Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog after the summer holidays!
As the summer begins to pass, the Diocese of Lancaster can look back with gratitude and pleasure at two important events which took place in July.
The first was the priestly ordination of the now Fr John-Paul Evans (my homily is here), and the second our annual diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes.
An ordination to the priesthood is always an occasion of joy for the new priest, his family and friends, and equally for the local Church where he will serve.
A new priest is also as gift of God to his Church, for the person has been given the grace to hear and answer the call of Christ and to persevere through often long years of study and seminary formation.
John-Paul will also have been helped by many people in those places where he served his parish placements as as student, not least by their prayers and encouragement.
Another important factor enabling a priestly vocation to reach maturity is the generosity of families who allow their son to follow Christ’s call to serve his people as a priest.
The joy of all who were present and participated in Fr John-Paul’s ordination is a strong sign of just how precious these moments are to Christ’s people.
We have fewer ordinations at the present time in our part of the Church, but prayer can move mountains, the Lord tells us, and the Lord will indeed answer our prayers for priestly vocations if we all play our part as individuals, families, and parishes.
We wish Fr John-Paul a long and fruitful ministry as a priest of our Lancaster diocesan family. Please accompany him – and our seminarians; Daniel, Steve and Stuart – with your prayers! We need good priests! (Vocation information details here).
Our diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes in late July was another cause of much satisfaction and will prove to be a source of many blessings to all who took part.
Lourdes is gradually recovering from the recent severe and damaging floods especially in the area we know as the domaine.
On the Wednesday Lancaster had the privilege of having Mass in this sacred place where Our Lady appeared and spoke to St. Bernadette.
For many that Mass will remain one of the highlights of the pilgrimage. Such is the appeal of the Grotto, to both young and old, able and sick pilgrims.
Many pilgrims commented on how well organised the pilgrimage was this year, and all who played their part in any way deserve our thanks and warm congratulations for a job well done.
We had a good number of sick pilgrims with us who were superbly cared for by the “nursing team”, ably assisted by our ever impressive group of young pilgrims.
Lourdes is a place where the sick and frail pilgrims are given pride of place, and where their witness of Christian patience and acceptance of their condition is a lesson for all to see.
I am sure our sick pilgrims return from Lourdes deeply touched by the totality of such a profound spiritual experience, especially through the healing sacraments of Penance and Anointing, and above all by their daily reception of the Lord In Holy Communion.
I am always struck by the cheerfulness and generosity of our young pilgrims, many of whom are experiencing Lourdes for the first time.
Their willingness to assist the sick from early morning to late evening was touching and a joy to behold.
Our Lady does something special to these young people, and I am convinced that being part of a pilgrimage with all its many dimensions will be life-changing for them.
Again, a heartfelt word of thanks to all who accompanied our young pilgrims, especially in those precious moments at the Grotto. Special thanks, too, to our nurses and carers, priests, deacons, seminarians, brancardiers and young people and, of course, the Lourdes Planning Committee for all their hard work.
And now we return to our daily routines, refreshed and renewed from having been on pilgrimage. We prayed for the whole diocese as well as for the Church and the wider world.
May Our Lady, principal patroness of our diocese, and St. Bernadette, continue to accompany all of us on our pilgrimage of faith through life!
Until next week – let us pray for one another,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster