Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week! Its been a full week so here goes:
I joined the parishioners of Our Lady and St. Wilfrid’s church, Warwick Bridge, now part of Our Lady of Eden parish, Carlisle, for a dual celebration on Monday last – with a beautiful school choir from Newman Catholic School, Carlisle: it was the feast day of St. Wilfrid as well as the occasion to extend an official welcome to two Nigerian sisters from the Congregation of the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus who have recently taken up residence in the parish house there.
One sister will perform the role of parish sister, while the second will be engaged in school chaplaincy work. The sisters were welcomed warmly by the parishioners and were joined at the Mass by their Congregation sisters from elsewhere, who made a striking impression!
Their presence in Warwick Bridge turns yet another important page in the long Catholic history of this parish and church, the latter designed by the famous Augustus Welby Pugin and built in 1841.
We wish the sisters well and feel sure that they themselves will be richly blessed and be a source of blessings for the parish of Our Lady of Eden, to the wider Diocese and to the renewed body of religious communities in this Diocese.
On Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of entertaining to dinner a number of our jubilarian priests to thank them for their years of priestly ministry and service to our people in the Diocese of Lancaster.
Three of these priests were marking their silver jubilee, two of them celebrating their fortieth year of priesthood, and a third his golden jubilee. Memories were shared and the conversation swung between the past and the present over a pleasant meal. The Church is grateful for the faithful priestly witness of these Lancaster priests and thanks them and all jubilarians for all that they do and have done. Ad multos annos!
Speaking of priests and priesthood, on Thursday morning, the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, I joined our retired priests at St. Winefride’s House, Bispham, for Mass and chatted with them afterwards over coffee, made more enjoyable by one of the priests having a birthday and duly providing a birthday cake!
It is reassuring to see our senior priests so well-cared for, and edifying to note their reverence and attentiveness to the sacred liturgy. I suppose loneliness inevitably accompanies retirement and getting old, but as so often can be the case, I felt cheered and uplifted for being in the company of our senior priests.
They continue to fulfil a quiet but effective ministry as priests, and as bishop I speak for all when I say how much I appreciate their prayers and general interest in the life of the diocese. They too are much remembered in our prayers.
Later on that same afternoon I had a visit from the Archbishop of Aleppo, Syria, a place sadly much in the news at this time and for the wrong reasons. Archbishop Jeanbart spoke vividly about the destruction being wrought on this ancient city as a result of the present civil war.
He also reminded me of how Catholic Christendom in Syria goes back to the very beginnings of our faith, with the presence of Syrians in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost Day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on all those present to give birth to the universal Church.
The Archbishop was understandably animated but not downcast as he described his hopes for the future of the country when peace would eventually return. The Church was doing all it could to provide food, clothing and shelter for those affected by the conditions of war. He asked above all for prayers for a speedy and peaceful end to violence.”
Please do not forget us”, were his words to me. His visit to the UK will certainly have raised awareness of the plight of this proud and resourceful people, and he is grateful for all the practical assistance he has received for the welfare and support of this ancient Church. Let us keep Syria, and the whole Middle East, in our prayers!
It was the turn of part of the West Cumbria deanery to have Confirmation and on Thursday evening I travelled to St. Mary’s, Egremont, to administer the sacrament to seventeen young people from several parishes in that deanery.
The young people were well prepared for this moment, and were joined by their clearly delighted parents, families and friends. I felt that this was the Church come together in faith and in prayer, to be part of this Confirmation ceremony in support of the next young adult generation of Catholics. It really was lovely to be in West Cumbria and experience yet again the warmth of this welcoming Catholic community.
Until next week – May God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster