Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
This weekend our Diocese of Lancaster is launching a Year of Prayer for Priestly Vocations. We do so in the conviction that it is ultimately God who calls a person to be a priest of his Son, and that sincere and persevering prayer by the local Church will obtain from heaven the grace of priestly vocations.
And we do need to remember that God has the best interests of his Church at heart!
As Bishop, I therefore earnestly ask the Catholic faithful throughout the Diocese of Lancaster to join and be part of this year of prayer that those young men who are aware of the stirrings of a priestly vocation within themselves may have the necessary faith, courage and generosity to respond.
We are currently experiencing a phase in the life of the Church in our part of the world when we barely have enough priests to cover adequately the parishes and missions we have. Furthermore, the majority of our priests are ageing and the number of seminarians in training are much fewer than our needs.
The recent linking of some parishes means that often the workload laid on an aging body of priests is increasing. A major preoccupation of a bishop is always to ensure that people have access to the sacraments, above all Sunday Mass. In common with many other dioceses in England and Wales, Lancaster now has several priests from overseas helping in our parishes. They are a great blessings to us!
How do we as Christ’s people in Lancaster develop a culture of priestly vocations? How do we inspire all the excellent young people in our primary and secondary Schools to be open and attentive to the interior voice of the Lord who may be calling them to priestly ministry?
Prayer, within families, in schools, and at Sunday Mass in our churches, is fundamental to heightening awareness of our Diocese’s pressing need for priests of tomorrow.
As Bishop, I often pose the question to parents and families at the conclusion of a Confirmation Mass: How would you react if your son expressed a wish to enter the seminary and become a priest? Would you be delighted, or would your reaction be different?
Those of us who are priests can attest the importance of encouragement and support of family, other priests, and peer groups as we pondered the possibility of a priestly vocation.
Every Catholic has his or her part to play in creating this spiritual climate and culture within an often hostile world where priestly vocations can be nurtured and actively encouraged. The Lord God will respond to his people’s pleas, but we must not be remiss in making heaven aware of those same heartfelt pleas!
I draw consolation from the scene in the gospel, (Matthew 9:35-37), where Christ himself was acutely aware of the shortage of co-operators to assist him in his ministry. We make his sentiments on that occasion our own, when we are told that he had compassion on the multitudes and exhorted his disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest for more helpers.
I pray that this year of prayer now starting in the Diocese of Lancaster will, in God’s good time, yield a rich harvest of priestly vocations.
Until next week – let us pray for each other,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster