Visiting the Parish of Our Lady of Furness, Barrow & Oscott Seminary

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Parish Visitation last weekend took me to the Furness peninsula and to the fairly recently formed parish of Our Lady of Furness, Barrow.

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In common with so many other places the Catholic community in Barrow formerly consisted of a number of parishes but has now become a single parish, still having several churches where Mass is celebrated each Sunday.

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The new parish of Our Lady of Furness is gradually finding its feet and beginning to forge for itself a new and united identity, under the excellent ministry and guidance of the parish priest and his assistant priest. As with all mergers there were the expected teething problems at the outset, but the Catholics of the parish while retaining their own area identity appear to be growing in the awareness of being a single parish.

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I did congratulate priests and people on the generosity of spirit with which they embraced the new structures, and they are a fine example of how it is possible to accept change and adapt to a changing Church and changing times. I was principal celebrant at several of the Masses and spoke at all the others, and was touched by the warmth of welcome given me as bishop in all four churches.

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A tight schedule prevented me from spending longer with the individual congregations, but it was a delight to greet each of them even for a short time after Mass. The devotion of the people and their love of the Mass were evident, and a visible proof to me of their strong and deep Catholic faith.

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On Sunday evening I visited a nursing home in the town where some of the parishioners are now resident.It gave me the opportunity to speak to these frail and weak members of Christ’s body, concluding with a blessing, and so assuring them that they were not forgotten. I was struck by the care the parish extends to the sick and housebound, especially through the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and their regular visits. The cheerful disposition of those who care for the sick also struck me.  What a difference a smiling face makes!

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On previous visits to the parish I had been in two of the four primary schools, so on this occasion I confined myself to the Sacred Heart and Holy Family schools. Both of these visits were a pleasure and I thought that Monday mornings could begin in worse ways!  I met the pupils and staff of both schools at their assemblies and in their individual classrooms, and they eye-catching colour arrangements in the classrooms left one in no doubt that we were in the season of Lent.

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The initiative and commitment of teachers and pupils are most commendable. So a very satisfactory pastoral weekend came to a close, and the priests and people of Our Lady of Furness parish deserve credit as they move forward under God and Our Blessed Lady into a new phase of Catholic life in Barrow.

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On Tuesday the rector and staff of Oscott seminary, Birmingham, hosted their annual day for bishops and religious superiors having seminarians there. I found this to be a worthwhile visit to our two Lancaster students there.

In their presentation the staff spoke in particular of the pastoral care and formation given to the seminarians throughout their six year stay there, something which impressed all of us bishops and religious superiors.Our two Lancaster students there, I felt, are in good hands.

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Saint Mary’s Oscott seminary exudes Catholic history. It was the setting for the First Synod of Westminster in 1851, during which the now Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman preached in the college chapel. The College also hosted HH Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010.

At Oscott we touch part of our Catholic roots there and I mused how fortunate the seminarians are to worship regularly in such hallowed and historical surroundings. Also, the healthy number of students at present in the seminary assures us that there will indeed be a new generation of priests to serve God’s people in England, Wales and Scotland.

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Until next week – let us pray for each other and for more vocations to the Priesthood!

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As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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A Pastoral Letter for the Beginning of Lent

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My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

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The season of Lent is upon us once more, a season which coincides with springtime and the rebirth of nature and new life which we see all around us. The Church also desires that each of us grow spiritually and experience a reawakening of our relationship with God during the forty days of Lent, which culminate at Easter with the Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. In his message for Lent,

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Pope Francis reminds us how we have already received God’s goodness and mercy when we were clothed with Christ on the day of our baptism. We have been reborn in Christ and the season of Lent is a time for exploring the wonder and beauty of our baptismal calling in Christ.

The purpose of Lent is not to make us feel disheartened or uncomfortable in the way we live out our faith, but it is a call to self-examination and for taking a fresh look at our attitude and behaviour towards others. Often unknown to ourselves we can little by little become self-centred and lapse into what Pope Francis calls ‘indifference to others’.

Catholics Mark Beginning Of Lent With Ash Wednesday Services

Our baptism into the Body of Christ does not allow us to pass by on the other side and so ignore the needs and sufferings of those around us. The traditional penitential nature of Lent is not intended to punish us, but to remind us of our need for God’s grace and of our obligation to put others before ourselves. Awareness of the presence of God surrounding us and of the need to engage in practical acts of charity will ensure that we grow in God’s grace and so become ever more Christ-like in this holy season now beginning.

lent-2015The Holy Father also speaks of the power of prayer and its essential place in our Lenten exercises. The problems and tragedies of the world can at times appear to overwhelm us and leave us with a sense of helplessness, but we must never underestimate the effect our prayer has before God.

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Pope Francis says that prayer unites us with all the saints in heaven, and so we are joined in one great surge of prayer which arises before God day and night. To know the gift of prayer and its unfailing power is one of the great graces of Lent.

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My dear people, as we embark on our Lenten journey, let us be cheerful and of good heart. Let us thank God for this time of grace and for the opportunity to grow spiritually ourselves, while being conscious of others who may need our help.

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Almighty God wants only what is best for us, and he has given us his only Son as proof of that. Let us keep our gaze firmly fixed on Christ this Lent, both as a Church and as individual baptised Catholics, for in his own marvellous words he is the way, the truth and the life.

With an assurance of my prayers through this Lent and my blessing,

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Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

Fulfilled in Your Hearing: The Art of Preaching

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Dear Friends in Christ,

In 2008 a request came from the Synod of that year in Rome on ‘The Word of the Lord’ for guidelines to assist ordained preachers in their task of proclaiming the homily within the Eucharistic celebration, especially at Sunday Mass.

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In response to this request the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of The Sacraments have this week published a Homiletic Directory.

Those charged with the office of preaching will, I am sure, derive considerable help from what is a wide-ranging Directory.

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Any attempt at summarising the Directory would fail to do it justice. Foremost among its salient points which struck me was the organic importance of the homily within Mass and how it should be viewed as an ‘event’.  When Jesus spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth, taking his text from the prophet Isaiah, (Luke 4:16ff) he declared that this prophecy was being fulfilled as his audience listened.

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The Directory states that likewise, in the homily given at Mass, the Word of God comes alive and finds fulfilment in the lives of the congregation as they hear it.  For those present, the Word of God is fulfilled here and now!

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Again, according to the Directory, the homily should express the faith of the Church, be based on the sacred text just read, and so lead the community of the faithful to celebrate the Eucharist fully and actively. The Directory adds that the homily in essence should reflect on the meaning of the readings and prayers of Mass in the light of Christ’s Paschal Mystery in which those present at Mass have a very share.

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The Directory exhorts the homilist to be aware of the context and unity of the whole of Scripture which must be read within the living tradition of the whole Church. All Scripture breathes Christ, as it were, and his Paschal Mystery is ultimately the key to the whole of Scripture.

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The homily should be composed in a context of prayer and ought to be simple, clear, direct and adapted to the local needs and culture of the particular congregation. Many other practical hints are offered as to the style and content of a homily at Mass.

Epiphany Is Celebrated At Vatican City

The three indispensable pillars on which preaching should be founded are Sacred Scripture, the Church’s understanding and interpretation of Scripture down the centuries, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. These principles are expanded upon and explained in the course of the Directory.

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A large section of the Directory on Homiletics is devoted to suggestions and aids for preaching during the major liturgical seasons of the year, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.  The clear reason for this is for the doctrinal significance of these seasons be set clearly before the congregation to enable believers to enter fully into the design of God’s saving plan culminating in Christ, a plan of which they themselves are a part and which is fulfilled anew each time they listen.

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The Directory on Homiletics published by the Vatican has much to recommend it and will prove a valuable tool of proclaiming the living Word of God to his believing people.

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Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

A Pastoral Message for the World Day of the Sick 2015

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My dear people,

Wednesday of this coming week, 11 February – the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes – has traditionally become a day on which the Church asks us to pray especially for our sick brothers and sisters and for those who care for them. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has taken a quotation from the Book of Job as the title for his Message to the Church on this day: I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. The Pope goes out of his way to encourage and express appreciation to all who in any way give themselves generously in their care for others.

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I too offer my thanks and admiration to all of you throughout the Diocese of Lancaster who quietly and without complaint so often assume the burden of looking after the sick and the frail who cross your path. This burden can often be a heavy one, but as the Pope remarks we must never underestimate the value before God of accompanying others on their journey of suffering. Sitting alongside the bed of a sick person is never a waste of time, for in the person of the sick we mysteriously encounter Christ himself: I was sick and you visited me.

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The Holy Father also remarks in his message that time spent with the sick is a holy time, but we need the wisdom of God and grace of the Holy Spirit to appreciate this. We should also realise that we are never quite alone when we are taking care of others for we have the support of the prayer of the whole Church. As members united in the Body of Christ, the prayer of one is the prayer of all, and equally the prayer of all is the prayer of one. The whole Church prays with us and for us.

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Perhaps our time is the most precious gift we can give to those sick and infirm in our midst. By our very presence and our practical concern we assure them of their dignity and importance as persons, created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. Being sick and elderly can often mean being alone and even feeling a sense of isolation, so there is no greater expression of Christian charity than to befriend others in their time of need. Suffering and illness are by nature mysterious, often beyond our understanding, and we need to recall how the Son of God himself plumbed the depths of suffering through his passion and death on the cross, yet his trust in God his Father never wavered.

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Our Blessed Lady, the mother of Jesus, and John the beloved disciple stood by Jesus in his greatest hour of need as he hung on the cross. May Mary and John be close to all our sick and infirm brothers and sisters, and also inspire us to reach out selflessly to them as they share in the mystery of Christ’s cross.

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With my blessing on all our sick, and my deep appreciation for those who so devotedly care for them.

Yours sincerely in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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P.S. Our own Lancaster Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes is from 24 -31 July 2015. Please do consider coming along – all the details are here!