Francis of Assisi’s church, Stratford, east London, throughout the Olympic Games, it has been announced.

Not just in London but throughout the country the Church is gearing up for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Priests and religious will be on hand in the Olympic Village for athletes, coaches and officials, with chaplains available for visitors to the Games. Spiritual and pastoral hospitality centres at St Francis’s church and at Westminster Cathedral will offer Masses in different languages, talks by priests, and will also provide a place for volunteers at the Games to “chill out”, according to Frank van Velzen, assistant Catholic coordinator of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Church is a leading participant in More Than Gold, an ecumenical venture to involve Christians in the Olympics, supporting competitors and visitors with “outreach”, hospitality and service. Every parish is being encouraged to become involved, providing a Gold Champion who will be a link between More Than Gold and the local Christian community.

There will be festivals both in London and around Britain, and Christian witness on the streets, with “street pastors” at stations around London. In just one of many activities being planned, four Christian theatre groups will put on plays related to the Olympics.

CNS has additional details:

St. Francis of Assisi, stands just a quarter-mile east of the Olympic Park. Two large marquees have been erected and fitted with big screen televisions in the church parking lot to broadcast all events live. Free refreshments were to be offered 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

“It is a very casual hospitality suite,” Frank van Velzen, assistant Catholic coordinator for the games, told CNS July 26.

“We have got table tennis and badminton and games for the youngsters to play but there is also a quiet prayer garden for people to get away from the noise,” he said.

St. Franciscan parish will see its clergy increase more than threefold as local pastors are joined by friars from Italy and Portugal so confessions can be heard in several languages and Mass and Benediction can be celebrated with unusual frequency.

The church was to be open around the clock for eucharistic adoration.

On July 29, athletes and their families were expected to pack the church when Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez Nieves of San Juan, Puerto Rico, was to celebrate Mass for the Puerto Rican national team.

The hospitality effort not only was to provide spiritual comfort to visitors but to make the churches better known to the wider London community.

Father Michael Dunne, the pastor of Our Lady and St. Catherine of Sienna Parish, also hosting a hospitality center, is aware of the witness the church would give to people who pass by during the games.

The church is situated on one of the main thoroughfares running west from the Olympic Park to central London and thousands of people will walk past its doors each day.

“We are very excited and want to share the faith,” Father Dunne said.

“It is very important that we witness to Christ among us,” he explained. “This is faith-sharing on the maximum scale.”

Parishioners and volunteers were planning to stand on outside the church, offering visitors free bottles of water and votive candles and inviting them into the church. Sporting events were to be shown on a big screen television in the church hall. The parish garden, with 48 varieties of roses and a large statue of Mary, will be open for prayer


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