New Canons for the Diocese as Advent Begins


Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome back to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – my weekly online reflection as Bishop of Lancaster!


Last Tuesday, just before the midday Mass in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Lancaster which was being offered for deceased bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese, I had the happy task of installing a number of new members into the Cathedral Chapter of Canons.


There were six newly appointed Canons installed, one of whom was appointed an honorary Canon. It was an occasion of honouring service in the Church.


The Chapter is a group of priests that meets at least twice each year and also functions as the separate College of Consultors which advises and offers counsel to the bishop on various matters pertaining to the life of the Diocese.


In the event of there being no bishop for whatever reason, the Cathedral Chapter would consult and offer names to the Apostolic Nuncio as to who should be the next bishop.


In the meantime, the College normally gathers, in the time of a vacancy, to elect a Diocesan Administrator until a new bishop is appointed.


This Sunday the Church begins her new liturgical year with the short but deeply appealing liturgical season of Advent. As November draws to a close, so here in our part of the world nature also seems to close down, while the hours of daylight gradually diminish.

Advent Wreath 1_1

These late autumnal days can prompt personal reflection, even introspection, on our part as we wonder at the cycle of nature, the pattern of dying and eventual rebirth around us. Where do we/I fit into the greater scheme of things, and what is the direction, even meaning, of my own life?


The Church in the course of her rich liturgy of Advent offers us guidance and light and a sure reason to hope as she invites us to re-live the dramatic story of God’s plan unfolding in the history of his people Israel, and which reaches its climax in the birth of the Virgin Mary’s son in the stable at Bethlehem.

The liturgical music, the Old Testament Scripture readings, the evocative antiphons have the single purpose of helping us ‘chime in’ to where God was ultimately leading the human race in his loving purpose for the salvation of the world. As a wise and caring mother, the Church desires each of her children to experience in faith through the liturgy the utter wonder of God’s Son entering into the history of humanity as a tiny child.


For many of us the period leading up to Christmas gets cluttered and increasingly frantic, and for understandable reasons. Yet there is a precious grace on offer proper to Advent – the grace of rediscovering our need for a saviour and the value that Christ has placed on each one of us by becoming our brother in the flesh.


The presents and festivity which accompany Christmas have their place, but we known deep down that they are transitory and don’t ultimately satisfy us. If we create time for our Sunday Advent Mass and moments of quiet prayer we will hear news that will cheer us, and find true spiritual food and drink which will not disappoint us.

The yearning of the human heart for what is enduring, even eternal, finds expression in the beautiful Advent ‘O’ antiphons, sung at evening prayer on the nine days immediately preceding Christmas. These antiphons each capture and articulate our deep-seated need for One to come down from heaven and save us. An example of these profoundly meaningful and moving antiphons is the one sung on 23rd December:


O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver, the expectation of the nations and their Saviour: come and save us, Lord our God.


Let us be sure and meet the Lord, and engage with the story of our salvation during this most appealing of liturgical seasons!


May God bless you all this Advent Season,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Photos of the Chapter Mass may be used if accredited to ‘the Bishop’s Blog’.

Celebrating the Consecrated Life!

Dear Friends in Christ,


Pope Francis has asked that this coming year, beginning on the First Sunday of Advent, be a year dedicated to the Consecrated Life. In doing so, the Holy Father has called the whole Church to reflect on the gift that Religious and Consecrated women and men bring to the life of the Church, and ultimately to the wider world.


More particularly the Pope invites those who have consecrated themselves to the Lord in this way to embrace more deeply the charism of their own Institute or Order, and discern with great fidelity what is Christ’s will for them in the very different and challenging circumstances of the twenty-first century.

The fruitfulness of the Church can be observed in the diverse range of Religious Orders and communities which have grown up in the long history of the Church. We are familiar with many of them, and in the last number of decades since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) there is the phenomenon of the new orders, expressions of community life and the so-called ‘new movements’ which are such a feature of church life today in so many parts of the world.


We will be aware that the three evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience are the vows that are professed by members of religious congregations. Together, they form the basis for living a life of radical consecration to God for the good of the Church.


The vow of chastity frees the Sister to give herself in love totally to Christ and His Body and is marked by aliveness and a spirit of joy.


The vow of poverty frees the Sister to detach her possessions in order to grow into a deeper spirit of self-giving. In living the vow, the Sister depends on the community for her needs as all things are held in common.


The vow of obedience frees the Sister to do the will of God as expressed by her superiors who seek always what is best for the Sister and for the community as a whole.


Pope John Paul II in his Vita Consecrata describes the evangelical counsels in light of the Trinity:


“The chastity of celibates and virgins, as a manifestation of dedication to God with an undivided heart (cf. 1 Cor 7:32-34), is a reflection of the infinite love which links the three Divine Persons in the mysterious depths of the life of the Trinity, the love to which the Incarnate Word bears witness even to the point of giving his life, the love ‘poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’ (Rom 5:5), which evokes a response of total love for God and the brethren.


Poverty proclaims that God is man’s only real treasure. When poverty is lived according to the example of Christ who, ‘though he was rich … became poor’ (2 Cor 8:9), it becomes an expression of that total gift of self which the three Divine Persons make to one another. This gift overflows into creation and is fully revealed in the Incarnation of the Word and in his redemptive death.


Obedience, practiced in imitation of Christ, whose food was to do the Father’s will (cf. Jn 4:34), shows the liberating beauty of a dependence which is not servile but filial, marked by a deep sense of responsibility and animated by mutual trust, which is a reflection in history of the loving harmony between the three Divine Persons” (par 21).


Each religious congregation or institute is blessed by a unique gift of the Holy Spirit called a “charism” which is an expression of the way the congregation is called to follow Christ. A religious community’s charism is expressed in its way of serving the Church in mission, its particular way of living community life and its distinct “culture”. A myriad of charisms forms a fabric of ministries and apostolates within the Church to meet multitudinous needs.


Within the Catholic Church there is a variety of spiritualities stemming from spiritual leaders of the past. Dominican, Franciscan, and Marian spiritualities are three of the many that are known within the Church. Many Orders use the Rule of St Augustine of Hippo! These specific spiritualities refer to systems of values, ideals and a unified manner of life passed down through the ages from St. Dominic, St. Francis and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each spirituality focuses on specific virtues or spiritual priorities which characterize the way of life of those living within the legacy of the particular spiritual leader.


The spirituality of a religious congregation makes present in a lived and vibrant way the spiritual values passed on to each generation from the original source. There are numerous spiritual approaches to living the truths of the Catholic Church and the vows of religious life. Devotions, ways of prayer, priorities of mission and lived expressions in daily life are manifestations of the spirituality embraced by a religious community.


Among numerous and relatively recent movements for example, are the Focolare, the Neo-Catechumenal Way, Opus Dei, and here specifically in our Diocese of Lancaster new congregations; the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan in Preston, and newly arrived in St. Walburge’s, Preston, the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest also in Preston. We also are blessed have instances of consecrated virgins and widows.


As with the traditional Religious Orders, not all of these New Movements and their own form of spirituality will necessarily appeal to everyone, but they each possess their own charism or gift of Christ’s grace within the body of the Church and as such are to be nurtured and treasured. They are also signs of Christ’s continuing and active presence among his people, in accordance with his promise: Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20).

By devoting the coming year to the ‘Consecrated Life’, Pope Francis is calling upon all consecrated persons to engage in a re-examination of their way of life, and to discover anew how their particular charism can be of service to the Church and world of today.

In forthright language the Pope speaks to consecrated people of the necessity of branching out, of leaving one’s comfort zone, and moving to those on the margins, if necessary, where the message of Christ needs more than ever to be heard.

Hyning Sisters

Only last Monday, I joined the Bernardine Sisters of Hyning, with many others friends and priests, for a concelebrated Mass of Thanksgiving for their forty years in the diocese of Lancaster. I observed in my homily how a monastery and its community provide an oasis today to so many people, searching for spiritual meaning in their lives, which is ultimately a quest for God himself.


I pray that all those in consecrated life and institutes, both new and old, who form such a vital part of our diocesan family, will continue to flourish and be blessed by Christ. With the assistance of all our prayers, may this year dedicated to the ‘Consecrated Life’ be a year of grace, peace and renewal for all of them.

Until next week – I remain,


As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Fit for Mission Continues: Why we need to Link, Merge and even Close Parishes

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!


This week I want to reflect upon a phenomenon that our Diocese – among many others in the Western world – is experiencing and will do so more deeply in the months and years ahead: the linking, merging and probable closing of some of our churches and parishes so as to strengthen our missionary presence in the world.


It’s a process we’ve been working at and preparing for in faith for some 7 years in this Diocese of Lancaster through our continuing Fit for Mission? process of fulsome consultation (three stages), reflection and prayer – led in its initial stages at the time by my predecessor Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue – of how we can re-group as Catholic parishes that are increasingly fit for mission in our Diocese.


Where the process is rolled-out to its completion there is, of course, an initial sense of grief and ‘dying’ for the people and the priests directly concerned – and I share in these emotions, too, as bishop. Hopefully, however, with the right leadership on the ground a sense of ‘new life’ or resurrection can be created as well; a new identity in a newer, larger, active and stronger parish community.


Some of our people will certainly be (and are) sad, upset, and often angry when their church or Mass centre is closed and their parish is merged with a neighbouring parish. This is most understandable. Loyal Catholic people love their parishes, and consider them their spiritual home containing many cherished memories. To see them changed or merged, even with neighbouring parishes, is a very difficult experience indeed.

Why do we have to go through all this? A very good question.


For one, at 92 parishes in the Diocese, we simply have too many parishes and churches, in areas that used to have significant Catholic numbers and thus plenty of priests to serve them, where most of the people have since moved away. Here I’m thinking especially of the once-densely (Catholic) populated city centre parishes in Preston and once-busy seaside towns like Blackpool.


Simply put and sad to admit, our people aren’t coming in those numbers anymore! True, some of the shortage in older parishes is due to the fact that our people have moved to the suburbs. Others have ‘lapsed’. The people that do come are as committed as ever – but are nowhere near the numbers needed to support huge and beautiful church buildings often built at the high point of post-Emancipation Catholic restoration in this country.


Two, we are called to be good stewards of our financial and physical resources. So often on my parish visitations and confirmations the people of God tell me they would rather their offerings are spent on mission initiatives like: outreach to the lapsed, ministry with young people, improving the liturgy, lay formation for adults, the poor rather than towards buildings. Increasingly, it is difficult to justify ‘throwing’ money at buildings that may well have to close in a just a few years’ time.


By merging parishes now, hopefully we will make better use of our human and financial resources – pooling together the gifts from baptism and confirmation we have received.


Three, we can no longer staff them. While still, thank God, blessed with just enough priests for a ‘maintenance-model’ of today, aided by our permanent deacons, a dwindling number of religious, and lay leaders, their numbers are shrinking fast.


What we’re talking about is realism. Families face it, our schools are doing it, businesses and organisations do it — now our parishes must somehow do it too.


Often individual parishioners and priests across the Diocese will quietly say to me: “We need to do something! We can’t go on like we’re still in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, as if we have the numbers, the resources, the priests that we used to. We’ll have to reduce the number of parishes.”


But that’s usually followed by an appeal, “But, please don’t close or merge mine!”


Pope – now St – John Paul II called us to a ‘new evangelisation’. So, our vocation is to be Church – rather than just ‘going to church’ – and then to win our people back as missionary disciples of the Lord! We cannot, he told us, be so exhausted by the maintenance and protection of our parishes and institutions, our set and numerous Mass times, and established ways of doing things that we have no energy left for the mission of the Lord!

full church2

With fewer, but stronger, fuller and more vibrant parishes, better served by more available priests, in new communities no longer burdened or drained by demands of maintenance of huge, half-empty, in-need-of-repair buildings, and with sound and increased lay adult formation, we can indeed unleash an energetic new evangelisation so needed in our Diocese!

full church

Until next week – may God bless and keep you all and thank you for all your support,


+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Remembering our Loved Ones Lost in War

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!This weekend – and again on Tuesday 11 November – many of us will mark in some significant way ‘Remembrance Sunday’ or ‘Armistice’ standing shoulder to shoulder with those – including many Catholics – who down the generations have laid down their lives – not least in the two great conflicts of the last century – giving their lives for this country, for freedom and so that we might enjoy the gifts of peace, tranquility and stability in society.


Our ceremonies are particularly poignant this year as we commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of World War One.


The aspiration that the First World War would be the “war to end all wars” was not, of course, fulfilled. In subsequent conflicts, wherever they have taken place across the globe, all have demanded further horror and loss of life.


Young men and women, at the behest of governments charged with making that most difficult of decisions to deploy the Armed Forces, have left  family and friends and have made what is so often termed “the ultimate sacrifice”.


We remember, too, all those who gave their lives for their country in conflict, all who suffered and died through acts of war as well as those families and loved ones who were left behind to grieve and mourn. Many of our older Catholic churches in this Diocese have war memorials of their own.


In our numerous acts of remembrance we join with those people the length and the breadth of this land, in towns, cities and villages; high streets and shopping centres, in pubs and clubs – and, of course, as parish communities in our churches for Sunday Mass – who will gather, and pause, and remember, and offer – but with a tear – our thanks to Almighty God for those loved ones and strangers alike who for our ‘tomorrow’ gave their ‘today.’


Of course, it is in the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Risen One and the Prince of Peace, that God’s ultimate purpose is revealed to us and that is a purpose that above all that we should live in peace as one; and that He loves each one of us equally, irrespective of race, creed, colour, nationality.


By our remembrance this weekend and on Tuesday, by our words and our actions, by the wearing of a poppy we tell the story; from the youngest cadet to the oldest veteran we say to the families of this nation, to the family of nations and as the Family of God, ‘We Will Remember Them’.


And as we remember all our war-dead and the sacrifice they made, we pray that the freedom and the peace that they fought and continue to fight for will not be in vain.

We pray, too, that all of us that live In this world often divided and torn by the ravages of sin and selfishness may be healed and may be yet again made whole; that we can tell again the story of how God wants us His people to know and live in His peace.

May none of us forget that the greatest act of Remembrance we can make for those who have given their lives in war and conflict is to strive for justice and truth – for we know that justice and truth drive out fear and are the foundations for lasting peace.


Until next week – may God bless and protect you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Remembering our Faithful Departed this November

Dear friends in Christ,


The people of St. Augustine’s parish, Carlisle, are rejoicing in the recent completion of their annex within the church, and I travelled there on Sunday morning to celebrate Mass to mark the end of an enterprise which has been years in the planning. I offered my congratulations to the parish priest and parishioners on the enhanced new space that this annex now affords them as a parish community.


The enhanced and well-planned surroundings will allow for social functions as well as an area for childrens liturgy groups and other catechetical activities. St. Augustine’s church, situated in the north of the city of Carlisle close to Scotland road, is popular and draws Catholics from the wider and often scattered Border area with Scotland.


May all who come to worship there enjoy these new, carefully planned facilities now available in St. Augustine’s church.


As a memento of the occasion I was asked afterwards to plant two trees close to the entrance of the church. Trees are often cited in Sacred Scripture as examples of sturdiness and growth.


My wish and prayer are that this may be true of the parish community of St. Augustine’s, that each parishioner may grow ever stronger in faith and that the young Catholics put down deep roots in Christ which will enable them to meet confidently and courageously the challenges of life.


The month of November for us Catholics, and for many other people, is a time of memory, when we think with affection of those we have once known and who have now left this earth, passing into the mystery of God’s eternity.


On 2nd November, In keeping with an ancient tradition, the Church offers the sacrifice of the Mass for those termed ‘the faithful departed’, i.e. all deceased believers in Christ.

All saintss

It is customary for people in many countries on this day to visit the cemeteries where the remains of their family and friends are interred, lay flowers, light candles and offer prayers for the repose of their souls. It is a day of quiet reflection, of gratitude for those dead who have touched our lives in some way.


In our part of the world he days of November are dark and nature appears to be falling into a deep sleep. However, just as winter follows autumn and then comes the assurance of spring, so also the sadness and even melancholy of our remembering the dead these days is greatly lightened, indeed transformed, by our firm faith in Jesus Christ who has conquered death.


The startling announcement that Christ no longer lay in the tomb but had risen from the dead on Easter morning was at first nearly impossible for the apostles and disciples to grasp. Until then, death seemed always to have had the last word. But this now was no longer the case and things had changed for ever.

all souls

God the Father would not allow his Son to see the corruption of the grave, and by the Father’s almighty power we too with our beloved dead are destined to rise with Christ at the end of time. The earliest recorded confession of resurrection faith was possibly ‘The Lord has indeed risen, and has appeared to Simon.’ (Luke 24:34).

So together with the universal Church let us treasure prayerfully the memories of our dead, particularly during this month of November. We are encouraged to pray for them at Mass and at other times in the firm conviction that our prayers do assist them on their journey to God.


We should also reinforce our own faith in the risen Christ who has already crossed the chasm of death into the glory of his Father, and has promised us who believe in him a share in that same glory.


In our prayer we entrust our dead relatives and friends to the safe keeping of the One who is the true shepherd of the sheep, with the assurance that we too will one day join their company, for in his own words, ‘I am going ahead of you to prepare a place for you.’ (John 14:2).

Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster