Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes- 2019!

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Blog!

The Pilgrimage was a time of Grace and rich Blessings not only for the pilgrims who travelled to Lourdes, but for the whole Diocese. We carried the intentions of you all, particularly those who suffer poor health, and those who dedicate themselves so generously to the care of the sick.On arrival at Manchester airport early on the Friday morning we suffered one set back when one of our pilgrims had a fall and had to be taken to hospital. We carried her with us in our hearts and prayers for a steady and full recovery.Cloud and showers marked the first days, but no harm was done, no discouragement to our zeal. For many this was a return to a very special place of prayer. We welcomed several new faces, refreshing us with their surprise and joy at being in Lourdes and the Blessed Grotto of St. Bernadette for the first time.Following the International Mass on Sunday morning we processed to the Grotto behind the relics of St.Bernadette. I found it moving to think of those who followed her on the same journey when she answered Our Blessed Lady’s call to meet her at the Grotto. Now it was our turn to accompany her and sense the presence of Holiness.Our youth section was a credit to the Diocese. Someone told me that they stand out amongst all the Dioceses for their behaviour and respect and reverence. Many evenings after the torchlight procession I went down to the Grotto and saw our young people standing or sitting in quiet prayer. I wasn’t spying on them! It was uplifting for me to see them.Quiet conversations were had between pilgrims. Deep subjects were touched on. Light was given. Problems were worked through or seen to be not so bad once the Light of Lourdes shone on them. The High Stations barefoot in gathering gloom. There is a nasty middle section that can catch you unawares, especially nasty for the soft-soled – or should it be the soft-souled?The Mass of anointing, the Mass with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Holy Hour, the blessing of the candle, and pious objects, all went into our prayers for the Diocese and for the Church’s mission. the Liturgies were beautifully and reverently celebrated. My thanks go to the seminarians, Stuart and Philip for ensuring all was as it should be.My profound gratitude goes to the people who planned and made possible this year’s pilgrimage, to the company who got us there and back, to all who proved such agreeable companions. To Father Peter, Linda and Nikki and organisers of the youth, and all I should have mentioned – thank-you.Now, almost a week later, we are back home, clergy and Religious and lay Faithful. We each carry something of that blessed time, sharing it with those who have welcomed us home. Let us look forward to next year’s pilgrimage.

Sincerest good wishes and prayers,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

A Beautiful Weekend!

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Blog.

It will never tell the whole story, but it does give a brief insight into some of the events in the life of your Bishop.The past weekend was beautiful. On Saturday we held the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Ladyewell, beginning with Holy Mass in the parish church of St.Mary before processing down the lane to the Shrine. much organisation goes into this annual event. Thanks to Father Ernest and Father Mario together with all their volunteers. A copy of my homily will – in time – find its way onto the Diocesan website.On Sunday morning I was off to the Convent of Our Lady of Lourdes , Boarbank Hall, for a very special occasion. Sister Silvana Gianota was to make her Final Profession as a member of the Canonesses of St. Augustine.

It was a day of great joy, and not a little emotion. The chapel was full with family and friends of sister Silvana, together with invited guests, members of our Religious in the Diocese and beyond. We also welcomed a good number of visiting clergy The witness of Religious women has served the Church well over the years. It is an aspect of the Church’s life that we must value and promote. I wonder if anyone reading this might sense the stirrings of a Religious Vocation. Do have the courage to speak to someone about it.What a privilege this day has been. When we see a beautiful rose bush, so often only the flower is noticed. Of course, the rest of the plant is essential and must be healthy to produce a beautiful bloom. So it is with a vocation. What we see so easily is only part of the story, only part of the life. But the Lord knows and sees it all.As I write this I am conscious that at an un-earthly hour tomorrow morning we set off for our Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. I pray that all pilgrims will travel safely and draw immense grace and goodness from our time in Lourdes. We take the petitions of the Diocese with us, especially those of the sick, house-bound and disabled as well as all who help care for us when we are unwell. We travel on the Feast of Saints Joachim and Anne, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary, their ‘little lass’! May they keep a watchful eye on us all as they did over Mary.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

So Much To Celebrate!

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog!
After a very long hibernation here is a tentative effort to resurrect the Bishop’s Blog. People here have been extremely patient with me, but even extremes have their limit. So, I present snapshots of where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to recently. Obviously, it is by no means the whole story..
Last Sunday took me to the most northerly of our parishes, St. Augustine of Hyppo, Carlisle. They were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the church building. This is a part of the diocese relatively unknown to me until recently. I was made to feel at home. They are a lively, active community, and very generous hospitality.On the 6th July the Diocese gathered in St.Peter’s Cathedral for the priestly ordination of Fr.Stephen Talbutt. A day of immense joy for us all. (Fr.Stephen traces the beginnings of his vocation to the visit of the relics of St.Therese to the Cathedral some years ago.) This is my first ordination since becoming Bishop of Lancaster.It was a profoundly humbling occasion for me. Amongst so many thoughts I am aware of it being an inheritance for me, the work of so many others. All I have done is collect the ripened fruit. Please pray for Fr.Stephen as he begins his life as a priest. I am grateful to his mother for her influence of Stephen.  Fr. Stephen’s first MassSaturday 13th July we celebrated Holy Mass at the Cathedral with the Knights and Dames of the Holy Sepulchre. Followed by light refreshments. They have an apostolate to help safeguard the holy places in the Holy Land. So much we take for granted and yet here are people dedicated to quietly getting on with work so closely associated with Our Blessed Lord. I was touched by their sociability and practical dedication. This is a group within the Church I look forward to getting to know better.What must also be mentioned is our loss of two elderly priests, Father Terry Rogers and Father Michael Lakeland. Both had been in poor health for some time. I am grateful to the community at St.Winifride’s, Bispham, the Sisters and staff at Nazareth House, Lancaster and Stella Matutina, Ansdell for their dedicated care of both these priests.On Thursday 18th July we celebrated the annual Mass for Blessed Edward Bamber at St.Winifride’s. This is my second occasion. It is encouraging to see such a healthy crowd attending. And of course Barbara and staff and volunteers are so welcoming. Thank-you to you all.Deacon Chris Barwise invited us to join him and Sue at Sacred Heart church, Ashton-on-Ribble, to celebrate his 25years since being ordained deacon. The ‘End-of-Year’ school Mass at Our Lady’s Catholic High School, Fulwood, was a memorable occasion. The youngsters were immaculately well behaved. Wonderful to see so many of the students receiving Holy Communion so respectfully.I notice that at the end of next week I’m off to Lourdes with the Diocesan Pilgrimage. I wonder if I’ll manage to do my Blog before I go . . . .

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

My Homily to the Altar Servers of the Diocese

My dear Altar servers boys and girls,

Serving brings you very close to Jesus. Jesus our life. Jesus son of God and Mary. With Serving there is a lot to learn. You are learning what to do.When I was your age, I had three sisters. We all had to get up for school, I had to get to the bathroom first. If my sisters got there, first they took ages! Getting up earlier, I had to go to bed a bit earlier. I had to make a decision.Misa de Angelis – it is difficult. Set to learn it. Impossible? It can be done.At school, I remember Mr Bonney, he taught P.E. School was all over the place. We changed classrooms for different lessons. Sometimes we changed buildings. School was on a hill. So, we got plenty of exercise: walking, running. Upper body strength. I needed to work at this. I needed to choose.At school – I realised a big part of my life I had just not looked after much. My Spiritual life, prayer life. It was part of me. The deepest part. Jesus – sad because many stopped going with Him. He didn’t change – didn’t make it easy to fit them.Christian Faith – it is a way of life. Knowing what is important. We are given it by our parents and grandparents. It is something passed down because it is important to Jesus and so, to us. You don’t have to be a server, it is something extra, something that brings us close to Jesus if we try to do it well.This makes you different from many of your friends. That is ok. If they ask you why, it can be hard to answer, but easy too – it is important to Jesus and brings us clos to Him.Thank you to your parents for the extra effort it takes. Your young need you to encourage them. Thank you to the senior servers. For your patience, especially with the younger ones! Thank you to the clergy, for helping you, for making sure you are safe and there is no bullying. Boys and young men think about the Priesthood. We need priests. I hope some of you will think about becoming priests. Priests help people know Jesus better. You need to think about it. Jesus, are you calling me to be a priest? To make a choice?Help to make sure Jesus is still alive in our society and world. Stop greedy, selfish, falling out – no stress, not loved, no need to feel useless or a failure. St Stephen – something happened in his life – no-one could stop him being a friend of Jesus, a server.

Sincerest good wishes and prayers,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

Bishop’s Blog: A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of Lancaster for Good Sheperd’s Sunday

Dear Friends,

This week on the Bishop’s Blog I would like to share with you my Pastoral Letter for this coming weekend- which is Good Shepherd (Or Vocation)Sunday.

I hope this Letter helps the faithful of the Diocese in their prayer and support of their Pastors and those discerning a priestly vocation:

A PASTORAL LETTER FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER

FOR GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY 4TH SUNDAY OF EASTERTIDE YEAR C.

Appointed to be read at all Public Masses in the Diocese of Lancaster on the weekend of 11th and 12th May 2019

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, When Our Blessed Lord chose the image of the Good Shepherd and His sheep as the model for His Church He had the Diocese of Lancaster in mind. We know what He is talking about because our beautiful Diocese is full of sheep, and shepherds; hardy beasts and hardy people. They are a common enough sight throughout our area, although not so common in Blackpool or Preston of course.Many of you listening to this Pastoral Letter may have read James Rebank’s popular book of recent times, ‘The Shepherd’s Life’. Two thousand years ago Our Lord chose words that we can understand even in our own times. We are people of Faith: the things of this world teach us about the things of eternity.The Bishop’s crozier or crook is a present-day sign that Christ still leads His flock through the ministry of the Bishop and his clergy. This beautiful pastoral image appeals to us in its simplicity. It contains a powerful truth about the relationship Our Blessed Lord wants with us. It presents us with an insight into the nature of God, not as some remote, authoritarian figure but as God directly involved in safeguarding the well-being of His little ones.The Bishop together with his clergy must preserve the true figure of the true God. Fewer of you will be familiar with St Augustine’s homily, ‘On the shepherds’, or St Gregory the Great’s ‘Pastoral Rule’, or so many other Christian writings from across the ages drawing on the simple image of shepherd and flock. The word ‘pastoral’ points us to the Good Shepherd as does the word ‘Pastor’.Jesus declares Himself to be the Good Shepherd who knows His flock, calls each one by name, and promises to lay down His life for His sheep. He commands Peter to feed His lambs, to look after His sheep. They need to be fed. They need to be protected. The Bishop and his clergy must continue to obey this command. Present day sheep farmers, like James Rebanks, must keep a keen eye on the changing spring weather. An old shepherd in upper Wyresdale once told me it’s the combination of cold and wet that threatens most. A Shepherd in Ravenglass once told me that if people ever saw what a fox does with lambs they would understand why foxes are so hated. Look out over a field of young lambs and you’ll often notice crows and gulls amongst them. The birds are only there for one thing, and if you watch for long enough you may have your stomach turned when you see them strike. The pastoral scene is not always pretty. The Bishop and his clergy must be constantly vigilant against whatever threatens the flock, especially the young and weak. On this Vocations Sunday we take note of Christ’s words about His sheep, ‘they listen to my voice . . . . they follow me . . . . they will never be lost . . . . no one can steal them from me . . . . ‘ This could be the voice of any good Cumbrian or Lancashire sheep farmer. They must be the words in the hearts of the Bishop and his clergy . The Church exists to make present and continue the Mission of Jesus Christ. It must put away any image that would distort His features or weaken our understanding of Him, or lessen our sense of His care, or silence His voice.Lives are at stake. Eternal life is at stake. The Bishop and his clergy are a constant reminder of this.But it is not all about the Bishop and his clergy. Parents naturally want what is best for their children. They want them to be safe. They want them to be happy. And they are the first protectors of their children. They are the first to teach their children about God and the ways of Faith. Any who deny them this or delay to teach them about the spiritual life cannot know God. Those who delay Baptism or neglect it altogether put themselves and their children at risk. Only blind ignorance can be their defence. The Bishop and his clergy must promote sound teaching and knowledge of the one, true God. Our Diocese needs good, committed Catholics. We need families where husband and wife combine to raise children who know that the love of God is real. Single parents are not ‘second-class’. They too can build homes in which the Lord is known and His call is heard clearly. We need parents and teachers courageous and generous enough to encourage their children to take seriously a vocation to the Religious Life. And we need parents who respect and value the ordained Priesthood enough to encourage their sons to consider this as their way of life, their way to heaven. The Bishop and his clergy are sons of such parents. I have no doubt that such parents are to be found in our Diocese.

Let us speak positively about such things. I ask you to reflect on these words, and turn your reflections into prayers, and turn your prayers into actions. The Church in its humanity has many flaws, one of them is writing this Pastoral Letter! I am no theologian, but I have been given the heart of a shepherd, and so have some of the young men listening to this. I appeal to you this Sunday to create a ‘vocations culture’ in your parish. Such a culture will allow Christ to call forth priests for our parishes, shepherds for His flock. Finally, please pray for your Bishop and his clergy. Please pray particularly for our young clergy. Please pray for Deacon Stephen Talbutt who is to be ordained to the Priesthood in July this year. Please pray for our two seminarians, Stuart Chapple and Philip Wrigley.

With my prayers and blessings,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Bishop’s Blog: Visiting Pastures Old and New!

My dear Friends  in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

The Fifth Sunday of Lent saw me on Visitation to Scorton and Garstang. Back amongst family and old friends it was a Visitation like no other, the congregation full of ghosts – welcome ghosts!These parishes will be affected along with all the rest in some way as our circumstances change. What the Lord will make of us is in His hands. During the Visitation we were able to pray for Mgr Tully who served for many years as PP in Scorton. He died peacefully in a Grange Care Home the following Monday. Fr.David Elder, for many years PP at Garstang, has recently received sad news concerning his own health. Even so, much good work remains to be done in whatever time the Lord will give. Monday evening I was in Preston as a guest speaker at an ecumenical gathering at the Central Methodist church. This would be the last in a series of Lenten talks. Mine was entitled; ‘How well do you know the wilderness?’I marked the first anniversary of my Episcopal Ordination by celebrating Mass at St.Mary’s Seminary, Oscott. During Mass the Ministries of Lector and Acolyte were conferred on some of the seminarians. Following Mass a splendid meal was enjoyed in the refectory. Such an occasion was plenty of food for thought and reflection since I was at Ushaw seminary in the 1970s receiving these same Ministries. It marked part of the journey to here. We grow closer to the Lord sometimes slowly and sometimes it seems to be in leaps and bounds. The approach to Holy Week can be similar each year but should find us closer than before. Oscott certainly gave me a sense of having moved on, as I considered these young men in their early years of formation.The following morning Stuart, one of our Diocesan seminarians gave me an early lift to the local Railway Station. I was on my way to London for a meeting. Besides having care of their particular Diocese each Bishop is given additional responsibilities in some department of the Bishops’ Conference. Mine is with International Affairs and Missio.The Conference has been linked with the Church in Sudan and South Sudan for several years, as an expression of solidarity and accompaniment in the midst of their on-going national turmoil. I look forward to my first visit in the autumn, taking over from Bishop Bill Kenney of Birmingham.


And now on the eve of Holy Week, our parishes are prepared for the most solemn Liturgies of the year. Little is needed by way of preaching if the Liturgies are followed faithfully.

Sincerest good wish and prayers for Holy Week,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Bishop’s Blog: Looking back so as to look forward

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!Anyone who read or heard my Pastoral letter at the beginning of Lent may have been struck by the parish sister’s intention to ‘do less’ for Lent. Given the continued lack of a regular Blog, some of you may believe I have taken her words much to heart. In fact, I haven’t. It’s simply a case of my best intention producing little for it. But hope still springs eternal.Monday I was present at the Installation Mass of Bishop Robert Byrne as Ordinary for Hexham and Newcastle. It was a glorious spring day, celebrating the Mystery of the Annunciation of Our Blessed Lady.I was delighted to meet Bishop Michael Campbell OSA, our first encounter since his retirement. I am pleased to say he is looking very well, and enjoys good health.At this moment I am about to set off for a retreat in North Wales, and I am looking forward to it almost desperately so. It has been a long twelve months with a ‘steep learning curve’. The retreat will be a chance to look back with thanks giving on all the Grace and rich experiences I have been given. It will also be a chance to steady myself for all that is to come.One realization I have is how much I miss parish life. Recently I have begun Parish Visitations. These are a comfort and encouragement for me. It is a joy to meet the lay faithful of our parishes and helps give me confidence for the future. Of course, the immediate future is more of Lent, the Holy Week then Easter.Add to that the on-going personal, family, national and world affairs and we have quite enough to occupy us. Only have Faith. Do let’s make sure we are listening to the Gospel and the voice of Christ as much as we are letting in the voices of our busy, noisy world.

May God Bless you all.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster