It appears that Ascent has been renamed. I don't know about you, but I hadn't been warned or consulted. I am a member of Hallam Ascent's committee, and reading the new Journal was the first time that I have heard of the rebranding.
Has anyone outside the Executive Committee been asked, let alone properly consulted?
The new logo looks nice, but would anyone seeing it for the first time guess what it was about except perhaps a light lighting the way or maybe even a magic lamp which would encourage more groups to form or people to join us?
Perhaps the Executive should be working to inform Bishops and more clergy that Ascent exists, and that it provides a valuable resource for older parishioners who might well appreciate a local group that caters for their needs for Spirituality, Mission and Friendship (together with an element of fun) that is not represented in the new logo.
A name change can have knock on consequences. Will we have to change or rebrand our site? Will Hallam Ascent have to change its name to suit - and thus change our website address? More importantly, perhaps, is the Executive really in contact with the needs and aspirations of its members. I'm beginning to doubt it.
As the webmaster, I have seen the number of visitors to this site grow steadily up towards the 200 per month level, yet our group only has about 20-30 regular attenders. In the current month only two visitors have been referred by other sites - one being our own Parish website and the other being, somewhat inevitably, Google.
So most of you have book marked our site and keep returning. Could you please drop me a line and tell me where you come from, if you attend an Ascent group and what it is about our site that you like or dislike. I do try to keep our readers happy!
You can either reply to this blog or else leave me a message via the contact us page.
One hundred years ago, the Generals were calling for a Big Push, when the whistles blew and the troops left their trenches and 'went over the top' towards the German lines.
At the moment Ascent is gradually fading away. I heard one piece of good news today, however, that the Ascent group in Scarborough has rejoined, but two have closed including the only one in Liverpool and two have merged so there has been an overall loss of two groups but Ascent in general is gradually declining with other groups losing their oldest members and not replacing them.
With an ageing population, and other organisations for the retired and semi-retired like U3a - the University of the Third Age growing, Ascent should be too.
What is there not to like? An organisation specially for Catholics which is not just concerned with spiritual matters, but also with friendship and mission should be appealing to far more people. Our group has social events, fundraising for local and other Catholic charities but it isn't expensive to be a member and to take part and, unlike some other Catholic organisations, one doesn't have to be invited to join or attend dinner dances so we should have wider appeal!
I regularly talk to parishioners who are in the right age range for Ascent, but why is no attempt being made to spread Ascent into the dioceses which have no Ascent groups at all? Is it because the wider church does not know that such an organisation as Ascent exists, or that the message is not being heard?
Can I appeal to the National President, and the National and Regional Committees, to get some active promotion going? I know that we have some very supportive clergy but we need to get the word out to the diocesan bishops and local deaneries and for them to know who to contact. I would be quite happy to speak to places within an hour or two's drive but we do need to have an information pack and good enquiry link pages on the national website.
You might not think that anyone looks at this website, but you would be wrong. The Hallam Ascent Website has been in existence for 2 years. My school's motto was "A Minimis Incipe" - "From Small Beginnings" and indeed at first that was how it was, a very small site visited by relatively few people. To date we've had 6149 unique visitors who looked at 6480 pages of information. In the past week alone we've had 144 visitors looking at 153 pages - on one day 46 people visited our site. As Hallam Ascent has only 40 members, I think that there are many other people visiting this site.
We are in touch with the Ascent National Committee and would like you to know that we can easily use articles or snippets of information on websites and also for the Journal. Remember that most Ascent Members are retired and not all will be used to using computers, let alone having ready access to them. If you have visited this site and like it, or wish we did something else we haven't thought of, please drop us a line on the contact us page or just reply to this blog.
Several Ascent Groups have had to close recently. West Green in London recently closed largely because of old age and infirmity. It is not expected to reopen as there is another group that is fairly close.
At Luton, Sister Janet Norman is hoping to recruit new members from local parishes - contact her on 01582 897378 on email email@example.com .
One thing that seems to be a common factor is the size of the group. Both groups had only 4 members. The same thing happened to a small parish Lectio Divina group I belonged to - long term sickness or a death of a member can cause terminal damage to a group. If your group has more members, do try to form a small committee so that there is always someone to carry on leading the group. The closure of your Ascent Group can cause a big gap in your life particularly if it also provided social as well as spiritual activities, but adding the social dimension can really add to the attractiveness of Ascent to other parishioners.
Hallam Ascent is constantly looking for new members - does your Ascent Group do that? Although we are a fairly large group, not everyone can come to our outside visits, others age, otherwise become infirm or die. Others move away to live nearer to their children and grandchildren, so there is always a need to attract new members. Although you can put notices in parish bulletins, we've found that a personal approach seems to work best. Most people don't know what Ascent is or what it does. So arrange an occasional social event where you can invite others to come along. We have a Soup and Cheese Lunch on Ash Wednesday after the lunchtime Mass and a Cream Tea is always popular.
There are many parts of the country without an Ascent Group - there is only one in the whole of Scotland, and none at all in Wales so there is plenty of space for more! If you want to know more, then please drop me a line - email is best firstname.lastname@example.org or you can always use the post. Our contact details are on the contacts page.
Our Ascent Group celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year, but to date we have had a very varied programme but we always open with prayer - often related to the subject of the meeting - and end with refreshments and a time for a natter. We have an annual retreat and quite often have what we call 'Extras' some form of social which might be a pub lunch and a walk or a church visit followed by afternoon tea, Other Ascent groups are very different to ours, so what does yours do?
Please end your comment with your name, Ascent Group, Town and Diocese.
John Green, Hallam Ascent Group, Sheffield, Diocese of Hallam.
John Green, a married cradle Catholic who is a Benedictine Oblate and has lived in Sheffield for 35 years. He has been an Ascent Member for 12 years.