The Amazing Interview with a Sutton Coldfield Catholic Priest.

Approximately 50 Sutton Coldfield Catenians and guests enjoyed a memorable night on June the 13th,  being the occasion of the circle’s June meeting, listening to Father Michael Ho Huu Nghia  Parish Priest of Holy Trinity, Sutton Coldfield, being interviewed by Past President Peter Westbrook. The theme of the interview was the surprises he has experienced and who would he invite to dinner and why. 

One of Father Michael’s most significant experiences was as a ‘boat person’ fleeing Vietnam. Along with 76 other people, they endured 17 days at sea. Towards the end of that period, a lady gave birth to a child in front of everyone in the boat. Father Michael prayed for rescue and vowed that if they were rescued he would ‘try to be good man all his life’.   Right on cue, a British ship rescued them the following day. For the first time, he experienced British tea and perhaps more importantly the compassion the crew showed them. This surprised him as he had seen very little of it before! Indeed one of the things he loves about the British is the amount of compassion shown to other people; another great surprise. 

Past President Peter Westbrook interviewing Father Michael

Whilst most of his boat comrades opted for settlement in the USA, Canada, or Australia, Father Michael was determined to go to the UK as he had been rescued by a British ship. He was temporarily settled at Eccleshall in Staffordshire (which ironically is Celtic for Church place) where he was surprised to hear a fellow inmate state that he had left one hell to go to another, owing to the weather. However, he was surprised when this fellow inmate stayed and became an eminent surgeon in Manchester. It was whilst at Eccleshall,  a local catholic priest Father Sandy Brown came to see them all and offered comfort and any treats. Father Michael asked for a bible, not only for his Christian faith but also to help him learn English. 20 years later, Father Michael received an immense surprise when listening to Father Brown recount the story of him giving a bible to some poor Vietnamese refugee in Eccleshall, and this resulted in that person learning more about Christianity resulting in him becoming a priest. The astonished congregation then heard Father Michael say afterward that he was that poor Vietnamese refugee!    

Father Michael’s brother, was another boat person who left Vietnam and became interned in Indonesia. However, after a certain period, the authorities were determined to send such interns back to Vietnam. Father Michael was desperate to help his brother but didn’t know how, until someone suggested he write to the British Prime Minister John Major. Father Michael was surprised to not only receive a reply but also that his brother would be released and sent to the UK. 

Father Michael, studied in Rome for the priesthood and was surprised to meet Pope John Paul the second on a number of occasions and recounted how the Pope addressed him and remembered him. He was there when the Pope was shot and subsequently forgave the perpetrator. A great inspiration for the young aspiring priest. 

Catenians and guests listening to Father Michael’s amazing journey.

On being asked who he would invite to dinner, Father Michael equivocated but when pressed said it would be Archbishop Bernard Langley of Birmingham, Daniel Hurd, Father Gwilym Lloyd of St Anne’s  Streetly (a longstanding friend). When reminded that this was still short a list he desperately added two more Peter and Sandra Westbrook. When asked about what the meal would be, he recounted Archbishop Bernard’s visit to Holy Trinity when he clearly enjoyed Fish and Chips from ‘Be my Chip’ in Sutton Coldfield.   

The interview lasted an hour but could have lasted many more, as it was clearly apparent that many more anecdotes and stories were still to be explored. The audience was captivated by Father Michaels’ humility, experiences, and of course his humor. It was an excellent evening. 

What have trees done for us?

This was the question posed to us by Jane Finlay, President of the British Landscape Association. This simple question strikes at the heart of our complacent and generally uncaring attitude towards trees. We take them for granted and cut them down without thinking. Yet as children, we loved them, climbing their up their trunks and branches, building tree houses and playing hide and seek. As we have got older, we forgot how much pleasure they gave us and have treated them as some utility to be exploited. The older we got the less wise and more uncaring we became. This sad state of affairs is having strong consequences which cannot ignore.

It is now time to re-acquaint ourselves with what trees do for us. They:

  • Remove harmful gases
  • Remove airborne particulates
  • Improve weather patterns
  • Cool urban areas
  • Stabilise the soil and prevent erosion
  • Reduce and prevent water pollution
  • Reduce the risk of flooding by up to 20%
  • Reduce noise pollution
  • Sequesters carbon
  • Improves out health, for example we are less likely to use anti-depressants if we have trees nearby
  • Are a source of medicines
  • Provide food for a wide variety of wildlife. Indeed the common Oak supports 2300 species
  • Re-javanite our towns, making them more attractive and encourage people to visit and companies to invest in them

Jane urged us to think more about the importance of trees and help them to thrive, if only for our own sakes. More practically, she offered us all a tree to plant. Most of us did so.

A wonderful, thought provoking talk that has spurred many of us into a far more pro-active approach to support one of our planets greatest asset; our trees.

Please take a look at Jane Findlay’s slides for her presentation.

Hard Talk at Sutton Coldfield Circle

Sutton Coldfield circle at their March meeting learned of a new material called Graphene that can revolutionise many industries from construction to electronics. Undertaking the presentation was Adrain Nixon one of the world’s leading exponents of Graphene development. He explained that Graphene which is a new advanced material revolution occurs naturally inside graphite.

Adrain Nixon, one of the world’s leading exponents of Graphene development

It is 200 times stronger than steel, flexible and transparent, the world’s best conductor of electricity and 100 times more tear-resistant than steel. It can be and is being used in a range of industries- motor manufacturing, in rubber tyres to improve wear resistance and fuel economy, in sports shoes to make rubber soles stronger, more elastic and hard-wearing, inclusion in concrete for flooring and space development. The many uses of the material raised interesting questions from those present which included visitors from Kenilworth and Streetly circles.

Anne O’Meara  R.I.P

Anne O’Meara

Members and their wives of Sutton Coldfield Circle received the news of the death on 17th January 2022 of Anne with great sadness. Wife of our member Joe O’Meara , Anne was 65 and had been suffering from Alzheimer’s and died peacefully from secondaries to breast cancer in a nursing home in Sutton Coldfield. She was a  leading West Midlands property lawyer and a partner in the Birmingham Office of  Squire Patton Boggs. She will be greatly missed in the circle and her parish of Holy Trinity Catholic Church  Sutton Coldfield as a lay reader, for her friendship, care of others, and willingness to assist whenever required.

Celebrating Valentine’s Day and a Birthday Surprise

Members and Guests enjoying the evening.

Sutton Coldfield Catenians hosted a Valentine’s event at their meeting on Monday 14th February at Moor Hall Hotel, Sutton Coldfield. Members wives and guests were entertained to cheese and red wine tasting with all having to identify the name of a range of wines and cheeses, country of origin and if possible for the wine the price. Organising the event was the circle’s own sommelier Tony Walsh. Taste buds were severely strained. There were a few correct answers but the availability of free samples of red wine seemed to overtake any identification required. All seemed to enjoy themselves no doubt with a few hangovers the following morning!!!! However, the highlight of the evening was the presentation of a bouquet of flowers by President Peter Westbrook to the circle’s own Valentine – Val Hopkins wife of circle member Paddy Hopkins who was celebrating her birthday that day.

Birthday Girl Val Hopkins with husband Paddy and the Valentine Bouquet.

An Enjoyable Christmas Party hosted by Sutton Coldfield Catenians

All enjoying the festive evening.

Over 50 members, wives and guests enjoyed a very festive Christmas Party at the Circle’s venue Moor Hall Hotel on Monday 13th December. It was an evening for relaxing and enjoying the festive period and after a traditional meal all were able to join in a Christmas themed quiz and Christmas carols and songs the highlight being the 12 days of Christmas which had all on their feet amid much confusion and laughter.

All enjoying the festive evening.

November Meeting – Stories of Survival, Reinvention and Success

Sutton Coldfield Catenians had the pleasure of 2 speakers for the November meeting held on Monday 15th November – Dave Price and Mo Berry. Their stories were riveting and very relatable to the audience. Despite life-changing episodes, both speakers met people who invited them to completely alien events which were to prove the starting points for completely new careers. Dave from running a successful digital marketing company to becoming a television and film extra and Mo from being formally married to Tony Martin of Black Sabbath and travelling all over the world for concerts suffering a mental breakdown to starting her own training company.

Left to right: Dave Price, Brother President Peter Westbrook and Mo Bury

Their full presentations can be found in the History Corner.

October Circle Meeting: Race Night and Awarding of 40 year Membership Certificates

Presentation of 40 year certificates –  From left to right – Brother Provincial President  Jim Gillen , Brother President Peter Westbrook together with the 40 year certificates –  Brothers Geoff Dorrett,  Jim Phillips and Peter Blackburn.

Members of Sutton Coldfield Catenians together with their wives and guests enjoyed an exciting race night at their October meeting on Monday 11th October at Moor Hall Hotel , Sutton Coldfield. With several recorded televised races being shown there was heavy betting with winners and unfortunately losers! However much fun was enjoyed by all and over £ 700 was raised for Brother Peter Westbrook’s chosen charity –Macmillan Cancer Support. The highlight of the evening was the awarding of 40 year membership certificates by Brother Provincial President Jim Gillen to Brothers Peter Blackburn, Jim Phillips and Geoff Dorrett ( now of Windsor Circle) who all joined Sutton Coldfield Circle at the same meeting in September 1981.

Punters placing their bets – Some winners and some losers!

Kill as few patients as possible

Professor Amanda Burls

Professor Amanda Burls giving her presentation.

Amanda Burls, Emeritus Professor at City University delivered a sparkling and hugely informative presentation to Sutton Catenians on September the 13th. In a very inter-active talk, Professor Burls challenged medical thinking and assumptions about best practice in medicine, ‘common sense logic’ and the confidence people had in their own opinions on a range of conditions and practice. This has caused many unnecessary lives. One classic example is the failure to use over many, years to acknowledge and use best evidence in advising mothers on how to let babies’ sleep; on their backs or their fronts. Over 10,000 babies’ lives could have been saved.

Professor Burls believed there is an urgent need to a ‘top down’ drive to create a culture which systematically and regularly mandates clinicians to look for best evidence. In order to facilitate this need and to counter these barriers to use best evidence practices, Professor Burls has developed a free website which accesses the very best advice for any medical condition. It is:

Circle brothers and visitors enjoying the dinner and presentation.

We had a mixture of Catenians and visitors attending, resulting in great questions and hopefully meeting new friends. It was a highly stimulating and enjoyable event. Indeed, quotes some of the quotes from the evening were:

‘Excellent talk’..’Mind blowing facts from someone who knows her stuff’..’Some incredible facts and figures’….’I was spell bound’

A fuller summary of Professor Burls’ talk is found on History Corner.

It is nearly time for the next exciting catenian event!

Professor Burls will be giving a talk entitled ‘Kill as few patients as possible’ on September 13th at Moor Hall hotel in Sutton Coldfield. Professor Burls is one of the world’s leading experts in evidence based medicine. She is also a great speaker. Sutton Catenians want to reach out to a much wider audience, including atheists and agnostics (as Justin Brierley does in the previous article) and engage in great conversations about a variety of subjects. We are now busy promoting this event with leaflets, social media etc.  Tickets can be bought via our What We Do page!

We want to facilitate a great event which every attendee thoroughly enjoys and hopefully meets the friend they never knew they had.

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