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
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