A Lenten Visitation of St Mary’s, Fernyhalgh & Ladyewell Shrine

La15My dear friends in Christ,

My parish Visitation last Sunday took me to St. Mary’s, Fernyhalgh, part of the Preston deanery and adjacent to the Marian shrine of Ladyewell.


Both places embody Lancashire Catholic history in a very special way. The present parish church of St. Mary’s dates from 1794, but Catholicism in the area long predates this, as is evident from the ancient medieval origins of the nearby Ladyewell shrine which to this day remains a popular place of pilgrimage.


Despite its proximity to Preston – and to the drone of the M6 motorway – St. Mary’s and the shrine retain a rural atmosphere, surrounded as they are by farmland.


The parish church itself reflects in its building the ‘Lancashire barn churches’ of two centuries ago, and I am aware of somehow walking on sacred ground when I enter St. Mary’s.


The solid Catholic faith of those who have worshipped here down the years has, as it were, impregnated the church, and to sit quietly and prayerfully within it strengthens our own faith which these faithful believers of yesteryear have passed down to us.


It was good as bishop to meet the present churchgoers and encourage them in their own Catholic faith and witness.


The parish priest, who has also responsibility for Ladyewell, is to be commended for the excellent and devoted manner in which he and his loyal helpers maintain both the church and the shrine as places of prayer, welcome and pilgrimage.


Our biannual diocesan priests’ retreat took place this last week in Hinsley Hall, Leeds, and was led by the Prior of Ampleforth Abbey.


The few days away from the normal routine allowed us retreatants to relax in one another’s company, pray and reflect on what we heard from the retreat master, and enjoy periods of silence.


I have no doubt that we all left in good heart, refreshed by the experience and better prepared by God’s grace to enter into the second part of Lent.


Last evening, Friday, I joined the Syro-Malabar community in Preston and celebrated the opening Mass of their Lenten retreat at Our Lady and St. Edward’s Church, Fulwood. Over two hundred, mostly parents and children, gathered in the church to begin their weekend retreat.


The Syro-Malabar chaplain, assisted by a priest colleague and two religious sisters, were preparing to lead the members of this ancient apostolic Church in their Lenten exercises.


It was truly inspiring to see so many Syro-Malabar Catholics assembled and prepared to devote their whole weekend to prayer and reflection in preparation for Easter. Their presence and Catholic witness are indeed a rich blessing to us in the Diocese of Lancaster.

Reconciliation Wed - landscape

Almost as a forerunner to our diocesan Reconciliation Wednesday on 16 April, and in response to the Vatican’s request for Twenty Four hours Prayer for the Lord, our shrine at Ladyewell acted as host for this world-wide initiative in our Diocese.


The Blessed Sacrament was exposed and would remain so for the full twenty-four hours, with the Sacrament of Reconciliation intended to be available at all times. After Mass with the Syro-Malabar community I paid yet another a call to Ladywell, a short distance away, and join the worshippers there for a time.


The presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the midst of the shrine invited us all to be quiet before the Lord, and to take the opportunity for Confession. Thus the ancient shrine of Ladyewell continues to play its important part in contemporary Catholic life!


Until next week – God blessings on you,


+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

It’s all happening in Liverpool! – Cardinal Vincent Nichols comes home and a new Metropolitan Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP is named!


Dear brother and sister disciples of Jesus Christ,


Our recently created Cardinal, Vincent Nichols, returned to his original home diocese of Liverpool last Sunday where he celebrated Mass before a very large congregation in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, which included civic representatives and those from other Churches.


The Cardinal was joined at the Mass by a number of us bishops from the Northern Province and many priests from the Liverpool archdiocese – his home diocese.


The Cardinal during his homily – the Sunday of the Transfiguration – recalled with pleasure his early priestly days in Liverpool.


Indeed, at the conclusion of the Mass Bishop Tom Williams the Apostolic Administrator presented Cardinal Nichols with a gift from the people of the archdiocese.


It is the Cardinal’s intention to donate most of what he received to the Friends of the Holy Land and their work for the peoples there.


The cathedral choir excelled themselves at what was a very uplifting Mass and liturgy which will have brought a great deal of satisfaction to everyone who was present, and I’m sure the Cardinal felt extremely gratified at the warmth of the reception he was given as he returned to his Catholic roots. The Archdiocese can be proud of their new Cardinal.


The Little Sisters of the Poor have a particular devotion to Saint Joseph – patron of the Congregation. So on Wednesday, the feast of St. Joseph, I offered Mass for the Sisters and residents in their home in Preston (my homily is here). The dedication of the Sisters and their staff to the elderly men and women in their care is evident for all to see.


I joined some of the residents for lunch afterwards and their foundress, St. Jeanne Jugan, must surely be delighted from her place in heaven at how the work she began in France now continues all these years later, and assuredly in the Jeanne Jugan Residence in Preston.


The Diocese of Lancaster is blessed with the presence of the Little Sisters in our midst. May St. Joseph protect them in all that they do for the elderly, and ensure that God will bless them with much needed vocations to their special way of life.


Among other meetings in the course of this past week, I met with some representatives of the Neo-Catechumenal Way on Wednesday afternoon. The ‘Way’ has spread in remarkable fashion throughout the Church in recent decades and has been endorsed by successive Popes.


Their members are greatly family-oriented and make great personal sacrifices to live out the demands of the gospel and the Catholic faith wherever they are sent whether on ‘Missio ad Gentes’ or ‘Families on Mission’. They are already present in the Diocese of Lancaster and would like to strengthen and develop their work and ministry here in close communion with us.


A challenge for me at present is to harness the energies and zeal of such new ecclesial movements as the Neo-Catechumenal Way as well as other recently-established Religious Congregations, and to find locations and the necessary financial resources in the Diocese in order to further the work of the Gospel to which the Lord has called us and to strengthen our mission as a Diocese. Any assistance here would be greatly appreciated – please do contact me.


I conclude finally with the very good news that the Dominican, Bishop Malcom McMahon of Nottingham has just been appointed Archbishop of Liverpool and our new Metropolitan.

Liverpool has waited some time for a successor to Archbishop Kelly and there is much joy at Bishop Malcom’s translation to the Archdiocese.


Bishop McMahon is a fine personality and graced with many talents. He will do well in Liverpool and we are delighted to have him as our new Metropolitan Archbishop.


Please join me in asking the Lord to bless abundantly Bishop Malcom’s ministry among us in the north and in the great city of Liverpool, Merseyside, West Lancashire and the Isle of Man.


Until next week God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Reconciliation Wed - landscape

The Rite of Election & Visiting the Seminaries in Rome

Apse mosaic of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls (Rome, Italy)

Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

St. Peter’s Cathedral, Lancaster, was the setting last Saturday, the first Saturday of Lent, for our annual Diocesan Rite of Election.


This Lenten liturgical rite was attended by people from across the Diocese in support both of those catechumens who are to be baptised, receive the sacrament of Confirmation and their first Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil, as well as those known as ‘Elect’ who have already been baptised and will be received into full communion with the Catholic Church, also at Easter.


A spring-like afternoon added to what was a lovely, and for some, an emotional liturgy. Those becoming Catholics were drawn from all age groups, and no doubt the faith journey of each would be fascinating to hear. In some cases the seed takes a long time, often many years, to bear fruit, while those on the younger age scale appear to have come to the faith more quickly.


The Rite of Election offers proof of how Christ the sower continues his work of planting the seeds of faith in the human heart. His saving grace never remains inactive.


We pray for these potential new members of the Church and indeed for the many other future believers from around the world as they prepare to embrace the Catholic faith this Easter time. May their lives be rich in faith and good works, bearing that abundant harvest of which the Lord speaks in the parable of the sower.


A large part of my past week was spent in Rome as one of the three Bishops responsible for the overseas seminaries. With my bishop colleagues we paid an official Visitation to the Venerable English College and later in the week to the Beda College.
Originally a hospice for English pilgrims, the English College has been training priests for the English and Welsh mission for centuries, and is proud of its forty-four martyrs who died for the faith during those turbulent and sad years we know as the Reformation.

The seminarians attend classes both at the Gregorian and Angelicum theological universities, while at the same time making the most of the rich cultural tradition which Rome and Italy have to offer.

Our role as bishops is to encourage and show appreciation to both the staff and seminarians in their respective important tasks, especially the latter as they prepare for ordination to the priesthood. Both colleges welcome us with unfailing warmth and hospitality, and for that we bishops are deeply grateful.

The Beda college, which caters for what we once termed ‘late vocations’ and is quite international in its student body, is blessed by its proximity to the truly beautiful basilica of St. Pauls-outside-the-Walls. The Beda diaconate ordinations take place there each June, and what a wonderful setting for such an occasion!


When time permits during the Visitation to the Beda I always make a point of visiting St. Pauls, especially in the morning when there are few visitors. The spring sunlight streaming through the windows makes it a veritable and privileged house of prayer.


We three bishops came away from Rome heartened and satisfied to have been part of the life of both the English College and the Beda even if for a short time, and hopefully by our presence to have offered the respective staff and students a word of encouragement and thanks for all that they have done and are doing for the Church, not only in England and Wales, but for other countries as well.


We promise to keep them all – and you – in our prayers,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Entering into Lent with the Syro-Malabar Catholics and Launching ‘The Light is ON for YOU – Reconciliation Wednesday!’

Dear Friends in Christ,

The members from the Blackpool area of the Syro-Malabar sui iuris Church devoted most of last weekend to a pre-Lenten retreat centred at St. Kentigern’s church.


This ancient Indian Church – in full communion with Rome – based mainly in the State of Kerala with a Major Archbishop, traces its origins as far back as St. Thomas the Apostle, and consequently the Syro-Malabar Catholics are justifiably proud of their apostolic heritage.


In our Diocese of Lancaster we are blessed with two reasonably large active communities, Preston and Blackpool, and the seriousness with which they take their faith I find extremely edifying.


They have their own liturgical rites and language, but I celebrated Mass for them last Sunday evening in English, i.e. in the Roman rite. Their sense of devotion and attentiveness at Mass, as evidenced by their responses, indicates their deep love of the Lord present in the Holy Eucharist.


At the end of Mass Eucharistic adoration resumed, and the reverent silence of over one hundred adults and children made me want to linger longer before the Blessed Sacrament. The Syro-Malabar chaplains and retreat leaders are to be commended for the excellent work they do in promoting the faith in these communities.


The Preston members of this Church will also have a Lenten retreat in a few weeks time and I hope to visit and encourage them too in their Lenten exercises.

Pope Francis receives ashes from Cardinal Tomko during Ash Wednesday Mass at Basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome

With Ash Wednesday and the arrival of Lent and its call for us to deepen the life of grace we were first given in our baptism, throughout the Diocese of Lancaster we will be concentrating once again on the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


During the past two seasons of Lent and Advent on Wednesday evenings we have made available in every parish the possibility of sacramental Confession, and this has proved to be a worthwhile venture – The Light is ON for YOU’. Reconciliation Wed - landscape

Our priests later reported some penitents returning to this sacrament after an absence of many years, while numbers of others availed of the opportunity of mid-week Confession, away from the bustle and often crowded weekend schedule of modern life.


This Lent we will again be promoting ‘The Light is ON for YOU’, but with the difference that we will be offering the opportunity of the Sacrament of Reconciliation not on every Wednesday, but for a two hour slot on the Wednesday of Holy Week – Reconciliation Wednesday! Homiletic notes on the Lenten Sunday readings have been made available to each priest and deacon, suggesting how Reconciliation could form part of the Sunday sermon in the lead up to the final week of Lent.

Reconciliation Wed - portrait

The aim is that by Holy Week our people will have in some way been prepared to make a good Lenten confession as an excellent preparation for Easter. Pope Francis speaks repeatedly of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in his addresses and comments, and underlines the need for both priests and people to make regular use of this ‘tribunal of the Lord’s mercy.’


Christ waits for us in love and forgiveness. Hopefully, many of our Catholics in Lancaster and elsewhere will during this Lenten time of grace meet the Lord in this wonderful sacrament.

Until next week – God’s blessing on you in all you do,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Supporting our New Cardinal at the Consistory in Rome


Dear Friends in Christ,


Along with many Episcopal colleagues, priests and friends of Archbishop Vincent Nichols I travelled to Rome last weekend to be present at the Consistory at which Archbishop Vincent was one of nineteen new Cardinals from around the world created by Pope Francis.

The simple but moving ceremony took place in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica on Saturday morning, during which the Pope placed the famous red hat or biretta on each candidate as well as presenting them with the Cardinal’s ring.


In the course of his homily the Holy Father stressed the special bond of loyalty which exists between him and the cardinals, his closest collaborators.


The colour red worn by cardinals, an obvious symbol of blood, is intended to underline their fidelity to the faith and union with the successor of Peter, even to the extent of laying down their life.


On the following morning, Sunday, the newly-created Cardinals, together with the whole College of Cardinals, concelebrated Mass with the Holy Father in the presence of so many bishops, priests, deacons, seminarians, religious and lay faithful.


This Mass was served by 15 seminarians from the Venerable English College and the boys from the Westminster Cathedral choir sang in fine voice alongside the Sistine Chapel Choir.


In a quiet tone of voice Pope Francis again underlined, in his homily, the link between himself and the new Cardinals, and that their new dignity was one of service with him in the governance of the whole Church.

Looking around at the bishops and cardinals assembled in St. Peter’s on both mornings, I could not but be struck at the increasingly universal nature of the Catholic Church. Among others, South America, Africa, the Philippines, Haiti, for example, all rejoiced to have a new Cardinal in their midst.


Our new Cardinal, Vincent Nichols, takes his place with the previous Archbishops of Westminster as a Cardinal. It was also noted that not since the nineteenth century has England had two living Cardinals.


Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor is still happily with us, while Cardinals Manning and Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman also shared the dignity of Cardinal at the same time.


The British government was represented at the consistory by Lord Patten and Baroness Stowell, and the Ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker. A celebratory lunch at the Venerable English College rounded off what was a historical occasion, not least for our new Cardinal, Vincent Nichols.


A fitting liturgical finale to the weekend was the concelebrated Mass on Monday evening with Cardinal Nichols in that truly inspiring basilica, which is St. Paul’s-outside-the-Walls and the site of the martyrdom of the great Apostle of the Gentiles.


The Church in her prayer and liturgy has never separated the apostles, Peter and Paul, so it was highly appropriate that our new Cardinal, after the ceremonies in St. Peter’s, should also reverence the memory of this quite outstanding teacher of the faith.


In his homily Cardinal Nichols observed what an inspiration to the Church St. Paul still remains to this day.
As we embrace the new evangelisation, this outstanding apostle and martyr can help us to courageously and with conviction proclaim the faith afresh to the men and women of our time.


Afterwards, It was then the turn of the Beda College, the ‘late vocations’ seminary which is adjacent to the Basilica, to graciously welcome and entertain to dinner Cardinal Nichols and his guests.


Those of us privileged to be in Rome for the consistory returned home with many memories and impressions, reinvigorated above all by a glimpse of the Church drawn from all nations. We certainly had our horizons enlarged!


Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster