Mansfield 197 goes to Malta 2016

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A group of 10 brothers and wives took themselves off to Malta for the last ever International Conference of the Catenian Association, to witness the inauguration of Bro David Rowley as the Grand President of the Association. As most of the brothers of the Circle know, David has been Director for Province 15 for the last 5 years and has been a great friend to Mansfield and Dukeries Circle over that period.

For many of the group this was their first time in Malta and their first Catenian Conference. We have not been disappointed on either count: the Maltese brothers we met lived up to their friendly and welcoming reputation; the weather was fantastic all weekend (barring a strong breeze at the entrance to the Conference hotel) so most of us have returned with an improved complexion, i.e., a tan; the Conference was very inspiring, not least the talk from Fr Dermot Donnelly who spoke about the work of CYMFed (Catholic Youth Ministry Federation); and the visits we made to various parts of the island have given us a flavour of Malta’s history and culture. Some of the group decided to make the best of the opportunity since they did not have work commitments and went out to Malta for a full week starting on Tuesday 10 May; the remainder arrived on Thursday (12 May) and returned to the UK on Monday (16 May).

The Conference began for Peter and Richard when they attended the 100th meeting of St Julian’s (346) Circle on Wednesday evening (May 11th) in the Radisson Blu Hotel. The next day was spent enjoying the delights of Valletta.

Karol, Angela, Martin and Terry arrived on Thursday afternoon and, after settling into their rooms, went off to explore St Julian’s Bay and Paceville before having a meal and a walk along the promenade in the balmy evening air.

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Terry, Martin and Angela at Portomaso Marina, selecting their new yacht

 

 

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St Julian’s Bay at night

Day in Valletta

We all met up on Friday morning at breakfast and discovered that two Chesterfield brothers (Ted Bennett and Harold Sharpe) were also staying at the same hotel. After some discussion about what to do, some went off to Marsaxlokk village to have a look round, whilst the rest of our group went over to Valletta by bus (only €1.50 single) with the Chesterfield brothers. It was really warm but we enjoyed looking at the sights: going down Republic Street (Triq Ir-Repubblika)  we saw the main square which has the new Parliament Building, the National Library (Bibliotheka), St John’s Co-Cathedral, and the  President’s Palace in St George’s Square.

 

Coffee beckoned, as we needed a bit of a sit-down, and then we visited the Shipwreck Church on our way up to the Upper Barrakka Gardens where you get the best views of the harbour and the “3 cities”. By this stage it was time for lunch and the five of us ended up in a really nice restaurant called the Palazzo Preca, just behind the Law Courts. Feeling much refreshed, we walked down to the Sliema Ferry and caught the boat back so we had plenty of time to get ready for the evening reception.

The Welcome Reception

Friday night was the first big event. We were expecting that only new attendees were to gather early but, as there were so many “newbies”, it soon became evident that the event was open to everyone attending the conference and we were surrounded by 1000 people. The champagne reception was rather a free-for-all which gave some of us a chance to rub shoulders with old friends (among them some from Province 15’s huge contingent of about 120) and to make new friends.

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Peter has begun a new sub-group within the Association: he and at least two other brothers sported some rather snazzy striped blazers (see above) and could well have set a trend.

The Conference

Saturday morning saw the men leaving for the Radisson Blu once more and gathering for the conference. For a “newbie” it was interesting to see how close the proceedings followed the format of a Circle meeting, with Grand President invested with his insignia before the prayers and then a series of reports/speeches. If you are keen to see what went on, have a look at the other posting where you will find a link to the live stream which was recorded and broadcast to any members that wished to follow what went on.

Significant inputs were from Fr Dermot Donnelly (brother of “Dec” from “Ant and Dec”) who gave a very moving talk about the work that he is involved in with young Catholics; and Phil Harris (former Director of Province 15, now Director of Province 18) who talked about the benefits of the Bursary Fund and introduced two Maltese beneficiaries who talked about the experiences they had in Ethiopia, working in a hospital for the dying in Addis Ababa.

Following the conference, Grand President held a special reception for all the Province 15 brothers and wives who had made the effort to go to Malta.

Ladies’ Tours

Whilst the men were involved with the business meeting at the conference, some of our Ladies went off to the Palazzo Parisio, a  stately home in Naxxar, which showcases the intricate nuances of Malta’s historic nobility and their enchanting way of life from the Grand Ballroom, the detailed Family Chapel and the fabulous Gardens and orangery. The house was being set up for a wedding later that day and there were so many on the various tours that some of their time was spent looking at the Parish Church of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary over the road.

 

The Grand Banquet

On Saturday night we all got dressed up in our finery and were taken back to the Radisson Blu for the Conference Banquet.

 

Originally the plan had been that the President of Malta would join us for dinner, but other pressing engagements meant a change to those plans and she was only able to join us for a welcome speech by David Rowley, during which he presented her with a special Crown Derby plate, and her reply.

 

The rest of the evening was a superb affair, with a lovely three course meal, plenty of wine and great company. We were joined by Robin Lund and his wife, from Nottingham 20 Circle, as Frank and Bessa had opted to attend one of the other functions in another part of the hotel. Our event had only speeches whereas the other had a cabaret. In all four functions took place in two hotels. Before and after the meal there was plenty of time to go round the tables and chat to various people from Province 15 who we had not had the chance to speak to at the reception earlier in the day.

 

Mass at Mdina

After what had been a fairly long night, we had a leisurely morning on Sunday until we were collected for the ride out to Mdina, the old capital city of Malta, which has a long history and a reputation for being the place where all the Maltese nobility live; according to tradition, it is said that when St Paul was shipwrecked on the island, he took refuge in the city in 60 AD, living in a grotto which can now be found in Rabat.

Our destination was the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Paul, a Baroque masterpiece which was built on the site where St Paul is said to have converted the Roman governor Publius to Christianity.

Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna, the Metropolitan of Malta, and chaplains to the various Maltese Circles along with Fr Donnelly. Grand President and his wife read the Old and New Testament readings and members of his family took part in the offertory procession.

With over 1000 Catenians in the Cathedral, it was a bit of a squash in the seats as you can see from the pictures above, but the stewards did a great job of ensuring that Communion went smoothly.  As befits such an occasion, the singing was lusty though many people were a bit rusty on how to sing the Missa de Angelis in Latin.

Last evening in St Julian’s Bay

After a rather long wait for buses to take over 500 to the Luncheon in Valletta, those of us who had not opted to go there were transported back to our hotels. That gave us time to go back out for a final meal after a quick change into something a little more comfortable and suited to the very hot weather.

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Martin and Terry enjoy the sun at the Raffael restaurant

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At last, a refreshing drink of local beer, while we choose our desserts

We rounded off our meal with a coffee at the local Costa, then strolled along the promenade to an ice-cream shop where Ted treated us all to our favourite Italian ice-cream; they were huge and absolutely divine.

Final farewells

Monday morning came far too soon. The six of our group who were staying on an extra day decided to go off on the “hop-on, hop-off” bus tour round the island so they toddled off for the day after making their farewells.

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Peter and Bessa can’t wait to see some more of the island…

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… on the “hop-on, hop-off” bus

Once they had left, the four of us who were returning home went for a coffee and a final few moments in the sun before grabbing our bags and setting off home via Gatwick.

Views from our hotel room

The adventure came to a close all too quickly, but work beckons for some. No doubt the great atmosphere and camaraderie will encourage us all to consider returning sometime in the future. We will all have very fond shared memories of a good time in a beautiful part of the world.

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