Throughout Lent, the office of Evangelisation and Catechesis are delighted to offer weekly stories of accompaniment & the Hope, Faith, Joy, and Love of Christ from the lay faithful of our diocese in the journey of Missionary Discipleship.

Sharon recently completed the diocesan Mission Made Possible discipleship sessions. She is married to Mark with two grown up children and lives in Bournemouth. Sharon has been bought up in the Catholic faith by her Italian mother and her English father, who converted to the Catholic faith later in life. Looking back, Sharon is aware that she was a late developer in understanding the faith when she was young, but the basic teachings of love and kindness were strong. It was when Sharon’s father became very ill that her faith increased, but her epiphany came on the day that her father was to be called back to his Heavenly home.

She went to fetch her priest, who came and gave her father the blessings and prayers to see him safely to his new home. On the return journey to take her priest back to his parish she had an urgent need to ask for the Holy Spirit. Asking the priest whether he ever had the feeling that the Holy Spirit was wanted so much more than was felt at the time, she asked for him to pray for her and invoke the Holy Spirit. Her dear priest said a prayer and it was then that her life changed – the Holy Spirit was indeed with her, like a bolt of lightning she felt different and realised that life was about getting back to Heaven and to save as many souls as possible.

It was early in the morning and I was  walking my dog when after a lovely steady pace my cheeky dog started to pull for no apparent reason. It made me think to myself that I need to get up even earlier now that it is getting light earlier as my dog only walks nicely in the dark.

After a while I saw an elderly man walking his little dog. A little embarrassed about being pulled, I said hello across the road and asked if his dog wanted to meet mine. The man crossed the road and the dogs met. I proceeded to say that my dog was only good in the dark and he explained that his was only good in the light.

I tentatively said my usual thing, that I get up early when it is dark and walk the dog listening to my podcast of prayers on her phone as she goes. Nothing was forthcoming.

After chatting a bit more the man mentioned that he and his wife had got the dog when he was very ill and couldn’t go out for about a year. I asked how he had coped and if he had faith. He didn’t seem to know how to answer the question, as if he wasn’t sure or hadn’t really thought about it. I took the opportunity and just asked whether she could pray for him. He was surprised, but said yes. I asked if I could pray then and there and he said yes. I touched his hand, closed my eyes (as I always do, but half way through opened them as I was aware that I was supposed to watch for reactions) and my prayer was something like, ‘Dear God, please take care of (name), keep him safe, give him strength to cope with whatever may come his way, give him love always and peace in his heart, and his wife too. Amen.’

He was really moved, tears were flowing, even my dog went onto two feet to get nearer his face and give him some love and comfort, it was so beautiful. I apologised for making him cry and asked if they were tears of happiness, he said yes. I told him he would always be in my heart and that I hoped he would find faith and peace. We said goodbye and I proceeded to be pulled down the road and back home with a big smile and much thanks to the Holy Spirit for that encounter.

Fr. Jon Bielawski has been a priest for 32 years. He heads up the department of Evangelisation and Catechesis for the diocese and is co-founder of Genesis Mission for the formation of Missionary disciples. You can hear more of Fr Jon’s encounters here https://podcast.genesismission.co.uk/