Solid Adult Formation: An Essential Tool for the New Evangelisation

Dear Friends in Christ, Joy With his first message as Pope, the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis has spoken both of the joy of the gospel of Christ and of the need to proclaim it in every area of life, especially in the peripheries and among those marginalised and on the edges of society. We are not to be sad in our faith, therefore, but should gladly share it wherever we find ourselves. This is the task the Pope has set the Church as we make our way through the 21st century. Lord Before we can proclaim Jesus Christ to others, we need first to love, know and understand just who he was and the message he preached. A common complaint often heard today is how many Catholics lack a confident knowledge of their faith, with the result that they don’t feel competent to speak of it to others. Jacopo_di_Cione_Saint_Petexr_Enthroned_Between_Saint_Paul_and_the_Faithful-800x350 It is of course true that as believers our very manner of living should speak of Christ, but in the much quoted text from the first letter of St. Peter, we should, “Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with reverence and gentleness”, 1 Peter 3:15.  In Jude 3, Christians are told to “contend for the faith.” Indeed St Paul saw his own role as that of an apologist. In Phillipians 1:16, he wrote, “I am here for the defense of the Gospel.” doYouBelieve In other words before we can communicate and share our faith we first have to be formed and educated properly in that faith itself. Much good work in the area of catechetics and gospel sharing already takes place in our parishes, not to mention our Catholic schools, but a great deal more is required especially among adult Catholics. papis Recent Popes, St. John Paul II in particular, have stressed the overriding importance of solid lay formation in the faith. Within this context a proper recovery of ‘apologetics’ would be helpful for younger and older adults alike! Banner Template Our call to know, love and be confident in our Catholic faith and to be evangelisers is fundamental to the new identity in Christ each one of us has received in baptism. The apostle Paul states very clearly and graphically that in baptism we have “put on Christ” or “been clothed in him”. Each single baptised person shares in the missionary mandate which he gave to the Twelve before he returned to his Father in heaven, “Go and teach all nations….. “ Matthew 28:19.  We do have a task and a job of work to do – given to us by the Lord himself!   Christ does depend on us to be his evangelising disciples! go-an-make-disciples-new-de Good lay formation for adults – including within it apologetics – helps us to inculturate the Gospel. Catholics must be able to understand the wider cultural context in which they live in order for the new evangelisation to be effective. By employing reasoned argument, apologists can learn to “speak a language” that unbelievers can especially understand. St. Augustine of Hippo embraced Catholicism after hearing a thoughtful Catholic debate with a Manichean. These and many other examples confirm that apologetic approaches have accompanied conversions to the Lord – often over a period of time. st-augustine-2-1-3-1 Moreover, the evangelising apologist is not just concerned with persuading unbelievers, but also seeks to inspire believers too. In this way, furthermore a new-found apologetics is needed for both believers to become confident about what they believe in order to explain and live out their faith and for non-believers to come to faith. faithlife The season of Lent is fast approaching, and as we examine our consciences before God on our own particular vocation we would do well to learn more about our Catholic Faith and how we can strengthen it. We can do this by reading a passage from the gospel each day by ourselves or sharing it within a parish discussion group or when occasion demands it at work or at school. There is much material relating to our faith which is freely available on our diocesan website, and, of course, in your parish bookstalls. symbolon_header1 Interestingly, in this regard in the Diocese of Lancaster’s new diocesan Office for the New Evangelisation will be piloting shortly a roll-out of the course Symbolon – also new training courses for Parish Pastoral Councils and Parish Finance Committees. Symbolon is a new catechetical programme from the Augustine Institute in the United States. It provides a comprehensive, orthodox, systematic and engaging presentation of the Catholic faith, while also highlighting the beautiful, organic unity of the faith. In Lancaster going forward we will pleased to develop its use to help us form adult Catholics in their faith and so equipping them for the mission of discipleship in our parishes. The Lord has laid upon you and me the duty of passing on our faith to those who come after us, to our peers, to the younger generation, to those who have become careless or stale in practising their faith, even to those people who do not know what Catholics really believe. great-commission Each one of us has been given the Holy Spirit in our sacraments of initiation. Through the power of that Holy Spirit let us be happy and confident in our faith in the Lord Jesus and not be slow to share it with others. missionwordle Until next week – As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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The Journey of Faith & Rite of Election

Dear Friends in Christ,

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Faith in God and in Jesus Christ has something mysterious about it. Inherent in the word ‘faith’ is our inability to understand it fully. We put our trust in the God whom we cannot see, while nonetheless at the same time faith does have an assurance and a certainty which give us peace of mind.

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Our Catholic faith teaches that faith is a gift from God, not one we can give ourselves. The call to believe in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit comes directly to us from the Holy Trinity.

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More often than not that call is mediated to us through the life and example of others who do believe, whether they be parents, husband or wife, priests, teachers or simply friends. We can be influenced in so many different ways as we find our path to God.

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Faith introduces us to a community, usually that of the local parish gathered around the altar for Sunday Mass with its priest and people. Faith also confers an important sense of belonging: we need the company and support of others who share the same beliefs and encourage us by the manner in which they live out their Catholic faith.

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For those new to the Church, faith can be like coming home to a welcome and to a place where deep and perhaps long and inexplicable restless yearnings within us at last find solace.

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Those who have come to faith in Christ and the Church later in their lives speak of having come on a journey, in some cases lasting many years. Each person’s story is unique, and as Bishop on the occasion of the Rite of Election in the Cathedral, I am invariably moved when people recount the different highways and byways they have travelled before reaching this point. One must remain silent and stand in awe at the mystery of God’s workings.

The Rite of Election

On the 21st February our annual diocesan Rite of Election will take place in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Lancaster at which those to be baptised or received into full communion with the Church will be officially welcomed by me, the Bishop. Those who attend this simple liturgical rite organised this year by our Office for the New Evangelisation are invariably touched by witnessing faith in action and the courage of the new converts preparing to take this important step.

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I urge you to pray for all who will come forward at the Rite of Election next month. Do you personally know of anyone that you could encourage to embrace the challenge of the Catholic faith?  In some cases it only requires a helping word and a prayer, and God will do the rest!

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Do please pray for the missionary outreach of our Church, both at home and abroad, for Christ the Son of God has come to call us all home, into the warmth and love of the Church he has founded by his death and resurrection.

Until next week – let us pray for one another.

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

Thank God, we have saved two historic churches in Preston – but building up the mission of the Church is much more important!

Congregation-2Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

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Six months ago, I was delighted to be able to announce for the Diocese (in April 2014), and much to everyone’s surprise, that we would be able – against all the odds – to save one of our most ‘iconic’ churches, St Walburge in Preston.

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This was brought about by the acceptance of my invitation to a young and dynamic religious community, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest to come and to administer St Walburge’s as a Shrine Church given especially for Eucharistic Adoration and for the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy in the Extraordinary Form.

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Thankfully, since the Institute arrived among us in September 2014, they have been able to bring this beautiful church, which in recent years was only open for just an hour each week, ‘back to life’ with a promise going forward of a sustainable future.

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Starting first with modest steps, the priests and seminarians there are making steady progress and are gathering a good momentum of support. St Walburge’s – so dear to local Catholics and many others in Preston has a new purpose now and is secured for the future. St Walburge’s Shrine Church is open for all now – each day of the year. I heartily recommend a visit if you are in the area!

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Following on from this, last Sunday (11 January 2015) I was also able to announce, too, that yet another historic church in the centre of Preston, St Ignatius (closed since 2 December 2014), has been secured for the future by my installing in it the local Syro-Malabar Catholic community from Kerala in South East India – a vibrant and young community belonging to this venerable and ancient Particular Church sui juiris which cherishes its full communion with the Pope but at the same time its own rich patrimony, cultural expressions, laws and liturgy. The former English parish community at St Ignatius had been merged for some years with English Martyrs and more recently that parish was merged further into the newly-created Parish of St John XXIII, Preston.

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I managed to secure this announced arrangement because of the providential intervention of the Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry requesting a church and presbytery in Preston for the particular and exclusive use of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church.

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St Ignatius church, like St Walburge’s, was originally a Jesuit foundation, as one might guess from the name; the Catholic poet Francis Thompson, author of “The Hound of Heaven”, was baptized there in 1859, and Fr Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., served for a time as the church’s curate in the 1880s. Now, just when all was believed to be lost, new and unexpected faith and life is promised!

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Of course, I am hoping that the priests and people of the Church in the Preston area, will be encouraged and excited by these developments that seek only one thing to build up the vibrancy and richness of the mission of the Church in the city and in the wider-Diocese. It’s truly wonderful that we can save these two historic churches but what is far more important is the building up of the mission of the People of God (people, religious, deacons, priests and bishop) – those ‘living stones’ which make the Church.

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I can happily share with you that I have received many messages of support this last week for the work – with the Lord – to bring about these developments. Nonetheless there will always be a few who – for reasons that only the Lord can judge – will seek to apply a certain cynical, self-referential, or even a hurtful reaction to our efforts. Still we plough ahead with the love, support and prayers of so many in the Diocese and further-a-field.

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In our efforts, I suppose I am bolstered by the fresh witness and joyful example of Pope Francis who as our ‘Pope of Surprises’ wants us to ‘break the shackles’ and to be a “missionary Church” with an open door, not “a self-centered, self-pitying Church immersed in its own suffering.”*

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Our Holy Father is broadening our vision and our capacity for imagining a new, different and outward-flowing experience of the Church – way beyond buildings, Mass times, structures, our routine and unquestioned habits and practices. This can be uncomfortable and painful at present for some but should bring about great growth and life for the Church in our Diocese in the years to come.

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We have every reason to hope because God loves us. And that’s much more than empty piety. The proof of it is those who quietly believe in his goodness still active in this Diocese and who want to fight for it. God’s Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Our shared vocation is to echo this Word by our daring witness to letting it become flesh in the initiatives, imagination, and bloodstream of the life and ministry of the Diocese going forward.

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I realize sadly, too, that some of our parishes have been artificially kept afloat long after their effective lives have ended. Instead we need to ‘bite the bullet’, continue to make difficult decisions with future generations in mind and to put our energies and emphasis on evangelizing, catechizing, and educating our young people and lay adult leaders, but not necessarily with our current drag of structures, bureaucracy, and buildings.

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It’s true, if the Church has a worldly and self-referential spirit, it interferes with its ability to carry out its mission of making intentional disciples for the Lord. It is for this reason that I will continue in my remaining years as Bishop to go out ‘to the peripheries’ and seek especially in this Year of Consecrated Life new religious men and women who will come and help our dedicated priests and people in the mission of this Diocese. All this – to build us up and help our Local Church to be a ‘fruitful mother, who again gains her life from “the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.’*

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Please pray for me and for this special intention for 2015,

With every good wish and prayer for the week ahead,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

The Baptism of the Lord: A significant moment for Him and for us!

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome back to this the first post of the Bishop’s Blog in 2015!

‘He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit’. Mark 1:8

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This Sunday’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord brings the great Christmas liturgical season to a close. It would be a mistake however to look on today’s feast as constituting no more than the tail end of the Christmas celebration, for the Lord’s baptism was a deeply significant and important moment for him and as a feast remains rich in meaning for us.

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When Christ became part of the assorted masses that flocked to John for baptism at the river Jordan he was showing his humble identification with sinful humanity, for he was like us in every way but sin. The Evangelists present us with the moving spectacle of the Son of God submitting himself to John’s baptism of repentance in the waters of the Jordan. The Fathers of the Church like to point out that Christ by his baptism made holy for all time the waters of Christian baptism. We therefore have been baptised in water sanctified by Christ himself.

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We are told that as Christ came up out of the water the Father’s voice from heaven was heard to declare, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on you.’  The Father was thus affirming that the newly baptised Son of Man was also the Son of God. In his humanity Christ was being confirmed in his divinity.

When the saving water of baptism is poured over us we too become a son or daughter of God, and a ‘favourite’ of God the Father. Christ was the Son by nature, we are sons and daughters by adoption, thanks to his redeeming work.

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The Holy Spirit was also present at the Lord’s baptism in the form of a dove, which rested over Christ. The power of God the Spirit would henceforth overshadow him throughout his public ministry, equipping him to perform those mighty deeds of healing and proclamation which the gospels record.

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The feast of the Lord’s baptism is therefore a revelation of the mystery of the Holy Trinity as well, for both God the Father and the Holy Spirit were seen to be active as Christ was about to begin his ministry of redeeming the human race. It is no coincidence then that essential to Christian baptism is the invocation of the most Holy Trinity: I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

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The New Testament writers, especially the apostle Paul, speak of Christian baptism in terms of a new birth. When we are baptised in Christ we are mysteriously begotten by God into the new life of the risen Christ, and now form part of his family, the Church. Christ is the source of this new divine life which empowers us to live in the world as Christians.

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The so-called hidden life of Christ ended with his baptism in the river Jordan, and a new sphere of activity now awaited him in the towns and villages of Palestine.

Today’s feast is a powerful reminder to us who have been baptised, that as beloved sons and daughters of the Father we, like Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit must set about our tasks of proclaiming and constructing the Kingdom of God according to the gifts God has given us.

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Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord! – have you seen this wonderful news?

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster