Approximately 50 Sutton Coldfield Catenians wives and guests enjoyed a memorable occasion on the night of the June circle meeting on Monday 13th June 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 were the surprises he has experienced and the people he 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 a 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.
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 afterwards that he was that poor Vietnamese refugee!
Father Michael, studied in Rome for the priesthood and was surprised to meet Pope John Paul the second on a number if 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.
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 a local fish and chip shop.
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 were captivated by Father Michaels’ humility, experiences and of course his humour. It was an excellent evening.
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 Adrian Nixon one of the world’s leading exponent of Graphene development. He explained that Graphene which is a new advanced material revolution occurs naturally inside graphite . 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.
Sutton Coldfield Circle hosted a Valentine’s event at their meeting on Monday 14th February at Moor Hall Hotel, Sutton Coldfield. Brothers, 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 Brother 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 Brother President Peter Westbrook to the circle’s own Valentine – Val Hopkins wife of Brother Paddy Hopkins who was celebrating her birthday that day.
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. For further details of both Dave and Mo’s stories visit www.suttoncoldfieldcatenianscircle232.com and go to the history corner.
There was a surprise award for Brother Michael Gaffney of Sutton Coldfield Circle who is Master of Ceremonies , at Holy Trinity , Sutton Coldfield on Sunday 14th November 2021. After the Confirmation Mass Brother Michael was presented with The Gold Medal of Merit of the Guild Of St Stephen For Altar Servers having achieved 50 years of serving on the Altar . Making the presentation was Bishop David Evans , Auxiliary Bishop of Birmingham. Michael is responsible for the training of all the servers in the parish and is fully supported in his role by the parish priest Father Michael Ho Huu Nghia. Michael was greatly honoured by the award and considers it’s a vocation and privilege to serve the church in this ministry.
Sutton Coldfield Circle’s October meeting witnessed a unique event when three brothers — Peter Blackburn, Jim Phillips and Geoff Dorrett (now of Windsor Circle) — were presented with 40 year scrolls by Brother Provincial President Jim Gillen of Stoke-on-Trent Circle. The event was unique as all three brothers joined Sutton Coldfield Circle on the same evening in September 1981. All three brothers have given outstanding service over the years in such offices as President, Secretary, Treasurer and Welfare Officer. The October meeting was also a circle race night when brothers, visitors and friends were able to become winners and, unfortunately, losers. However, £700 was raised for Brother President Peter Westbrook’s charity – Macmillan Cancer Support.