The Bishop’s Blog: Growing in Christ

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!

Newman school in Carlisle has been recovering from its site flooding more than two years ago. John McAuley, his staff, governors and pupils have had to dig deep to overcome their difficulties working in temporary accommodation. It seems to have brought out the best in them, as I witnessed at the ceremony to bless and dedicate the new site on which the school is to be rebuilt. There was a terrific gathering of civic and Diocesan figures for the occasion. A sapling (weeping cherry) was planted. Press and media were in attendance. Refreshments were on hand. It was a thoroughly well planned occasion for all concerned and was rich in promise. Such partnerships emphasise that the Church does not exist for itself or in isolation. We have a mission in and to the world.Later the same day I celebrated Mass for the Parish of The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Carlisle. It was a delight to see so many young people at the Mass. Afterwards we enjoyed supper in the parish club at St.Margaret Mary’s and the conversations flowed late into the evening. The Jehovah Witnesses won first prize for visiting Bishop’s House. I’m happy to say that now the clergy of the Diocese are finding their way there, without needing an appointment.During the past week we celebrated Confirmations at St.Mary’s, Newhouse and then St.Andrew and Blessed George Haydock, Cottam.On Thursday I was invited to celebrate Mass at St.Mary’s Academy, Blackpool for the Year 3 pupils of the Academy’s feeder primary schools. This was my first return to the school since the 1980’s. What a transformation! Mr.Eccles gave me a whistle-stop tour after a light lunch.You will note that, as yet, this Blog is not much more than a record of my diary events. I am new to it, and will learn and develop – I hope – as the weeks pass. It is a special grace to get about the Diocese and meet so many people, to encourage you in your Faith and in my turn to be encouraged.

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

The Bishop’s Blog: Build the Church … Love Life…

Hello & welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!Sunday saw me return to Workington, Christ the Good Shepherd parish. Since August 2010 this had been my home, and I was happy there amongst the good people of West Cumbria. I was returning to say thank-you and a sort of goodbye. The Corpus Christi Mass was a beautiful celebration followed by refreshments and a presentation in St.Joseph’s school next-door. There simply was not time to have a word with everyone. What was good to see was that there are some new faces amongst the regulars, including Iraqi families, part of a refugee resettlement programme. The work of building our parishes as welcoming Faith communities goes on.On Tuesday I attended a meeting of the Trustees of Ushaw College, Durham, the seminary I attended from 1976 to 1982.For some years it has been closed as a seminary but it remains a magnificent site not just for the history of the Catholic community but as a place discovering how to play its part in the Church’s future. I recommend it as a place to visit. You may start by visiting the College website.Following the tragic referendum result in Ireland it is heart-breaking to see the pro-abortion lobby turning its attention towards the North of Ireland, intent on dismantling the laws that protect unborn children.We must persevere in hope and prayer, and we must do penance, something I have neglected. Earlier in the week I was humbled by a conversation with a Nun. I was commenting on how we did not have to fast on Friday because it is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Sister was very well aware of this and so was keeping Thursday as a day of fasting instead. There is a lesson to reflect on, and an example to follow. Enjoy the feasts but don’t neglect the fasts. Both are essential

With every good wishes and prayer for the week ahead,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

The Bishop’s Blog: Life & Creation

Dear brothers and sisters,

Welcome to this week’s post!

The Irish Referendum result is to be lamented. Given some of the euphoric scenes shown on the media one can only believe that the majority of those rejoicing had no idea of the full consequences of their vote. It certainly cannot be considered a ‘victory’. I commend John Smeaton, Chief Executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, who wrote, ‘what’s happened has made us all the more determined to continue our work to protect unborn babies and their mothers.’ It also leaves me asking myself if I take penance seriously enough. I think I know the answer.  I had no engagements over the weekend. The phone never rang, and the door-bell only went once. Jehovah’s Witnesses, bless them! We had an enjoyable conversation. I took their leaflet, and they went on their way.Monday was the day of the Youth Service sponsored walk, the initiative of and organised by Fr.John Moriarty.Eleven of us took part, and we all completed a superb high ridge walk from Grasmere to St.John’s in the Vale along the High Street Massif. Almost eleven hours on the fells on a blisteringly hot day. Water-management was critical. Patricia’s barbeque was magnificent at the end of it all. Thanks to all the sponsors.Tuesday got off to an understandably slow start. Various interviews and meetings were held, helping to build up my picture of the Diocese. I miss life in the parish, and it will take time to come to terms with being the Bishop. But all is not lost! I am looking forward eagerly to Sunday when I return to Workington – briefly – for a chance to say thank-you and goodbye.And speaking of goodbyes, yesterday I introduced myself to my next-door neighbour, a pleasant chap, who informed me he is moving today. Life seems set to get even quieter.
Thank-you for the continuing prayers.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Highlights of the Week

My Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog this week.With the coming of Pentecost we celebrated Mass with the Sacrament of Confirmation at the Cathedral. Those to be confirmed were from most of the parishes of the Cathedral deanery.

I must say I think I’m beginning to enjoy these occasions! They make a wonderful change from meetings and administration! Those being confirmed did well, and what a joy to see these young people full of life and promise. A proud day for them and their families, sponsors and catechists.Immediately after the Mass I headed east across the country to the North Sea coast near Whitby. The purpose was a re-union of my class-mates, ordained in 1982.We are few in number but find strength in this annual time together. This year in particular is special for two reasons, firstly, because I am the first among them (but not the last . . . ?) to be ordained bishop.The second reason is that last year Fr Paddy Cope of Middlesborough was the first of our number to be called to his eternal reward. This was a strong reminder of the goal we are all working for.Tuesday saw me back in Garstang, this time for the AGM and lunch of the Broughton Catholic Charitable Society. This was another wonderful occasion and a delight once more to be back amongst so many friends . . . and relatives! (Having said that, one aspect of such events I am learning to struggle with is people coming up to me and asking, ‘My Lord, do you remember me?’ Then they go quiet and watch me sweat!) This venerable old charitable association is something we can be very proud of. Whilst it obviously needs new blood it is certainly in a healthy state.Wednesday I attended the opening of new offices in Preston for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC). Dana performed the official opening. This was followed by a solemn blessing of the premises after which speeches were made and lunch taken. It was a powerful, joyous and moving occasion. The forth-coming Irish referendum on abortion made it all the more relevant. Dana spoke with great authority and compassion about the vulnerability of the unborn and the need for us to be utterly non-judgemental of women caught up in the scandal of abortion. John Smeaton was gracious and thorough in all he said as President of the Society. Antonia marshalled things and people with nonchalant ease and lightness of touch. A great occasion and wonderful atmosphere. Let us continue to pray for the work of SPUC and do all we can for Pro-Life.Thursday marked the first meeting of the Chapter of Canons which also operates as the Bishop’s College of Consultors. In the evening I return to Sacred Heart, Ashton, Preston for the celebration of Confirmation. Part of the purpose of this Blog is to share the pure goodness that is going on around the diocese.On 9th April at my ordination I was proud of the Diocese. As these weeks and events unfold I find that pride growing and deepening.

Until next week – we pray for each other.

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick
Bishop of Lancaster

 

 

Bishop Swarbrick’s Blog: My first post

Dear friends in Christ of the Diocese of Lancaster and beyond!

Welcome to my first Blog!

 

With the retirement of Bishop Campbell the Bishop’s Blog took a well-earned rest. Now is the moment for it to recommence as we approach Pentecost.
The Ordination on 9th April 2018 remains a vivid memory, one that will be with me for the rest of my life.

That day I was very proud of the Diocese of Lancaster and honoured to be chosen by Pope Francis to be your seventh Bishop. Read the full homily here.

Saturday 12th May was the Diocesan altar servers Pilgrimage to Ladyewell.

The sun shone. Numbers were good. Old friends met and new friends were made. This was a fitting occasion with which to re-start the Blog, with the Blessed Sacrament procession to the beautiful wooded shrine of Our Lady.

Following Benediction refreshments were available in generous measure. A great day indeed.

Sunday was an emotional day for me. Fr. Butler and parishioners of Garstang and Scorton had invited me to celebrate Holy Mass in my home parish.

The sun continued to shine! After a beautiful Mass in the packed church the school children led us to the Marian grotto where Mary was crowned with blossoms, as in the old hymn!

Following refreshments and time to talk I took a few quiet moments to pray at the grave of my parents and grandparents.

The evening found us celebrating Holy Mass at the Lancaster University chaplaincy.

A full chapel witnessed two students baptised and six confirmed.

Exam time will always tend to boost numbers! But this enthusiasm for faith is no passing fad. Following Mass there was rich conversation to be had as well as lots of cake in the chaplaincy rooms.

Tuesday morning saw me blessing two pairs of walking boots ceremonially planted on the Bishop’s desk. Caroline Hull and Bridget Huddleston of Aid to the Church in Need North West office are setting out on a walk to several Catholic Cathedrals in the North of England, beginning with Salford Cathedral.

The walk is to raise awareness and funds for Iraqi Christians.

A quiet gift for me has been the publishing of the Holy Father’s latest Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate on Holiness in our lives. Personally it appears to confirm my choice of motto, Sanctitas praeter pacem; Holiness before peace. Often, we can feel far from peaceful, yet at such times it is good to know that God, the Holy One, is still very close to us.


And so, we prepare for the great Feast of Pentecost!

As ever in Christ

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

Thank you & Farewell: My Final Blog post

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

During these days of Eastertide we hear repeatedly in the liturgy of the Mass how the Apostles witnessed before the public to the fact and to the truth of the Lord’s resurrection, while Paul, John, Peter and others in their letters found in the New Testament attempt to tease out the huge implications of the resurrection for the whole of creation.

God has raised up the crucified One, proclaimed the Apostles, and they can testify to it!  That mandate of proclaiming Christ, died and risen, has been entrusted to the Church from one generation to another until the day on which he finally returns in glory to restore all things.

As we know, the Apostles proclaimed Christ by word of mouth and by means of their writings contained in the Scriptures.

Yet if we move fast forward to our own day, I am sure that Paul, John and the other disciples would have exploited the full potential of technology and social media as they boldly gave witness to the life, death and resurrection of the Saviour.

In fact, the Church urges us today to draw on modern means of communication to spread the Christian message, and those of you who have followed my weekly blog will acknowledge that I have tried by means of it to make my own contribution to evangelisation as Bishop of Lancaster.

Through this blog which I have established, I cherish the hope that I have sowed some seeds in the minds of those who followed it, seeds which with God’s grace will eventually bear fruit.

I have engaged with social media in the deep conviction that the Holy Spirit, whom the Lord promised, is ever at work in people’s hearts and souls, in a real but usually hidden way.

It has been a joy and a privilege to speak, as it were, to so many ‘blog followers’ of the faith in Christ which we hold.

And it is humbling to realise that such a modest blog reaches readers in different parts of our world. The parting words of the risen Lord to his disciples in St. Matthew’s gospel contained the command to go out into the whole world and teach all nations the things he taught.

Notwithstanding its downside and perils, the worldwide web/internet is and will be a wonderful instrument in proclaiming the good news of Christ’s gospel.

On Monday I step down as Ordinary of Lancaster, so after nine years this will be my final blog. There will be little break now, but after that, my successor as Bishop of Lancaster will continue the Bishop’s Blog – so the work will continue.

I thank all of you who have followed my activities as bishop during that time, and have taken the trouble to read various sermons and other pieces posted on the Lancaster diocesan website.

I repeat:  hopefully all of this has in some way nourished your spiritual life and made you even more aware of the presence of the living God, who has spoken to us so dramatically in his Son, the Incarnate Word, and who anoints us with the balm of his life-giving Holy Spirit.

May God bless you, and let us pray for one another!

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Apostolic Administrator

My Homily for Lancaster’s Chrism Mass for 2018

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – in which I share my brief homily for this years Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday in Lancaster Cathedral:

‘Dear brother priests,

Two sentences from that gospel stand out for me, the first “all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him”, and the second, “This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”

Such was the attraction of Christ’s personality and the power of his words that the synagogue worshippers were transfixed. He read the passage from Isaiah with such authority that they could not take their eyes of him. They realised that he had something worthwhile to say.

As priests we act and minister in his name. As St. Paul puts it, “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2Cor.5:20), we represent him and make his gospel and ministry a reality in our own time. In a short time the oils will be blessed and consecrated – the oil of the sick, the oil of catechumens, and the oil of chrism – powerful symbols of the salvation Christ has gained for us, and we priests in a unique way are the channels of that salvation.

Through priestly ordination we have been orientated to Christ, and like that audience in the synagogue at Nazareth, our eyes have, as it were, been fixed on him.

The renewal of our priestly promises, to be made shortly, recommits us to walk that path marked out for us by Christ, for we too have been anointed to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to captives, to the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.

The oils, transfused with the power of him who is the First-born from the dead and the Ruler of the kings of the earth serve to remind us what we are about as priests. Christ through our ministry still walks the highways and byways of this earth touching the often broken lives of all who await his word of comfort and healing.

Let us then keep our gaze fixed firmly on Christ the Lord.

“This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”  As priests we can at times feel daunted by the overwhelming nature of the challenges we face in parish life, but the text from the Apocalypse assures us that there is One who has conquered, and lives forever triumphant with the Father –  Christ, the faithful witness.

In a very real sense the battle is over, for sin and death have been vanquished by him who died and rose again.  Our priestly vocation is to bring the fruits of Christ’s victory to the faithful people we shepherd. In spite of appearances, there is no need to be despondent or disheartened.

At the Easter Vigil the wonderfully inspiring Exultet will proclaim Christ’s triumph over sin and death. We priests have no need to fear, and like our Master let us too be faithful witnesses.  Amen.’

Until next week – As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Apostolic Administrator – Diocese of Lancaster

N.B. Most of the photos are courtesy of Andrew Dennison.