Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
The parish of Our Lady and Saint Edward in Fulwood, Preston, had its turn for an episcopal pastoral visitation last weekend. I presided at the Saturday evening Vigil Mass and was chief celebrant at the two Sunday morning Masses.
By happy coincidence the parish was celebrating its patronal feast, that of St. Edward the Confessor, which fell on Monday and this added to the joy of the Visitation. Saint Edward’s tomb incidentally is now in Westminster Abbey, an abbey which he helped to found in its initial stages all those centuries ago.
I met with the parishioners after each Mass, and in particular joined quite a number in the parish centre after the 8.30am Mass for the now well-established Sunday parish ‘breakfast’ custom provided by a rota of volunteers.
This provides the opportunity for parishioners to relax in one another’s company, enjoy some breakfast, and catch up on the past week. Such a practice makes for an admirable extension to Sunday morning Mass and further strengthens the sense of Catholic unity and belonging among the parishioners.
In the afternoon I accompanied the Parish Priest to visit some housebound parishioners, which is invariably a rewarding occasion. I make a point of reassuring them that they have an important place in the life of the Church, even though they are no longer able to make their way to Sunday Mass through old age or sickness.
I am always touched by the warmth of their welcome and their pleasure at the bishop’s visit, which I find humbling. To conclude the parish Visitation I spent Monday morning in Our Lady and St. Edward’s Primary School.
Appropriately, the school assembly was devoted to the life and witness of Edward the Confessor, and highlighted in particular his generosity to the poor.
I then met the staff at coffee break and finished by meeting and greeting the children in their different classes. The children were admirably prepared for the Bishop’s visit and the older ones had lots of questions to ask about life as a bishop!
So a highly satisfactory parish and school visitation came to a close, and both parish and school seemed to be in good heart under the sure tutelage of Our Lady and St. Edward the Confessor.
I moved on from Preston to Blackpool, to our retired priests’ residence, St. Winefride’s, in Bispham, to join the Fathers for a small concelebrated Mass in the afternoon to mark the twenty-ninth anniversary of the first Mass being said there.
The house was a gift to the diocese by the late Mrs Winefride Place, and was opened thirty years ago by jointly by two of my predecessors, Bishop Brian Foley and Bishop John Brewer.
This lovely house in Bispham, Blackpool has served our retired priests well and the diocese is grateful to the many staff and helpers, past and present, who have made St. Winefride’s the true home it has become.
The tea and refreshments after Mass allowed the community and myself to chat and share stories in a very pleasant environment. It was indeed good to be together and be encouraged by one another’s company. I remembered, too, the Blessed Edward Bamber Mass celebrated in the grounds there in sunny July.
It was back to Blackpool, and Bispham, to St. Bernadette’s Primary School, on Thursday morning, to bless both the new school entrance area as well as the statues of Our Lady and St. Bernadette.
Again, the children in this lovely school were admirably prepared for the occasion and took full part in the prayers and hymns in the assembly worship. The presence of parents and governors and parishioners added a further pleasing dimension, and the vigorous rendering of ‘Immaculate Mary’ must sure have brought a smile to Our Lady’s face as she looked down from heaven.
The gospel passage recalled Christ telling his disciples that they were to be like salt to the earth and light to the world, in other words to make a difference. I stressed to the children how that is one description of their school – a place where the love of God prevails and where everyone is important.
A welcome cup of tea followed and then a tour of the classrooms to meet the staff and the children in their learning environment. Both staff and children in St. Bernadette’s exuded warmth and it was a pleasure to stop and chat and, as ever, field many questions on what it is like to be a bishop and what do I enjoy most as a bishop! Full marks to our teachers and staff in our Catholic Schools for all they do for the little ones and young people in their care.
My final engagement on Thursday evening took me all the way to St. Mary’s Church, Cleator, to Confirm over thirty young people from the various parishes in the area – Kells, Whitehaven, Egremont and Cleator itself.
It was a dignified and well-attended liturgical celebration, with the Mass of Confirmation being concelebrated with the local parish priests. The young people had been well rehearsed as they came forward to be anointed, while gratified parents and families looked on.
In my homily I spoke of passing the torch of faith on to the next generation, these young people on the point of Confirmation.
They would have the grace of the Holy Spirit to enable them to be Christ’s ambassadors along the road of life, and so make the world a better place as God intended.
May the Holy Spirit prosper them on their way!
As ever in Christ our Lord,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster