Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
The Diocese of Lancaster is blessed with swathes of beautiful natural countryside, above all the Lake District, and it was there that I went last weekend that on Parish Visitation to the linked parishes of St. Joseph’s, Cockermouth and Our Lady of the Lakes and St. Charles, Keswick.
The area attracts holiday makers and fell walkers, some of whom, along with local parishioners, I met and chatted to after the Saturday Vigil and Sunday morning Masses in Keswick.
Our Lady of the Lakes and St. Charles church in Keswick is Romanesque in style and its rugged appearance is very appropriate for a Lake District church building.
The memories of the floods which so devastated the attractive town of Cockermouth five years ago have gradually receded into the past, and with the erection of new barriers along the river Cocker and a revamped drainage system in the main street, the town is now hopefully protected from future disasters.
During the Sunday morning Mass in St. Joseph’s church – which was seriously damaged by the floods but now attractively restored – I administered the sacrament of Confirmation to ten young people.
The excellent music which greatly enhanced the liturgy added to what was an occasion of great joy for the newly Confirmed, their parents and families, and the wider parish community with their parish priest.
The Catholic community in Cockermouth, though relatively small, is active and vibrant and the Holy Spirit seemed particular present at this uplifting Confirmation Mass.
In the afternoon I joined the Parish Priest to visit a number of elderly parishioners, now less able to get to Sunday Mass. Meeting and talking to them was a joy and a privilege, and their long lives were rich in experience.
What proved a pleasant and satisfying Parish Visitation concluded on Monday morning with a visit to St. Joseph’s Primary School. I received a warm welcome from the staff and children, with the chair of Governors. St. Joseph’s is not a large school, around sixty pupils, but perhaps all the more attractive for their small numbers. There are some wonderful photos of the school visit here.
During the morning assembly each of the classes did a presentation, and the infants – the little ones – duly performed their part to the background of Louis Armstrong’s rendering of ‘What a Beautiful World.’
My visit concluded with a question and answer session in each of the classes with these lovely children, and brought to a close in Cockermouth and Keswick a memorable weekend in what is a truly delightful part of God’s creation, and where the Catholic faith remains strong.
The intervening days of my week were taken up with the monthly meeting of the diocesan trustees, and other committee work.
Finally, I had the pleasure of joining our priestly jubilarians for a celebratory meal on Thursday evening and, as bishop, of acknowledging their long years of committed ministry to God’s people in the Church. One priest was marking sixty years since his ordination, two others their fiftieth anniversary, and a further two had reached their ruby jubilees, making a grand total of two hundred and forty years of priesthood.
A sense of gratitude pervaded the occasion, enhanced by good conversation and exchange of seminary memories of yesteryear and of their first appointments as newly-ordained priests. These priest-jubilarians, and so many others like them, have touched many lives in Christ’s name. The Church and the Diocese of Lancaster salutes them and is profoundly grateful for their priesthood. May their witness inspire many new vocations!
As ever in Christ our Lord,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster