Celebrating the Solemnity of Corpus Christi

Dear Friends in Christ,

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Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!

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First Holy Communions are a prominent feature of parish life during the months of May and June, when children receive for the first time Our Blessed Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

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The well-turned out girls and boys, their devotion and sense of respect, give much pleasure to parents, families and to all who participate in the Mass of First Holy Communion, and of course are a sign of hope for the future of the Church.

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The solemnity of Corpus Christi, which was celebrated last Thursday in many places and this Sunday in England & Wales, highlights in a very powerful way the central place the Eucharist occupies in the life and piety of God’s people.

As we honour in Eucharistic processions and adoration the sacramental presence of the Lord Jesus, we are taken back to where it all began: the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

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It was there that the Lord met with his disciples to celebrate the Passover, the memorial of the deliverance from Egyptian slavery and the crossing of the Red Sea into freedom. The Gospels relate that during the Passover meal Jesus broke bread, gave it to the Twelve to eat, and declared that it was his body which would be given up for them. Likewise, he took a cup of wine and gave it to them to drink, declaring that this was his blood which would be poured out on their behalf. The Twelve were commanded to carry out this sacred ritual of bread and wine in his memory.

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The Lord Jesus and the sacrificial offering of himself in death would be forever remembered by his Church by doing just as he commanded them. The solemnity of Corpus Christi is therefore a celebration of the true treasure which the Lord has left to his Church in the sacrament of his body and blood.

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For two thousand years the Church has remained faithful throughout the vicissitudes of history, preserving in the liturgy of the Mass the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. In the words of St. Paul to the Church in Corinth, “proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes” (1Cor. 11:26).

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As we celebrate Corpus Christi, therefore, let us be grateful for this priceless gift of the Eucharist, ‘the sacrament of love and sign of our unity’, and strive to receive it as faithfully and worthily as is humanly possible.

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St. Thomas Aquinas wrote eloquently about the sacrament of the Lord’s body and blood. He speaks of it as follows:   “O sacred banquet in which Christ is received; the memory of his passion is recalled; the mind is filled with grace, and the pledge of future glory is given to us.”

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Until next week – God bless you all,

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As ever in Christ,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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The Haydock Bible & plenty of Confirmations!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Dear Readers of this Bishop’s Blog

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Lancashire is rich in Catholic history, not least in the story of our many martyrs and recusant Mass centres whose endurance ensured that the ancient Catholic faith was passed on through extremely trying times.

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Another small but significant part of that history was marked last Sunday morning with the unveiling of a monument in the cemetery of St. Mary’s, Newhouse, (Newsham) honouring Thomas Haydock (1772-1859) who with his priest brother, George Leo Haydock (1774-1849), were members of an old English recusant family, an earlier member of the same family was the martyr, Blessed George Haydock.

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Thomas Haydock was responsible for the financing and publication of the ‘Haydock Bible’ which enjoyed considerable publicity and popularity during his lifetime, most especially in the United States of America. His brother, Father George, annotated the bible, by way of what we might call a commentary, and was surely somewhat ahead of his time in this regard.

President John F. Kennedy used a copy of this bible when he took the presidential oath 0n 20 January 1961.  Thomas Haydock’s family have a vault in the cemetery adjoining St. Mary’s church, and it was there that the impressive and fitting monument was beautifully placed, blessed and unveiled.

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The monument was paid for and erected by a generous American bibliophile, and collector of bibles, who felt that Thomas Haydock should be remembered for his publication of the bible. Many distant members of the Haydock family, from far and near, processed after the Mass of Pentecost to the blessing of the monument which, I thought, was quite a moving little ceremony.

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The benefactor, with his sister, had travelled all the way from the United States to be present, and the Diocese of Lancaster is indebted to him for highlighting an important part of our Catholic heritage in such a tangible and enduring way. The memory of the Haydock brothers has indeed been refreshed! The Parish Priest of St Mary’s, the committee responsible, and the people of St. Mary’s parish for all their hard work to make this auspicious occasion possible.

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A greater part of my week was taken up with Confirmations, beginning with that of the Lancaster deanery in the Cathedral on the Sunday evening, appropriately the evening of Pentecost. Young people from Lancaster, Morecambe and the surrounding parishes were joined by a congregation of parents, families, and friends for what was a happy celebration.

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To see the Bishop, gathered with his priests and deacon, in a full cathedral was an embodiment of the local Church, and a powerful ecclesial reminder of the wonderful gift of the Catholic faith which brings us all together.

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Other Confirmations took place during the week in Sacred Heart church, Ashton, part of the parish of St. John Paul II, the historical St. Francis church, Hill Chapel, where I felt the children were joining a long line of Lancashire Catholics in receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. May this new generation of Catholics carry the torch of faith into the future as loyally as did their Catholic ancestors!

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It was the turn of another Preston parish, Our Lady and St. Edward’s, to have their young people Confirmed on Thursday night. This was another grace-filled occasion, and it was a pleasure to see so many happy parents and grandparents, delighted at the important step in faith their young people were now taking. The Holy Spirit continues to be alive and active!

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Until next week – may God bless you all,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

From Pilgrimage at Ladyewell to Visitation in Carlisle

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Dear Friends,

A warm welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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The Lancaster Diocesan Altar Servers’ pilgrimage to Ladyewell took place in splendid sunshine last Saturday. We walked quietly in Eucharistic procession from the parish church of St Mary’s Fernyhalgh to the ancient historical shrine to Our Blessed Lady and the Martyrs, reciting the rosary and taking advantage of the opportunity for prayer and reflection.

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Although the shrine sits reasonably close to Preston, one has the impression of being in the countryside, and this enhances the sense of being apart from our everyday routine and so closer to the world of nature and God’s handiwork.

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Ladyewell shrine and the surrounding area are closely associated with some of our Lancashire martyrs, and the altar servers were reminded of the martyrs’ struggles to be loyal to the ancient Catholic faith and for ensuring that it was handed on, even at the cost of their lives.

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The names of many of our martyrs are inscribed on the walls of the shrine chapel, and it was good to be reminded of these courageous witnesses.

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The shrine is a popular place of pilgrimage, especially during the summer months, and groups from our own as well as surrounding dioceses make good use of it.

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The origins of Ladyewell go back many centuries, and to have such a convenient place of Marian prayer so close is and has been a great blessing and source of grace for so many Catholics and others.

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Later on Saturday afternoon, I travelled to Carlisle to continue my Visitation to the parishes there, and this time it was the turn of Our Lady of Eden parish, with the two churches of Warwick Square in the centre of Carlisle, Our Lady and St. Joseph’s, and the delightful little church Our Lady and St. Wilfrid, Warwick Bridge, a few miles from the city on the main road to Newcastle.

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As ever it was good to be with the people of the parish, celebrate Mass and encourage them in the living out of their faith. The parish area of Our Lady and St. Joseph’s bore the brunt of the serious flooding in December, and the clean-up and repair work continue.

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Many of those affected have yet to return to their homes and are deserving of our ongoing thoughts and prayers. To say that it has been a trying time for them is an understatement, though they do carry on admirably with courage and tenacity, and no small amount of good humour.

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I was struck by the careful and prayerful attention to the Sacred Liturgy in the parish and by the number of young altar servers in the parish.

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The delightful little church at Warwick Bridge represents a long and venerable Catholic presence in that particular part.

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Staffed for many years by the Ampleforth Benedictine fathers and now in diocesan care, the phrase “small and beautiful” surely applies to this church.

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Major repair work will commence shortly, organised and supervised with great affection by local Catholics, a visible sign to me as Bishop of just how the Church goes on from one age to the next.

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The presence of a small Nigerian community of Religious Sisters recently arrived in the presbytery next to the church has been widely welcomed by the parishioners.

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They are are obviously very pleased once more to have the witness of Religious Life and following a very long tradition in Warwick Bridge.

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I returned to Our Lady and St. Joseph’s church on Thursday evening for Confirmation for the young people of the parish of Our Lady of Eden and of the neighbouring parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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A pleasant summer’s evening always provides an attractive backdrop for a parish Confirmation, and the well-prepared young people with several adults received the sacrament in a spirit of faith and quiet joy. We wish them every blessing in their future life of faith.

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The public side of my week ended with attendance at the ‘Mayor-making’ in the Ashton Hall, Lancaster, on Friday. The new mayor of Lancaster was officially installed for his year of office, together with his deputy, in the presence of council members representing the various Lancaster wards, and a large number of invited guests.

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The notion of civic service and commitment to the well-being of the local community were very much at the heart of the occasion. Those men and women who devote many years of their lives to the work of the council deserve our appreciation and acknowledgement for their service to the wider community.

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Until next week – let us pray for one another!

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May God bless you all – especially for the Feast of Pentecost,

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As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Blessed to have the Cenacolo Community in the Diocese

Dear Friends in Christ,

Greetings and prayers to all you readers of this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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We are accustomed to hearing so much bad news nowadays that we can easily forget that good things still happen, often against all the (human) odds.  Here, in the Diocese of Lancaster, near Kendal, we are blessed to have a Cenacolo Community in our midst – a wonderful fruit of the Spirit present in the Diocese for the last 11 years!

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A wonderful Italian nun, now quite frail, by the name of Mother Elvira, was appalled by the sight of young people on the streets of northern Italy, who were suffering from one form of addiction or another. So, in July 1983, she decided single-handedly to do something about it, and the result, intended or otherwise, was the movement or ‘School of Life’ we know as Cenacolo, now gradually becoming worldwide.

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So for the past eleven years young recovering men have been spending a year or more in our Cenacolo, breaking with their past through the power of the Lord and looking to a more wholesome future. They live, work and pray in what was an old presbytery, chapel and grounds called Dodding Green, and an area with a long tradition of Catholicism.

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Part of their programme is manual work on buildings and land, and to the credit of successive groups, they have utterly transformed – rather symbolically – derelict buildings, and changed the face of what was not much more than a wasteland into pleasant and useful agricultural surroundings.

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Prayer, devotions, Mass and the sacraments form an integral part of their life, and in this context I acknowledge the dedication of a number of priests who have ministered selflessly and quietly at Cenacolo, Dodding Green since its foundation at the invitation of my predecessor Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue who turned 82 last Wednesday.

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I went to Cenacolo last Sunday to offer Mass on the eleventh anniversary of its foundation, an occasion which always brings a good number of supporters and helpers, but also some parents and families as well.

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It was a particular joy to administer the sacrament of Confirmation to a young Italian man resident there, in the presence of his parents and other family members who had made the journey from northern Italy.

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The liturgy was simple but deeply moving, and I can only imagine the feelings and emotions of his immediate family. Tears were not far away!  Miracles still occur, and I could only wonder at the personal odyssey this newly-Confirmed man had made in recent years, and his active response to grace and the Lord’s call in his life.

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The strict manner of life which the young men willing embrace at Cenacolo is not easy, but it does prove that a break with the past and its tentacles is possible, given the necessary support and prayers of so many friends and well-wishers.

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Those who have passed through this and other Cenacolo communities will always be grateful from the fresh start they have found, and the possibility of a new start in their life – with the Lord. I am always touched when they pray spontaneously for Mother Elvira, whose role in the Cenacolo movement is now one of silent witness, prayer and presence.

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A further miracle, surely, consists in what the Lord has achieved through the labours and determination of Mother Elvira. The seeds she has courageously and generously scattered have indeed borne much fruit.

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Thank God for the 60 Cenacolo communities around the world, for the work they do and the good they accomplish.   Please keep in your prayers all associated with this wonderful movement of the Holy Spirit within our Local Church; that it may continue to flourish and bring hope and new life to those afflicted with addictions.

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Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster