Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
Saint Mary’s College, situated at Oscott, to the north of Birmingham has a long and distinguished history in the formation of priests, primarily for the archdiocese of Birmingham.
In recent years however an increasing number of clerical students from the Northern Province have been training for the priesthood in St. Mary’s, including three from our own Diocese of Lancaster, as well as a number from Scotland. Oscott College is indeed flourishing!
Together with a number of other bishops who have students in the college, I was present earlier in the week for a presentation from members of the staff on some particular aspect of seminary formation.
This year we were given an outline of the approach to spiritual direction offered by the seminary to its students. The seriousness and diligence with which the staff approach this essential work in the formation of future priests was evident in what we heard, and gave us bishops considerable reassurance.
The Rector and staff of St. Mary’s, Oscott, are to be commended for the care and enthusiasm with which they engage in this ministry, so vital to the future life of the Church in Britain.
The warm and hospitable welcome extended to us made for a pleasant stay. May the life and work of this venerable seminary, a place well known to Blessed John Henry Newman, continue to be blessed by the Lord of the harvest!
I experienced a visit of another kind on Thursday when I travelled to the West Coast of the diocese, and to St. Benedict’s Catholic High School, Whitehaven.
The Head, staff and students of the College went out of their way to make me feel welcome and to thank me for taking the time to come and see them. The few hours I spent touring the school and getting a glimpse of some of the classes at work passed all too quickly.
At the close of afternoon I had the opportunity of meeting the impressive school council and sharing refreshments with them, and the presence of many of the teachers who had gathered enabled me to have a brief word and offer them encouragement in what they were doing for the students.
Plans are being laid for a complete new build of St. Benedict’s, with the expectation that it will be completed within two to three years. As was the case with the seminary at Oscott, I received a very warm welcome in Whitehaven and it was a pleasure to see and meet very fine young people.
May that great figure and saint of Western monasticism, Benedict, always be a protector and a source of wisdom and inspiration to the present generation of students in the school which bears his name, and to those, teachers and pupils, who will grace the new St. Benedict’s in years to come.
My week concluded with the funeral of one of our retired priests, Fr. John Marsh, at the church of Our Lady and Saint Edward, Preston, on Friday morning. By general agreement, Fr. John, a former monk at Nunraw, was a saintly man who lived a simple and detached life, a devoted priest who was totally committed to his Lord.
Fr. John’s priestly ministry, albeit in a different way, continued throughout his retirement, and his quiet and gracious acceptance of his lot in his declining years, I’m sure, brought down many blessings on the Church.
On the occasions when I was able to visit him at St Winefride’s he always reassured me that he was praying for his bishop and the diocese. May this faithful servant continue to remember us all, now that his earthly pilgrimage is complete.
Until next week – let us pray for each other.
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster