A warm welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The delightful little church at Warwick Bridge represents a long and venerable Catholic presence in that particular part.
Staffed for many years by the Ampleforth Benedictine fathers and now in diocesan care, the phrase “small and beautiful” surely applies to this church.
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.
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.
They are are obviously very pleased once more to have the witness of Religious Life and following a very long tradition in Warwick Bridge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Until next week – let us pray for one another!
May God bless you all – especially for the Feast of Pentecost,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster