A HUGE crowd gathered together at a local Christmas Carol Service to celebrate the festive season through singing, mince pies and delicious mulled wine.
The lively annual event was organised and hosted by Aberystwyth’s Saint Vincent De Paul’s society (SVP) in Saint Padarn’s Primary School last Friday (Dec 9) in aid of the work of their society in Sudan and South Sudan.
The St Vincent de Paul Society is an international Christian voluntary organisation that is dedicated to tackling poverty and the disadvantaged by providing practical assistance to those in need.
The Society is a lay organisation, which was formed in Paris in 1833 by Blessed Frédéric Ozanam and his companions and has been active in England and Wales since 1844.
The organisation was inspired by the thinking and works of St Vincent de Paul when placed under his Patronage and through justice and charity; it focuses on those who are suffering poverty in any shape or form.
Despite the dreary winter weather, a good number attended, making the most of the festivities and good company.
Starting at 7pm, the seats were filled with eager people ready to sing their hearts out to a wide variety of hymns and carols.
The school hall was draped in Christmas decorations, from tinsel on the walls to the nativity figurines on the stage within close proximity of the advent wreath. A pre-prepared slideshow drew the attention of the audience to the front as it gave us more information about the work of the SVP in Sudan and South Sudan and, most importantly, where our donations would be going.
To begin, President of the SVP in Aberystwyth, Kevin McMulkin, and Secretary Patrick Donavan welcomed those who attended, talking us through the schedule for the evening before a short introduction about the society and its work.
Everyone then prepared their voices as they sang the first hymn, ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’, which was then followed with a reading conducted by Leontia Slay. Some more of our favourite carols followed, accompanied by two short readings.
The first was read by Patrick Donovan, foretelling the coming of the Messiah and the second read by Madeleine Stocks depicting the appearance of the angels to the shepherds with their good news.
The first half of the service concluded by everyone joining in to sing ‘While Shepherds Watched’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ – festive classics that not only remind us of countless school plays but conjure up images of the true meaning of Christmas.
During the interval, people had the opportunity to feast on a delicious spread by Madeleine Stocks, which included mince pies, sausage rolls, shortbread, mulled wine and mulled juice.
In the second half of the service, the people reconvened to their seats after some time socialising to sing ‘The First Noel’.
With their voices at least temporarily eased by the mulled wine, everyone sat to listen to Patrick Donavan and Anna Kidner recite ‘The Three Kings’ poem by Henry Wadsworth.
Patrick Donavan then went on to introduce the next carol, ‘Faban Bach’ or ‘The Little Baby’ in English. With two fellow parishioners leading the carol from the front of the stage, their harmonious voices reflected the joyful atmosphere in the hall.
The enthusiasm of the crowd continued to increase as they sang ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ and then ‘Angel We Have Heard On High’ before Kevin McMulkin made his way to the front of the hall to reflect on a quote about social justice from the words of Saint Vincent de Paul.
The evening concluded with a passionate rendition of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ firstly in Latin, then Welsh and finally English.
Of course, no event is complete without a raffle draw and so members of the SVP drew tickets and presented prizes divided by moments of laughter and cheers.
From the testimony of those that attended and the good natured atmosphere engulfing the hall, it seemed that the SVP Carol Service helped to bring the Catholic community even closer together at the start of the Christmas period. This certainly demonstrates how much a society like the SVP can make a difference.
After the carol service, The Herald interviewed Kevin McMulkin and asked him to explain more about what the SVP do: “The SVP have operated in Aberystwyth for over 50 years and during its time, as with the rest of the SVP globally, its main purpose has been to seek out and find those in need. A lot of people ask ‘what does ‘those in need’ mean?’ I think the best way to answer that is to consider the meaning behind our motto, ‘turning concern into action’.
“The SVP is an organisation that was set up to assist wherever and by whatever means it could. This could be in the form of practical help, for example giving food to the homeless, moving furniture for a family or by giving financial help towards someone who is struggling or, indeed, by visiting people on a one-to-one basis, which is the activity that is at the heart of the SVP, particularly in Aberystwyth.
“We are, of course, a Catholic charity, but our help is not restricted to those of the Catholic faith – we try to help anyone we know that’s in need any way we can.
“With an ecumenical approach in mind, we also work with the Jubilee Storehouse Food Bank, based in St Anne’s Penparcau, to provide food donation points within the parish. We then collect the food from our parishioners and deliver it to the food bank.
“In recent years, we have expanded our activities and have begun to organise fundraising events, such as the Carol Service, to raise money for the work of the society both here and abroad and also, perhaps just as importantly, to bring people together in a spirit of friendship.”
We then asked Kevin about the organisation and the planning that went into putting on the Carol Service this year, in addition to the Sudan appeal. He responded by explaining: “As you might expect, a lot of work goes into preparing for the Carol Service. We have to find an organist, book the venue and advertise the event at least a month in advance.
“Setting a date can be problematic enough as there are so many events going on at this time of year. As a result, it is really important to stand out so that as many people as possible will turn up on the night and a good amount of money can be raised for this worthy cause.
“Obviously we advertise within the parish, in the parish newsletter and by handing out posters, but the information can get lost in the pre- Christmas rush.
“As this is the third annual SVP Carol Service, as you would expect by now, we have ironed out most of the organisational problems as many things can be repeated. However, the trouble then is keeping it fresh, fun and attractive to the public so that we can raise money for our cause.”
On the reasons why the SVP are raising the money for Sudan, Kevin stated: “Our aim is to raise money for the work of the SVP in Sudan and South Sudan. Sudan has had a long history of conflict since its creation (and later partition) and the SVP estimate internal conflicts have been responsible for the deaths of around two million people and the displacement of over twice that.
“As you can expect, a lot of people are in need and so the SVP there are stretched thin. The SVP in Sudan do what we do here; they try to help those in need, but their work is much more difficult and on a much larger scale, so that is where we come in.
“As part of a program known as SVP Twinnage, our SVP conference in Aberystwyth is twinned with an SVP conference in Sudan/South Sudan and, as a result, each year we raise money via our Carol Service to assist them in continuing their good work. From the past two Carol Services, we have been able to raise over £1,000 for our twinned SVP conference.”
Kevin went on to talk about how he feels the event has been beneficial in bringing the community together: “I think a Carol Service is always something that brings the community together. By its nature, everyone has a role to play in the event. Not just the organisers, but the ordinary people there because without them, there would be no singing and no atmosphere.
“I think if people feel part of something, they will enjoy it more and are increasingly likely to get to know others there. My hope is that on some level it brought our parish community closer together.”
Expressing his hopes for the Carol Service next year, Kevin said: “I think next year we would like to have more people attend, not just Catholic parishioners but also more people from the town because it is an enjoyable event and they should be able to experience it with us.
“I think next year we should consider having it earlier, perhaps at the end of November, to miss the ‘Christmas event rush’, so to speak.”
Concluding the interview, Kevin paid tribute to a member of the society who was sorely missed during the event: “This year’s Carol Service was more solemn than the last as it was the first one without one of our longest serving member, Winnie Livermore.
“She was a member of the SVP in Aberystwyth for over 45 years and embodied what the SVP stood for as she was so generous with her time to care for those most in need.”
Kevin finally added: “She was the fun and good spirit that kept us all together, making this event and others like it even more enjoyable.”
Four further coronavirus cases confirmed in Hywel Dda area
THE LATEST figures from Public Health Wales (PHW) reveal four new cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Hywel Dda Health Board Area.
As of today, June 2, Carmarthenshire identified three new cases, Pembrokeshire has one new case and none in Ceredigion, meaning the new totals stand at 732, 279 and 42.
Wales now has a total of 14,121, with 67 new cases and seven additional deaths recorded, bringing the death total to 1,354.
With Hywel Dda reporting 61 deaths to date.
Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “Contact tracing continues in Wales as part of the Welsh Government’s ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy. Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have come in contact with an individual with Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) in order to prevent the risk of others spreading the infection in our communities.
“Anyone who has a positive Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) test will be contacted by a team of contact tracers, and asked for details of everyone they have had close contact with while they have had symptoms.
“Please keep a note of your activities so you can easily remember your whereabouts on a given day, along with who were in contact with. You do not need to have any concerns about providing names to the tracing team. This is for everyone’s benefit and we are grateful for your continued cooperation.
“If you are asked to self-isolate, you should also comply with this request to prevent further spread of the virus.
“Tracers are trained staff and personal information that you provide will handled in line with data protection regulations and will not be shared widely.
“Over the last few weeks, Public Health Wales has been setting up the methods and guidance for how contact tracing will operate. We will continue to work closely to support local health boards and local authorities in delivering contact tracing.
“Welsh Government’s revised lockdown arrangements also continue. People from two different households in the same local area can meet up outdoors, provided they continue to maintain social distancing and strict hand hygiene.
“The announcement adds that, as a general rule, people should not travel more than five miles from home. This will help to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading as people begin to travel more.
“Revised lockdown arrangements also apply to people in Wales who have been told to ‘shield’ from the virus. They are able to go outside and meet people from another household, provided they keep a two-metre distance.
“Future relaxation of lockdown measures will also be dependent on everyone following advice set out in the ‘Test, Trace, Protect’ strategy, including self-isolating when required.
“Information about the symptoms of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) to look out for is available on the Public Health Wales website, or members of the public can use the NHS Wales symptom checker.
“Anyone experiencing Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) symptoms can now apply for a home testing kit using the new UK online portal. For further information and a link to the booking website, visit: www.gov.wales/coronavirus or www.llyw.cymru/coronafeirws. This will be supported by a national 119 phone service, through which people can also order a home test.
“We are encouraging everyone to download the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) Symptom Study app, which has been supported by Welsh Government. The app allows users to log daily symptoms to help build a clearer picture of how the virus is affecting people. For more information, including how to download the app, visit covid.joinzoe.com.
“As part of wider support measures for families, Public Health Wales is offering all parents, parents-to-be, grandparents and care-givers free access to a series of online courses designed to help them understand the development and emotional milestones of their children, covering everything from pre-birth to late teens.
“To get access users just need to visit www.inourplace.co.uk and use the code ‘NWSOL’ if you live in North Wales, and ‘SWSOL’ if you live in Mid, West or South Wales.
“Public Health Wales is also continuing working to address the negative impact of Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) on the social, mental and physical wellbeing of people in Wales. Our latest campaign, ‘How are you doing?’ is now live and offering practical advice from phw.nhs.wales/howareyoudoing.
“Anyone with a suspected coronavirus illness should not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. They should only contact NHS 111 if they feel they cannot cope with their symptoms at home, their condition gets worse, or their symptoms do not get better after seven days.
“Only call 999 if you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, do not call 999 just because you are on hold to 111. We appreciate that 111 lines are busy, but you will get through after a wait.
“We also want to reinforce the message from NHS Wales that urgent and emergency care services for physical and mental health are still open and accessible.
“For parents, if your child is unwell and you are concerned you should seek help. If you have urgent dental pain you should still call your dentist. If you have a health complaint that is worrying you and won’t go away you should call your GP practice. If you or a family member are seriously ill or injured you should dial 999 or attend your nearest Emergency Department.”
Carers Week goes interactive
CARERS Week runs from Monday 8 June to Sunday 14 June. It is an annual campaign to recognise the contribution that unpaid Carers make to families and communities. Carers look after a friend or family member who cannot manage on their own because they have an illness, poor health, disability, mental health issue or an addiction.
This year so far has been particularly challenging since many people have had to carry on caring while seeing support services change dramatically or pause with no idea when things will go back to any kind of normal.
The Carers Unit and partners have been working hard to bring to carers across the county a big variety of ‘treats’ to let carers know that they are being thought of and to show them appreciation. An extra special Carers week e-bulletin that’s bursting with boredom busting ideas and sanity-saving tools & techniques has been prepared.
Coleg Ceredigion students, working with the Carers Unit, has been preparing online messages of thanks, a family-friendly carer quiz, a student pen-pal project and are encouraging Carers to join them on Sunday, 14 June to raise a cuppa for Carers at 3pm.
The Carers Unit and all of its partners invite Carers to join them at one or more of the over 30 free online sessions that have specifically designed with unpaid Carers in mind. No advance booking necessary.
To find out more information and how to join in with the Carers week celebrations, go to the Carers pages on the council website www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/social-care-wellbeing/support-for-carers/carers-week-2020 council social media pages or contact the Carers Unit on 01970 633564 / firstname.lastname@example.org
‘It takes a strong person to carry on caring – it takes a stronger, more resilient person to reach out to others.’
Man arrested for illegal fishing in Teifi valley
A MAN has been arrested after environmental crime officers from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) spotted an illegal net in a mid-Wales river.
The officers were conducting a routine patrol of the River Teifi on Thursday (May 14) when they came across a net in the water.
Following an investigation carried out in partnership with Dyfed Powys Police, a man was arrested on suspicion of illegal fisheries offences in the Teifi valley.
At the scene, officers retrieved the net which contained seven dead sea trout.
David Lee, NRW’s North and Mid Wales Operations Team Leader, said:
“Thanks to the excellent work of our officers and Dyfed Powys Police we were able to prevent further damage to the Teifi sea trout population.
“We take any activity that threatens sea trout and salmon extremely seriously and this is especially true of illegal fishing.
“Nets can potentially capture large numbers of fish and given the current challenges facing stock numbers currently every sea trout or salmon taken represents another blow to our efforts to protect these iconic fish.”
Despite the current Coronavirus lockdown, NRW officers are continuing to patrol Welsh rivers and people are encouraged to check that fish they buy locally – particularly through social media – are from a legitimate source.
If you see any suspicious or illegal activity on our rivers please report it to the NRW incident hotline on 0300 065 3000.
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