Dear Friends in Christ,
Last Sunday I went to Dodding Green, near Kendal, and to the Cenacolo Community where I offered Mass on the occasion of their ninth anniversary of foundation.
The Cenacolo Community, begun in 1983 in Saluzzo, Northern Italy by the very remarkable Italian nun, Mother Elvira, assists young men and young women to make the often arduous journey away from a destructive life of addiction, especially to drugs or alcohol.
The Kendal community usually comprises about twelve young men from different countries who can spend a year or more there as they make this journey of rehabilitation. It was touching to meet the parents of some the young men who had travelled from Italy to be with them for this anniversary, and to hear how reassured they felt at their sons’ progress.
Self-discipline and manual labour, allied to a regular life of daily prayer, are essential elements in Mother Elvira’s original vision for these young people.
As I visit Cenacolo in Dodding Green I am most impressed by the transformation of the buildings and terrain which has taken place over these years, and reflects great credit on the priests and many friends of Cenacolo who are so solid in their support, both materially and spiritually, of the community.
I like to think that this external transformation reflects the inner change within the young men as they respond to the grace of God’s Holy Spirit during the time they spend here. Cenacolo, now established in many countries, is surely a work of the gospel in our time and a testimony to the determination and vision of Mother Elvira. May this wonderful work continue to enjoy God’s blessing!
At the end of the Mass we remembered in prayer my predecessor Emeritus Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue who was 80 that day, has had a close relationship with the Community and who was instrumental in the foundation of the Community at Dodding Green in 2005.
The rest of my week was taken up with the spring meeting of the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales in Hinsley Hall, Leeds. As bishops we meet in Conference twice annually, though obviously other gatherings of committees etc take place throughout the year.
The agenda for these important meetings has at its heart how can we as pastors best serve that part of the Church placed in our care. How can we inspire and guide our priests and people to live the Christian life in the increasingly complex and challenging conditions of the modern age?
The Conference offers us bishops the opportunity to pray and reflect together as we try to come to a common mind on various significant issues, such as those relating to marriage and the family, and to reiterate Catholic teaching on the inherent dignity of human life at every moment of its existence.
The outcome of our deliberations and subsequent resolutions are now available here.
This particular Conference also allowed us to welcome and congratulate our new Cardinal, Vincent Nichols – so as to express our pleasure at his appointment as a close collaborator with the Holy Father, Pope Francis.
We also welcomed the new Archbishop of Liverpool & Metropolitan for the Northern Province Archbishop Malcolm McMahon and pray especially, too, for newly-appointed Bishop Mark O’Toole and even more recently named Bishops-Elect Robert Byrne, Nicholas Hudson & Alan Williams SM.
The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is celebrated on Sunday 11 May this year, the Fourth Sunday of Easter. The World Day of Prayer for Vocations is also known as Vocations Sunday or Good Shepherd Sunday.
In his Message (here) for this Vocations Sunday Pope Francis says: “A vocation is a fruit that ripens in a well cultivated field of mutual love that becomes mutual service, in the context of an authentic ecclesial life. No vocation is born of itself or lives for itself. A vocation flows from the heart of God and blossoms in the good soil of faithful people, in the experience of fraternal love. Did not Jesus say: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35)?”
Pope Francis has a simple way of both speaking and living. He has used many memorable phrases and images to communicate the ‘Joy of the Gospel’ – but, most of all, he shares that joy in the way he interacts with people.
However, this Gospel joy is not just a pleasurable or light and fluffy feeling, It is an inner joy born of mission. In his message for this year’s Vocations Sunday 2014, he encourages all in the Church to expect great things from God, and from ourselves in his service. Joy for that sort of disciple enables him or her to venture beyond the narrow limits of our comfort zones.
That means taking risks, being prepared to journey, allowing God to be God in our lives. In Evangelii Gaudium, he wrote of the “unruly freedom” of the Word of God, for “we are neither its masters or owners, but its guardians, heralds and servants”.
In this year’s Message, the Holy Father calls for heroes who will go into the great harvest where many people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. ‘And the harvest will be plentiful’.
My own Pastoral Letter for Good Shepherd Sunday this year seeks to be a rather direct appeal to young Catholic men to ‘step out’ in faith and consider our own pressing need – as a Local Church – for good priests after the Lord’s own heart.
Pray with me that the Lord will indeed answer our prayers and do all you can to encourage priestly vocations in the family for our Diocese; at home, at school and at work and, of course, in our parish communities – at every opportunity.
Until next week – may God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster
P.S. For information on training for the Priesthood for the Diocese of Lancaster contact our Vocations Directors here.