We are Saints and Sinners!

Dear Friends in Christ,cathed

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – this week a reflection for the Solemnity of All Saints!


Describing the Catholic Church, James Joyce once said, ‘Here comes everybody!’

Yes, when we look at the Church; that says it all.


Here comes Peter, the denier and Thomas the doubter, and the converted pagan Augustine. Here comes the soldier Ignatius, and the scholar Aquinas, and the tentmaker Paul. Here comes Catherine of Sienna and Therese of Lisieux. Here comes Poor Francis, preaching to the birds!


We are there too in fellowship with these great saints and are inspired by their heroic lives!


We are the once unborn – but given a chance to grow, to strive, flourish.


We are the young, the old, rich and poor, men and women, a communion of sinners and saints, all that and more. We are disciples of Jesus who have spanned the centuries – and the earth – in His Holy Church!

Saint Bede the Venerable

United in Word and Sacrament we are Bede and Cuthbert, Hilda too – monks and nuns who copied scripture onto parchment, and preserved and shared God’s Word.


We are Pope John Paul II, Oscar Romero and Mother Teresa of Calcutta; Father Martín Martínez Pascual, Chiara Luce Badano and José Luis Sánchez del Rio – well known or less well known, young and old, priests and religious and lay people alike.

Demonstrators, carrying banners with images of Roman Catholic Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero, march during a rally marking the 29th anniversary of his death in San Salvador, Saturday, March 21, 2009. Romero was assassinated in 1980 after he urged the military to halt death squads that killed thousands of suspected guerrillas and opponents of the El Salvador's government. (AP Photo/Edgar Romero)

We are Margaret Clitheroe and all our Martyrs. We are Mary Ward, Evelyn Waugh, and Oscar Wilde, Faber, Pugin and John Henry Newman. We are Chesterton, Merton and Hopkins.


We are missionaries who could barely speak the language, but went to the far-away lands so that they could – some years later – return the favour!


We are the ones who pioneered the founding of hospitals, often when there was no State to provide such things, the largest educational system across the globe, passing on what we know, love and believe in. We are part of the largest charitable organisation in the world – Mercy shared for a life-time – not simply a year!


We are the carer for a sick loved-one; the migrants welcomed from Poland; the nurses from Kerala on our shores and serve our NHS, and who left behind their own homes and families to make their home here.

Today, we are the soldier in conflict praying the rosary, and the pilgrim asking for a miracle in Lourdes and Ladyewell. We are the abandoned wife and mother who brings her kids to Mass each week; the young father, helped by the SVP, who has lost his job and seeks for a fair wage to support his family.

Unemployment concept in tag cloud

We are William and Bethany, about to be baptized this weekend. We are Amanda, Lydia and Anna, Justin and Matthew, about to be confirmed next week.


We are the forgotten old lady rosary in hand – who has lived her life of faith to a ripe old-age and now needs care, protection and dignity. We are saints – inspiring, rejoicing. We are sinners – caught in addiction and despair.  We are everybody!


We are the Body of Christ. Bruised. Broken. But resurrected and given new life and hope. Changed forever….


We are people who live in the resurrection as we pass through moments of darkness. We are men and women and children who hold Christ’s light and seek to pass it on.


This All Saints Day, we pledge to keep that flame of faith burning. We remember all who came before us on the Way, and all who are joining the Pilgrim Church in these days – called to be saints.

Thousands more people to hold the candle, and to spread the light in our Universal Church on earth and in heaven; to proclaim not just the good news – but the greatest news in all human history: ‘He has been raised.’ Alleluia!


Until next week – may God bless you all!

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

Celebrating our Annual Education Mass

My dear Friends in Christ,


Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog!


The work of Catholic education, which we know and greatly appreciate, continues quietly and effectively from day to day, but there are particular moments when a Diocese realises just how many people are involved and committed to this apostolate on behalf of the Church.


One such moment was the annual Lancaster Diocesan Education Mass celebrated last Friday evening in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Lancaster.  It was inspiring to see the number of teachers, governors and others who filled the cathedral for this Mass of thanksgiving and acknowledgement of what our schools represent and achieve.


As Bishop, I was the principal celebrant of the Mass, joined by our Metropolitan, Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, Chair of the Catholic Education Service who also gave the homily.


With the priest-concelebrants, we were also very happy to welcome as a concelebrant Bishop Joseph Srampickal, the newly-consecrated Syro-Malabar Bishop of Preston.


At the conclusion of the Mass, I presented certificates to those who were newly-qualified Catholic teachers, to others who had gained promotion as Heads, Deputy Heads, and those retiring after years of dedicated service.


It was reassuring to see the number of young teachers beginning their career in Catholic Education. Certainly the atmosphere and sense of purpose prevailing on the night gives cause for optimism where the future of our Catholic schools are concerned.  I express my deep gratitude to our own Diocesan Education Service for all that they do in this important “service of the Gospel.”


In his homily, Archbishop McMahon spoke of the role of the Catholic teacher within the context of the current Jubilee Year of Mercy.  Teachers had in their possession the key with which to open the door of knowledge to their pupils and students, which in itself was an act of great mercy.


The Archbishop went on to say that an even greater mercy was to reveal the person of Jesus Christ in whatever subject was being taught, for as the Incarnate Son of God he is the way, the truth and the life, and the ultimate key to life’s questions. Only the truth which he brought to us on earth will satisfy the deeper longings of the human heart.


After the homily, the teachers and all present renewed their baptismal promises and by implication their re-commitment to their calling as educators of the young in the Catholic tradition.


The Mass brought us all together and strengthened those bonds which unite the Bishop, priests and people as a local Church, and gave renewed focus and impetus to the work of academic formation and the handing on the faith to the next generation of Catholics.


Until next week – may God bless you all,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

N.B.  Photos of the Mass itself are courtesy of: Andrew Dennison – Parish of Blessed John Henry Newman, Morecambe.

The Consecration & Enthronement of Bishop Mar Joseph Srampickal in Preston


Dear Friends in Christ,


Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – which we hope marks a momentous time in the life of the Church in this country.

What follows are words, videos and photos which, I hope, will give you the flavour of the joyful weekend celebrations in Preston last week.


The city of Preston was the scene of historic ecclesial events last weekend, when the first Eparch (bishop) of the newly-erected Syro-Malabar Eparchy (Diocese) for Great Britain was consecrated on Sunday afternoon.

The new Bishop had taken official possession of his cathedral of St. Alphonsa (St Ignatius church, Preston) on the evening before.


Many prelates of the Latin Church here and from the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala, India attended.


The Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, Cardinal George Alencherry, presided at the ordination of Bishop Joseph Srampickal in the presence of an estimated twelve-thousand Syro-Malabar from across Britain as well as other Catholics. The Major Archbishop’s Homily is here.


Thanks to the generosity and gracious good offices of Preston City Council and Preston North End FC the Mass of consecration took place in Deepdale, and was graced by the attendance of the Mayor of Preston and civic leaders, who were also unstinting in their cooperation with the Syro-Malabar community.


In mid-July Pope Francis granted the Syro-Malabar an Eparchy, and the ceremonies and celebrations of this weekend were the outcome of this papal decision.

By happy coincidence the city of Preston for the first time now has a Cathedral, the former St. Ignatius church, which will be greatly loved and cared for by the new bishop and his staff, and open to all each day for prayer and worship.


It was both inspiring and impressive to be part of a packed and joyous cathedral as Bishop Srampickal took official possession of his cathedral church on Saturday evening.


Preston is now the official centre for the forty-thousand or so Catholics of the Syro-Malabar faithful in England, Scotland and Wales, a community which, now with its own bishop, has a greater and stronger ecclesial identity.


As Bishop of Lancaster, I was honoured to be one of the two co-consecrators in the ordination ceremony on Sunday with the Major Archbishop.


Our own diocese with its painstaking support in recent years can take a genuine pride in paving the way for this important step in the life of the Syro-Malabar Church in Britain.


Both Cardinal Alencherry and Cardinal Sandri the Prefect of Vatican Congregation for Oriental Churches warmly acknowledged the contribution of the Diocese of Lancaster in making the transition to an Eparchy a smooth one.


The presence of many bishops from both the Syro-Malabar and our own Latin Rite Church, and numerous clergy, made for an impressive spectacle in PNE football ground, (a venue usually the scene of applause and cheering of another kind!)


The rain which fell later in the proceedings did little to dampen the enthusiastic spirit pervading the large congregation. As Cardinal Alencherry observed: “the shower of rain could be seen as a sign of the shower of God’s grace!”


So a new – and perhaps an unexpected – chapter has opened in the long and distinguished history of Catholic Preston.


The ways of the Lord are indeed wonderful, and new life has been breathed into a lovely historical church which in recent years of necessity has had to close through declining numbers, but has now been reinvigorated and elevated to the status of a cathedral.

We couldn’t be more delighted with this development.


The new cathedral has been placed under the patronage of the Syro-Malabar Saint Alphonsa, but by no means will it be forgetful of its previous patron, the great Ignatius of Loyola.


A weekend of rejoicing and jubilation has now passed, and to be part of it has been a privilege and occasion of gratitude to God for all of us in the Church of Lancaster.


The God of love and mercy who is always creating ‘new things’.


We wish the Syro-Malabar Eparchy and its new Eparch every blessing.

We assure them of our prayers, and are delighted to have Bishop Mar Joseph Srampickal and his cathedral in the midst of our (latin) Diocese of Lancaster.

We are pleased to walk together along the Way as ‘Sister’ Churches.

Until next week,


May God bless you all,


+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

Celebrating the Centenary of St. Columba’s, Walney Island

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!


The centenary of a church community marks a very significant milestone for the people of that particular community, and last Tuesday evening I had the pleasure of joining the people of St. Columba’s, Walney Island, on the Furness Peninsula, as both they and St. Columba’s school celebrated their centenary.


Now part of the parish of Our Lady of Furness, the parishioners and children from the school turned out in large numbers for the concelebrated Mass, at which I was joined by ten concelebrants, comprising the present clergy, the deanery and those who served at St. Columba’s in past years.


The atmosphere pervading the Mass was one of joy and gratitude, and the packed church were an eloquent expression of the place both the church and the school hold in people’s affection.


Those present at the Mass were obviously delighted to be there, as young and old represented much of the memory of the past hundred years. The many pleasing comments I heard after the Mass were further proof of the joy of the occasion. My Mass homily is here.


For the previous nine days a novena was held each evening in St. Columba’s church in preparation for the centenary Mass, a novena which was well attended. That background of prayer surely helped make the Mass and celebration such a wonderful occasion of grace.


At the end of Mass, I blessed and incensed an icon of St Columba and a fine Celtic cross, both of which will hang in the church, and be a permanent reminder of the centenary celebrations. Next year a pilgrimage is planned from the church to Iona, the Western isle so closely associated with St. Columba, to invoke the saint’s intercession on the community and school which bear his name.


The centenary of a parish and school and the passing of a hundred years affords a community the opportunity to pause and take stock. We reflected on the past and the generations who lived lives of faith, laying down the foundations for the present generation to enjoy and build upon.



I stressed how they have bequeathed a legacy of the Catholic faith which is incumbent on us to take forward and pass on to those coming after us, both through parish life and St. Columba’s school, which is such a source of pride to everyone.



Even within the relative limits of a parish community, I felt, the mystery and enduring nature of the universal Church shines through.  A wide-ranging community – the bishop, priests, and faithful – assembled around the altar to celebrate the mystery of Christ’s Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation, takes us to the heart of what it is to be Church.


The people and priests of St. Columba’s Walney came together in Christ’s name with their bishop and priests to give thanks to God the Father for all that has been, for what is, and for what is to come.  May the faith community and school under the patronage of St. Columba continue to walk the ways of faith as they embark on another hundred years!


Until next week – may God bless you all,


+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster


On Pilgrimage to Walsingham for the Year of Mercy!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!


Last Tuesday, I brought to a close the Year for Priestly Vocations in the Diocese of Lancaster with Mass in our cathedral, concelebrated by a number of our priests and attended among others by many pupils from our various Secondary Schools, accompanied by their staff.


Throughout this past year in our parishes and schools we have taken to heart the Lord’s injunction in the gospel, “to pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into this vineyard.”


3 Photos above courtesy: Andrew Dennison – Parish of Blessed John Henry Newman, Morecambe

And even if we do not see the results immediately, I have no doubt that almighty God will respond to the prayers of so many and bless our diocese with the priestly vocations it will need for the work of tomorrow.


The Lancaster season of pilgrimages also concluded this weekend with a visit to the ancient medieval shrine of Walsingham, in North Norfolk.  This was a small pilgrimage – for the Year of Mercy – just twenty-four of us, but one which proved most worthwhile.


Set in lovely rural England, pilgrims have made their way to Walsingham for almost a thousand years to honour Our Lady.


The shrine arose because of a noble lady’s dream all those years ago, and despite the destructive upheaval of the Reformation, it has been undergoing a real revival in recent decades.


There is both an Anglican and a Catholic shrine in Walsingham, and plans are now well advanced for upgrading the facilities at the latter shrine to cope in an adequate way for the increasing number of pilgrims who go there, especially from Easter until October.



On our arrival there, on Thursday afternoon, given our small number, we were privileged to have Mass in the famous Slipper Chapel, the only building which has survived intact from very early times.


There pilgrims would leave their ‘slippers’ and walk barefoot for a mile to what was the ancient shrine in the village of Walsingham. Tradition records that King Henry VIII once walked this mile when on a visit there.


The slipper chapel and the surrounding area possess a unique atmosphere, with a sense of peace and tranquillity which were wonderful to experience.


We had Mass on the two subsequent days in the Reconciliation Chapel, and numbers were boosted by many young secondary school children on the Friday, and by diverse pilgrims on the Saturday.


It is worthy of note that daily Mass from Walsingham is streamed life each day. We were blessed with wonderful weather and enjoyed one another’s company as we socialised and took part in the various devotional acts of the pilgrimage.

The long journey to Walsingham and back was amply outweighed by the grace and privilege of being present there in pilgrimage.


Many of our pilgrims took their leave of this hallowed place, resolved that they would return. I hadn’t realised that we were the first official pilgrimage to Walsingham of the Diocese of Lancaster.  I suspect that it won’t be the last!


A major and historical event for our diocese and for the wider Church in Britain will take place in Preston next Sunday when the new bishop of the Syro-Malabar Eparchy for Great Britain will be consecrated in the presence of thousands of Syro-Malabar Catholics, and many bishops and priests.


Preston North End FC has graciously and generously made their ground at Deepdale available for the occasion.


The Holy See has given this ancient Church, dating back to the apostle Thomas, the right to have their own bishop and diocese (eparchy) in Great Bitain, with their cathedral at St. Alphonsa’s in Preston (formerly St. Ignatius).


This is a sign of real hope for church life in Preston and beyond, and I had the joy of meeting the new bishop-elect, Mar Joseph Srampickal last Monday when he came to visit me.


Sunday will be a day of joy for him and for the whole Syro-Malabar community in Britain.


We are delighted for this particular community of Catholics and ancient Church, and equally pleased that through them the city of Preston will now have its own cathedral.  We assure them of our prayers that, under God, they will prosper.


Until next week – As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster