Bishop’s Blog: Our Diocesan Family MATTERS

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome to this week’s Blog!

The first meeting with the new Council of priests, the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Fernyhalgh, a visit to The Sisters at Hyning monastery, the annual Mass celebrated in memory of Blessed Edward Bamber with a very pleasant gathering at St.Winifrede’s, Bispham, interviews of applicants for the permanent Diaconate, a day of recollection for and with the priests, and all the bits and pieces in-between.

One elderly priest in the seminary advised us to try to avoid being known as ‘busy’ priests. His point was that if people saw us as always so busy they’d feel less able to approach us. Transfer that to the world of the family. Try not to be known as a busy parent, otherwise your little ones will perhaps fear you don’t have time for them. However, the danger is that if you aren’t busy people may think you are lazy, leaving it all for others to do. You can’t win can you!

We know the story of Martha and Mary. We also know that our God gave us a commandment to rest regularly. Try it . . . without feeling guilt.One of the joys of getting around for the various celebrations and events is simply finding time to meet parishioners and school-children, and whoever. Our parishes and schools rely on a vast amount of goodwill and personal sacrifice. Even those in paid employment often go much further than simply doing their duty. It is humbling to sense the motivation and prayer underlying so much goodness happening so quietly around us. Thank-you for showing the world evidence of the Lord’s presence, particularly when it involves getting dirty or hurt or misunderstood. Thank-you for remaining faithful when it is inconvenient or uncomfortable. That is when it most closely mirrors the love Christ has shown us.

May God bless you all.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

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The Bishop’s Blog: Be Still for the Holy One is Here.

Hello dear friends in Jesus Christ,

This week’s the  Bishop’s Blog reaches out with a reflection on Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament!Soon the schools will be closed for the summer. We have already had what seems an over-dose of beautiful weather. Can there be more to come? Will it fit our plans? We are free to speculate. Removed from all our uncertainties and speculating is the utter certainty of the Lord’s intimate affection for us, and His desire to draw us back, deeper into the heart of the Father. Jesus has given us the way to follow. Through the centuries His disciples have constantly and consistently found that way in the Eucharist.In September, in Liverpool, during the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Congress, the Catholic Church of England and Wales will give public witness to our core belief that Jesus is present with us, to us, and for us, in the Blessed Sacrament.Our Faith can seem to ask many things of us. It can be natural to be overwhelmed at times by a sense of inadequacy or frustration or even loss of heart. Again and again we come back into the presence of Jesus, and slow down and simply sit or knee, and slow down some more, and wait and listen and break through that temptation to try and sort everything out ourselves. We surrender all to Him, and allow Him to slow us down even more, to the point where we don’t need to fight or strain anymore. We abandon hope of achieving peace because we have found the One who is our peace.Pope Francis recently wrote, ‘An essential condition for growth in discernment is a growing understanding of God’s patience and God’s timetable, which are never our own.’ (Gaudete et Exultate on the call to holiness in today’s world. para 174) A lesson I am forever having to re-learn is how I must have confidence that the Lord knows what He is doing. As I visit and meet and listen it is clear that many of you know this better than I do. Thank-you. Let us pray for the success of the National Eucharistic Congress in September.

Until next week -we pray for each other.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

Bishop’s Blog: Different in Gifts United in Christ

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
The great solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul saw me back in the Cathedral for a midday Mass celebrated with parishioners and the Cathedral school of St.Peter’s. Time was limited but Mass was not rushed. How blessed we are with the example of these two great Saints standing not as individuals but as men united in a common purpose, able to agree to work together for the sake of Christ’s Gospel. Note their different characters, strengths and weaknesses, styles and out-looks. What a joy it is to appreciate that there is room amongst the disciples of Jesus for such diversity. His followers take many forms brought together for one mission, that Jesus Christ may be known and welcomed, worshipped and followed as Son of God who gave Himself up for our salvation.Following Mass we were treated to a feast in the school grounds. Pupils, teachers, parents and parishioners indulged in burgers and ice-cream! What could we do but cancel the rest of the day?! Thank-you to all who worked to make it happen. Let’s remember and celebrate our Saints!On Saturday there was a Mass celebrated at St.Bernadette’s, Lancaster, gathering together many of those preparing to go on the Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. Following Mass we took refreshments and mingled. Nothing happened to ‘put me off’! We have a rich assortment of humanity blessed with Faith. The Pilgrimage itself must take a considerable amount of time and effort to organise, and relies on a great deal of good-will. The purpose of the Pilgrimage goes far beyond being a social event. It aims at helping us follow Jesus more closely and more generously. May it be an occasion of Grace for the Pilgrims, the Diocese and for all those we pray for.Mindful of Father Sony’s return to India at short notice to attend his mother’s funeral, over the weekend I offered to cover his Masses at Claughton and Goosnargh. I appreciate that ‘fuss’ has its place, but it was a delight to pretend for a short time that I was ‘just a priest in a parish’ What a beautiful vocation.Fr.John Moriarty and Castlerigg had invited me to celebrate Mass and join the out-going gap year workers for lunch on Monday. Time goes so quickly. Where was I this time last year? Where will I be a year from now? We paused to give thanks to God for the past year, with all the good that has been done. The life of each person who has been on a Castlerigg course is special to the Lord, and these young people have been part of His blessing for them. Thank-you to all of you who have served at the Manor during this past year. May the Lord bless each of you with the gift of strangers further along your way of life, just as you have been there for others.
Then there was the rest of the week . . . . . .personal conversations, surprise encounters with old friends, the odd bike ride as opportunity permits, the steady rhythm of prayer and Mass, a significant birthday (and cake!), and of course Meetings! Please God, this is part of our way to heaven.With every good wishes and prayers from the Diocese of Lancaster,

+ Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

Bishop’s Blog: Works of the Holy Spirit

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

Traditionally, our devotions during the month of June focus on the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. A number of parishes held Blessed Sacrament processions. This is to be encouraged. As we come to the end of June I commend the Diocese to the protection of Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart.
Confirmation Masses have continued in various parishes during the past week. St.Mary and Michael, Alston Lane, St.Francis, Goosnargh, and St.Bede’s, Carlisle, including parishioners from Our Lady of Eden. This was probably the most unpopular Mass thus far. Whilst we Confirmed the young people and praised God, England were losing to Belgium in the World Cup. Please note; England were competing for a single prize that, if successful, they will only keep for four years then have to hand back. Here we are receiving a far greater prize, and there’s enough for everyone, and it’s ours to keep! With most gifts we can ask ourselves, what am I going to do with it? With the gift of the Holy Spirit we can ask ourselves, what is this gift going to do with me? Exciting!At 9am on Saturday I joined an intrepid bunch of eleven cyclists outside St.Joseph’s church, Lancaster. This was a social event, cycling round the churches in the Lancaster deanery, advertised as a distance of 55miles. The day was fair, the company was good and the pace was modest enough for us to stay together. A number of the churches visited were new to me, and what a delight to find them open for us to clatter in and spend time in prayer. Welcome refreshments were served at various venues.

As we journeyed on we were conscious that Stephen Talbutt was being ordained Deacon for the Diocese at Oscott College. He was very much in our prayers.Sunday was, understandably, a quiet day.
On Monday I attended the opening and first session of the Catholic Teaching Alliance Conference for Teachers and Governors, held at Preston North End. This forum is growing in strength, popularity and relevance for our schools. From the start it was clear that Faith adds a completely new dimension to education, recognising the fulness of life redeemed by Christ.

Our Education system is building on a foundation laid by Christ rather than on one laid by some ideology of the passing moment. It is encouraging to see the positive effect this is having especially on young teachers. They feel valued..
I wish to conclude this week’s Blog by mentioning Fr.Sony, an Indian priest working in the Diocese as Parish Priest at Claughton and Hill Chapel, Goosnargh as well as serving as our Judicial Vicar. Fr.Sony’s performance on the bike ride was phenomenal given his lack of preparation and the condition of the bike he rode. On Tuesday afternoon I joined him for a delicious Indian meal before a beautiful evening Confirmation Mass at Hill Chapel. On Thursday evening he received news of his mother’s death in India. It is in such circumstances that the great sacrifice of serving far from home becomes most obvious. As a Diocese let us be sensitive to the generosity of those from abroad working here for the Lord. They are a sign of His generous love. Let us commend them and their families to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sincerest good wishes and prayers,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

Bishop’s Blog: Confirmations & Gatherings

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
As Bishop I receive lots of invitations to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation, to celebrate various feasts and special occasions, to bless people, things and gatherings. On Friday I responded to an invitation in St.Bernadette’s, Bispham simply to go and enjoy their Summer social entertainment concert. For a change I simply sat back and let them get on with it! It was a thoroughly entertaining evening and I enjoyed just being there in the audience. Thank-you. Over the weekend I was interviewed by BBC Radio Lancashire focussing on the recent Referendum in Ireland. We must take whatever opportunities we are given to promote the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of Life. What people make of our words and how they react to them is not ours to control. Yes, each of us is called to exercise our freedom, following a properly formed and informed conscience, but we must also be aware of the profound effect the consequences of our choices will have, particularly on the most vulnerable. It seems obvious that society is losing sight of the child within the womb. There must be an alternative to abortion.The past week I have celebrated Confirmation Masses at St.Clare’s, Fulwood and at Our Lady and St.Michal, Alston Lane. After the nerves I felt on earlier occasions I am now beginning to enjoy them. These events bring natural families and parish families together in a wonderful spirit of joy and life. After a day at work and school people have made the effort to prepare themselves for something very different. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given so that we can give witness to the life of Jesus to those amongst whom we live. It is a gift to be generously shared.
To balance these large public gatherings each week contains a number of meetings with small groups and individuals representing particular interest groups within the Diocese. Then there are the completely un-planned encounters which keep alive our sense of being part of the Lord’s plan.

May God bless you all.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

The Bishop’s Blog: Growing in Christ

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!

Newman school in Carlisle has been recovering from its site flooding more than two years ago. John McAuley, his staff, governors and pupils have had to dig deep to overcome their difficulties working in temporary accommodation. It seems to have brought out the best in them, as I witnessed at the ceremony to bless and dedicate the new site on which the school is to be rebuilt. There was a terrific gathering of civic and Diocesan figures for the occasion. A sapling (weeping cherry) was planted. Press and media were in attendance. Refreshments were on hand. It was a thoroughly well planned occasion for all concerned and was rich in promise. Such partnerships emphasise that the Church does not exist for itself or in isolation. We have a mission in and to the world.Later the same day I celebrated Mass for the Parish of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Carlisle. It was a delight to see so many young people at the Mass. Afterwards we enjoyed supper in the parish club at St.Margaret Mary’s and the conversations flowed late into the evening. The Jehovah Witnesses won first prize for visiting Bishop’s House. I’m happy to say that now the clergy of the Diocese are finding their way there, without needing an appointment.During the past week we celebrated Confirmations at St.Mary’s, Newhouse and then St.Andrew and Blessed George Haydock, Cottam.On Thursday I was invited to celebrate Mass at St.Mary’s Academy, Blackpool for the Year 3 pupils of the Academy’s feeder primary schools. This was my first return to the school since the 1980’s. What a transformation! Mr.Eccles gave me a whistle-stop tour after a light lunch.You will note that, as yet, this Blog is not much more than a record of my diary events. I am new to it, and will learn and develop – I hope – as the weeks pass. It is a special grace to get about the Diocese and meet so many people, to encourage you in your Faith and in my turn to be encouraged.

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

The Bishop’s Blog: Build the Church … Love Life…

Hello & welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!Sunday saw me return to Workington, Christ the Good Shepherd parish. Since August 2010 this had been my home, and I was happy there amongst the good people of West Cumbria. I was returning to say thank-you and a sort of goodbye. The Corpus Christi Mass was a beautiful celebration followed by refreshments and a presentation in St.Joseph’s school next-door. There simply was not time to have a word with everyone. What was good to see was that there are some new faces amongst the regulars, including Iraqi families, part of a refugee resettlement programme. The work of building our parishes as welcoming Faith communities goes on.On Tuesday I attended a meeting of the Trustees of Ushaw College, Durham, the seminary I attended from 1976 to 1982.For some years it has been closed as a seminary but it remains a magnificent site not just for the history of the Catholic community but as a place discovering how to play its part in the Church’s future. I recommend it as a place to visit. You may start by visiting the College website.Following the tragic referendum result in Ireland it is heart-breaking to see the pro-abortion lobby turning its attention towards the North of Ireland, intent on dismantling the laws that protect unborn children.We must persevere in hope and prayer, and we must do penance, something I have neglected. Earlier in the week I was humbled by a conversation with a Nun. I was commenting on how we did not have to fast on Friday because it is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Sister was very well aware of this and so was keeping Thursday as a day of fasting instead. There is a lesson to reflect on, and an example to follow. Enjoy the feasts but don’t neglect the fasts. Both are essential

With every good wishes and prayer for the week ahead,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster