On Pilgrimage to Walsingham for the Year of Mercy!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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

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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).

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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.

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

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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.

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Until next week – As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster

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