State of the Union 2014

The Feeney’s State of the Union Address 2014


The end of the year sees the Feeneys thriving in all sorts of ways. The five of us will be together on Christmas Day here in Oxford, alongside Granny Mackenzie who is staying with us for Christmas. It has been a frenetic and action packed year.


Patch – our wonderful and long-lived Jack Russell – died this summer, aged 19, whilst Fiona and Damian were on holiday in Madeira. Fortunately Ellie and her cousin Beth were here looking after him. We miss our wonderful companion very much – he arrived with Charlie when we arrived at Longsands in 1999. Alongside this came two new arrivals – Noot and Bartlet, two Jack Russell puppies who very quickly set about making themselves at home. Sadly Bartlet was diagnosed with a heart defect which meant that he retained fluid to a distressing degree, and we were faced with having a wonderfully natured dog put down. Noot, fortunately, is the very picture of health and vitality. Smudge the cat views all these comings and going with his usual disdain, and governs all he surveys from the television table, swiping a paw at any errant dog who crosses his path. We have been further supplemented this term by Rufus, a daschund belonging to Stephen, one of our students. He is a splendid dog (Rufus that is), and fits right in to the calculated insanity of the house.


Our holidays this year were spent in Madeira and (en famille) in North Devon. It was wonderful to catch up with our old friends Ian and Deborah Wheatley in Devon. Ian has just taken over as Chaplain of the Fleet, and will be heard on Radio 4 preaching from Portsmouth Cathedral on Christmas morning.


Otherwise, work continues as ever. St Stephen’s House is in the throes of a two part inspection process from Ministry Division, with the second part taking place in January. Damian will do a third stint as Acting Principal next term to cover Fr Robin’s sabbatical. All of this, with the onset of the new Common Awards curriculum for ordinands has meant that it’s been a somewhat busier term than usual. That said, life at the House continues to be happy and fruitful.


Fiona’s year at Great Milton C of E School culminated in an invitation from Chef Raymond Blanc to Manoir de Quatre Saisons to meet the visiting Prince of Wales, who advised her to get chickens and a pig at the school. Her reply is not recorded here. Ell continues to flourish at Brighton, and took centre stage in the Drama Society Panto recently – she is clearly leading a very full life. Patrick is well into his Journalism course in Preston now, and continues to weep, with his Father, at the state of affairs at Blackpool Football Club, which appears to be spiralling down to ever deeper levels of disgrace and public ridicule. Damian is currently a season ticket rebel, refusing to pay any more money into the pockets of the Oyston family to subsidise their other business operations. We did get to one game together, at Charlton a couple of weeks ago, but the immediate future for the club looks grim. Recent events – with the chairman again treating supporters in a disdainful and utterly inappropriate way – may well mean that this story will develop over the festive period.


Rebecca is still working as a pastoral assistant for Fr Philip North (soon to be Bishop of Burnley) in Camden in London, and goes to her Bishop’s Advisory Panel in March. This will determine whether she will be recommended for ordination training. The last two and half years, spent in London, have provided Rebecca with a wonderful bank of experience which will stand her in good stead – it promises to be an eventful and exciting year. We look forward to her arrival on Christmas afternoon, once all the pastoral assisting is done, when we will settle down for our Christmas feast.


Theological Colleges are quietish places at Christmas, with little of the frenetic activity which is so much the lot of the parish priest in Advent. We will be attending Midnight Mass at New Hinksey, and on Christmas morning I will celebrate Mass for the Sisters of the Love of God at Fairacres in Oxford, a community where I became a Priest Associate this year and whose prayers and presence have sustained me since we came to Oxford. We hope that at least part of our ‘Yorkshire family’ – the Hemingways – will join us to see in the New Year. On Saturday we will celebrate our 28th Wedding Anniversary.


As ever, we count our blessings in this Holy Season – a task which becomes harder every year, as there are too many to count. We send greetings to all friends and loved ones, and hope that the blessings of the Christ child will be yours.


Damian, Fiona, Rebecca, Patrick and Ellie Feeney


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