Celebrating God’s Blessings – Cleator & Blackpool

Dear Friends of Christ,

Welcome back to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – a reflection on the past week in my life and ministry as Bishop of Lancaster!

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The Annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady at Cleator, West Cumbria, took place last Sunday on what was a beautiful, late summer day. In recent years, due to indifferent weather, Mass and Benediction took place in the church, but not so this year.

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Clear blue skies and warm sunshine enabled the pilgrims to avail of the lovely, well-maintained grounds where the shrine is situated. This year’s Pilgrimage Theme was the Magnificat

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A group of our young people, as is now customary, set off on a long walk ‘The Big Walk’ over the Cumbrian fells two days previously and arrived in time for the start of the Mass.

Here’s a video of their pilgrimage from a few years ago:

Theirs is a pilgrimage in the true sense of the word.

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A good number of priests, from the local deanery and beyond, joined me for the outdoor concelebrated Mass in the presence of several hundred pilgrims from around the diocese. The refreshments available afterwards rounded off nicely a very satisfying spiritual few hours together, as our diocese honoured yet again its principal patron, Our Blessed Lady, at this popular West Cumbrian shrine.

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The parish priest of St. Charles Borromeo, Grange-over-Sands, Father Alf Parker, celebrates his golden jubilee of ordination this year, and on Monday I joined him with fellow priests and parishioners for a Mass to mark the occasion in Grange.  Fifty years of priestly service deserves to acknowledged, and the diocese and wider Church thank Father Alf and fellow jubilarians for their faithful  and dedicated ministry to God’s people throughout these years.

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The Diocese of Lancaster bade farewell to one of its widely-respected priests on Wednesday with the funeral of Canon Nicholas McArdle (pictured in the far right in both photos – above and below) in St. Bernadette’s church, Lancaster.

Canon McArdle had lived in retirement in St. Bernadette’s for the past nine years, and felt very much at home there, ministering as his health permitted. Canon Nick had been a priest of the diocese for over fifty years and had held a number of responsible positions. The large presence at his funeral of his brother priests was ample testimony to the regard in which he was held. May this good priest of the Lord rest in peace and be given the reward of a faithful servant.

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A complex and triple dream, as it were, finally reached fruition on Thursday afternoon in Blackpool with the blessing of the new Christ the King parish church, the blessing of the new Christ the King primary school (now an academy) and the blessing of the final phase of St. Mary’s College, also now an academy. An unusual feature of yesterday’s blessings was that they all took place on a single site.

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The old parish church of Christ the King in Grange Park a short distance away had become seriously dilapidated and the governors of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Academy , Blackpool, with the approval and support of the Diocese of Lancaster and so many others, had the vision and generosity to incorporate a neat and compact little church, dedicated to Christ the King, into the school buildings, and at the same time creating a brand new primary school within the same complex.

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The large number present – parishioners, teachers and governors, with pupils, who witnessed the various blessings and attended the concelebrated Mass of Thanksgiving – were very much aware that they were witnessing a significant moment in the life of the Church and Catholic education in Blackpool.

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Such an enterprising initiative reflects great credit on everyone who laboured and cooperated to make it a reality for the last five years, and more.

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As I indicated yesterday at the Mass, the presence of these schools and a church on a single site is at heart an act of Christian charity towards present and future generations of churchgoers, pupils and students, who will enjoy the finest facilities both for worship and education.

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May the Lord continue to bless abundantly the worship and learning of this new and inspiring beginning for the Church in Blackpool!

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Until next week  –

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

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