Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Welcome to this week’s post on the Bishop’s Blog!
Last week, I travelled to our diocesan youth centre, Castlerigg Manor, near Keswick, in the heart of the Lake District. I spent twenty-four hours there on a Visitation there with the Youth Service staff and a group of young people who were on a week’s retreat.
It was good to be with and hear modern youth at first hand, and this particular group of young people from Blackpool were impressively well-behaved. The tops of the nearby peaks were covered in snow which added to the attraction of Castlerigg, especially to those from urban areas.
I was particularly glad to have the occasion to read to the young people my Pastoral Letter for the Beginning of Lent. I know, too, that the Director and staff gave a good push to our diocesan recruitment for the youth section of our diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. This is a major effort of ours in these weeks. Young people who want to join this should go the Castlerigg website here.
On Saturday afternoon, I presided at the Rite of Election in our Cathedral church in Lancaster – which was well attended by those adults – across the Diocese – wishing to baptised this Easter in their parish communities – and also those who are to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The Rite of Election is a significant step for those who want to be received into the Catholic Church – preparing to receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist at Easter.
It is also an occasion of joy to these individuals’ families, friends and local fellow-parishioners and clergy who work to accompany their journey of faith.
After the candidates have completed their formation in the Catholic faith, the Rite of Election is celebrated by the local Bishop who chooses them and elects them in the name of the Lord and of the local Church (for us the Diocese of Lancaster) to which they belong.
The call, the election, of the Church embodies in human voice the call of God to which the candidates have already responded.
They are then asked to express their response here and now in the presence of the Church “Do you wish to enter fully into the life of the Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist?” They respond “We do.”
The rest of my weekend was taken up with Parish Visitation to St. Bernadette’s parish, Bispham (Blackpool), which now forms part of St. Kentigern’s Blackpool Deanery.
I celebrated the Saturday Vigil Mass and met the people afterwards, then at a well-attended Sunday morning Mass I Confirmed seven young people from the parish, which always is a source of joy for both families and parishioners, and of course for the newly-Confirmed themselves.
The Mass was followed by a pleasant reception in the church hall which allowed everyone to meet and mingle and to enjoy what was a lovely and highly satisfying occasion.
I joined the parish priest and representatives of the parish for a buffet afterwards before setting-out with two SVP members on a visitation of some housebound parishioners. As I have often noted, these visits are special moments and the welcome extended to me as Bishop is warm and genuine.
The loyalty of family members in caring for those of advanced years was very touching, and a further reminder of an unsung but deep Christian faith expressed in daily care for one another, and often without complaint. The Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, continues to pour out God’s love in the world, especially through love of one’s neighbour. One comes away from such visits both edified and humbled.
My week continued by chairing a meeting of our diocesan trustees who are ultimately responsible for the well-being of the Diocese. The individual members, both clerical and lay, give generously of their time and talents to ensure the sound management of the Diocese of Lancaster. Their contribution to the life of the local Church is greatly appreciated.
Finally, the Council of Priests had the first of their bi-annual meetings on Wednesday. This body is representative of the priests of the Diocese and whose existence is prescribed by canon law. Among other things, they bring the concerns of the different deaneries to the table, approve the diocesan budget for the year, and discuss with the Bishop issues principally of a pastoral nature which bear on the life of the parishes.
This priestly gathering also enhances and encourages priestly fraternity over shared food afterwards. It is always good when priests get together and share one another’s company, and experience that unique bond of the priesthood.
Until next week – May God bless you each and all of you reading this,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster