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