Change & Continuity

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Dear followers of the Bishop’s Blog,

To say that we live in a rapidly changing world (and Church) is to state the obvious. An interesting exercise for those of us who are older would be to stop and reflect on all the changes that have taken place in our own lifetime, changes which have transformed the way we now live in the twenty-first century.  One outstanding example, and easily taken for granted, is the revolution in how smoothly we can communicate with others, through the far reaching social media and the possibility of world-wide contacts.

The pace and advances of the modern world can be unnerving, and people who are no longer young fear that they can be left behind. Change can be upsetting and confusing, and we find ourselves asking what is stable and enduring in all this flux?  What reliable guiding star is there to point out the way to us? We may be consoled by realising that the ancient Greek philosophers before the time of Christ, deeply conscious of change, posed similar questions. Their critical thinking influenced the Fathers of the Church, and their philosophical reflections have become part of our Christian intellectual heritage.

As representative of the Fathers, Saint Augustine of Hippo, (354-430), stressed that the infinite triune God alone was above change, and was not subject to the passing of time which affects us mortals so deeply. In God there is no yesterday, today or tomorrow, for   that only applies to his created order. Reflecting and drawing on the great religious tradition of Israel, Augustine and others taught that true happiness and genuine meaning for us human beings are alone to be found in the God who never changes. He has created each one of us, has a personal bond with us, and so only in him does the human heart find lasting peace, despite the whirl of changes which seem so often to engulf us.

The Church Fathers wrote eloquently on how the way to this God has been made possible for us by the Incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity. In Jesus Christ become man we find and have access to the treasures of the infinite God now and always on offer to us. As he himself says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). The Church of two-thousand and eighteen, through her sacraments, liturgy and teaching, remains the bearer and custodian of these riches. She preserves what is unchanging in an ever-changing world, and makes her own the words of the letter to the Hebrews, “Jesus Christ: the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hbs. 13:8).

So in a world (and, at times, in a Church) of change and uncertainty, there is much that does not and cannot change, for almighty God has intervened decisively and definitively in our changing world by sending his beloved Son to us.  Nothing can alter or surpass that foundational truth of our faith; the externals at times may differ, but the core beliefs remain the same.

The Fathers also taught that we human beings can feel adrift on a sea of change on life’s journey, it is then that we must stay firmly on board the ship of the Church, formed from the saving wood of Christ’s cross, and we will arrive safely at the harbour which God has in store for us, and ultimately where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit await us.

Until next week – may God bless you all,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Apostolic Administrator
Diocese of Lancaster

A New Shepherd & Apostle for Lancaster!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome (back) to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

That sage of the Old Testament, Qoheleth, in a famous passage remarked that “for everything there is a time and a season” (Qoh.3:1-9), and his words came to mind on Monday as the name of the next Bishop of Lancaster, Canon Paul Swarbrick, was announced in Rome and at the same time here in Lancaster.

At the same time, the Holy Father Pope Francis accepted my resignation as the sixth Bishop of Lancaster, and hence the imminence of my retirement. For the family of the Diocese, therefore, both clergy and people, there is now set in motion a time of change and transition.

The prospect of change can be unsettling for some, while for others it presents new opportunities and a different way of doing things. Pray for those who are asked to manage this for the Diocese and, of course, for the Bishop-Elect as he prepares himself in prayer and begins to learn about the ministry and issues facing him in the Diocese.

The appointment of a new bishop to be father of a diocese, which is indeed a very human process, is nevertheless an ongoing sign of Christ’s care for His people, and of His promise made good that he would remain with His Church as long as time lasts.

It will be incumbent on the new bishop, as on every bishop, to ensure that Christ’s faithful always have, in spite of many human constraints, access to the sacraments, have the Word of God preached to them, and that the Catholic faith is handed on in its integrity. These are the tasks I have myself endeavoured to carry out as well as possible in my ten years of episcopal ministry.

The presence and ministry of the bishop serves to remind his people of their living link with the wider and universal Church, for the bishop forms part of the world-wide college of bishops, united under Pope Francis, their Head, and the successor of Peter.

While the person of the bishop may change, the office and ministry does not.  By his episcopal ordination a new bishop enters into the chain of apostolic succession, and is a living guarantee of that bond with Christ and the original Twelve Apostles which spans two-thousand years of history and the entirety of the world and every culture.

All that Christ taught and did, has come to us from and with the authority of those first apostles, and the bishop’s responsibility is to continue to safeguard what we technically call “the deposit of faith” for the flock entrusted to him.

So the Bishop-Elect Mgr Paul Swarbrick as he assumes his office will stand in continuity with that long and venerable apostolic tradition and burden of office which he now inherits. As an ambassador for Christ he will speak words of faith – which are both affirming and challenging – to the people Christ entrusts to him in the Diocese of Lancaster, and they in turn will receive him in a spirit of faith.

Mgr Paul will bring his own personal gifts to his role as chief shepherd, and the sacramental grace of Christ will enhance those natural gifts so as to face the very real challenges of such an office in pastoral charge of this part of the Church of Christ – priests and people, deacons and religious communities – old and new.

Shortly, I will step down as Bishop of Lancaster but will confidently hand on my ‘cathedra’, my seat and the symbol of my teaching office, to my successor who will ensure that Christ the Teacher will continue to preside over and instruct in love the hearts of the faithful people of our Local Church of Lancaster.

With my prayers and best wishes to each of you who read this Blog!  As we make our Lenten journey and beyond, may we continue to seek holiness above all, wherever we are, whoever we are and whatever we do!

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Apostolic Administrator – Diocese of Lancaster

Calling all Pilgrims – Lourdes 2018!

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

The principal patron of the Diocese of Lancaster is Our Lady of Lourdes, whose feast day occurs this Sunday, and throughout the Diocese there is deep affection for Our Blessed Lady under this title.  For many years, almost since the beginning of the Diocese, there has been an annual Lancaster pilgrimage to the great Marian shrine in Lourdes, in South West France. For all who go on this pilgrimage, both young and old, the sick and the healthy, it is a unique spiritual experience they never forget.

At an estimate, five million pilgrims are said to make the journey each year to honour Our Lady and St. Bernadette in Lourdes. It should be noted that in Britain Lancaster is not unique in having an annual Lourdes pilgrimage, for most dioceses in England & Wales also go there annually on pilgrimage, not to mention those in Scotland and Ireland. What, I wonder, is the enduring appeal of a Lourdes pilgrimage and its particular attraction especially for teenagers and adolescents? Why do so many resolve to return year after year?

Part of the explanation is to be found in the distinctive atmosphere which pervades the demesne, and the spot where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette. There is a sense when at the grotto of being in touch with the ‘holy’ or with something ‘other’, quite different from our normal everyday experience.

The grotto possesses something of a magnetic attraction for pilgrims, and that is in truth the focal point of Lourdes. Simply to be present where Our Lady once stood and spoke to Bernadette transcends words. The pilgrim is put in touch with another and surpassing reality, which refreshes and reassures, and might be tempted to make his or her own the words uttered by the Patriarch Jacob long ago, ‘Truly the Lord is in this place! …..How awesome is this place, this is none other than the house of God, and is the gate of heaven’ (Gen. 28:16-17).

Another reason why Lourdes holds such an appeal is the central place given to the sick. They are given an importance and consideration which is impressive to witness. Their often frail condition betokens a wonderful faith in Our Lady and her power to comfort and strengthen, and to bring them closer to her Son who himself knew the pain of suffering. Lourdes teaches us that each person, irrespective of their condition, is infinitely precious in the sight of God.

For our young people, such devoted care and the pride of place accorded to the sick can be an eye-opening experience, and a contrast to the often secular environment they meet back home. We learn to think of others when in Lourdes, and put their interests first rather than our own.  This special place brings the best out of us!

To those of you who have not yet been to Lourdes, I strongly recommend that you consider joining our Diocesan Pilgrimage in July, and assure you that you will not regret it. Others of you who have been there already on pilgrimage would be very welcome to come again and join our diocesan family in prayer. Finally, do encourage our young people to think about Lourdes, because it will prove a wonderful antidote to all the many temptations and counter-attractions with which they are confronted today.

I wish everyone a very happy feast of Our Lady of Lourdes!

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Clothing Five New Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!


On Monday of this past week I was invited to preside at the clothing of five young sisters of different nationalities who belong to a recently-founded congregation, and whose full title is Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest.


The Mass of Sacred Investiture took place in the church of St. Michael and Cajetan, Florence, in Tuscany. The novitiate of the sisters is situated in the countryside not far from the city, and close to the seminary of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest. We are blessed to have sisters and priests of both Institutes with us in Preston.


The ancient rite of religious clothing was a deeply moving ceremony for all present, not least for the young women themselves, their parents and families.


The overriding theme of such a liturgy is that of betrothal, and the offering of oneself to Christ as a bride, to belong to him alone.


This bridal concept has deep roots in Sacred Scripture, for the prophets often referred to Israel in marital terms as the bride of God. St. Paul also taught that the Church is the bride of Christ, made pure and spotless through his death on the cross.


The procession to the altar of these five young women, escorted by their fathers, and arrayed as brides in wedding dresses was both a powerful symbol of their desire to belong exclusively to Christ, and a vivid reminder to the rest of of us that Christ must come first in our lives, whatever our own particular vocation.


Assembled close to the altar, the novices, holding candles, in a few short responses individually expressed their desire before me, the bishop, and the congregation, to be a Sister Adorer.


Before each sister received the veil, there was a symbolic cutting of the hair, which again was a deeply poignant moment, and a sign of that surrender and submission to Christ entailed in assuming the veil.


The young novices then retired to lay aside their bridal dresses and returned to the church fully clothed in their new religious habits and white veils, a further sign that for them a new way of life had now begun.


As the liturgy of this rite of clothing progressed I was struck by the counter-sign expressed in it. Christ still calls and his voice continues to be heard in the hearts of young people, especially in these newly clothed novices, and I reflected in wonder at their faith and generosity in setting out on such an arduous and challenging vocation.


The city of Florence has a rich cultural, civil and religious history, and this lovely and hope-filled ceremony of the clothing of five young women marked a small but significant page in the long story of this fine city. We assure these young novices of our good wishes and the support of our prayers as they progress in the novitiate of the Sisters Adorers.


A ceremony of another kind took place on Thursday evening in St. Clare’s parish church, Fulwood, Preston, with the blessing and official opening of a new narthex, which is a very spacious entrance area leading into the church proper. The construction of this narthex was some time in planning before eventually being brought to completion. The packed congregation of parishioners young and old was an expression of their interest and delight at the addition of such a fine new amenity to the church facilities.


The church is close to the Royal Preston Hospital and this new enhanced space with its glass doors allows passers-by to catch sight of the sanctuary and the tabernacle, a visible reminder of the Lord’s presence among us. As the parish priest explained, the name Clare comes from the word for light or clarity, so the new narthex will enable the light of Christ to shine even brighter from St. Clare’s.


Warm congratulations to all who have worked and supported this worthy project!

Best wishes and prayers for the week ahead,

As ever in Christ our Lord,


+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster