Bishop’s Blog: Works of the Holy Spirit

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to the Bishop’s Blog!

Traditionally, our devotions during the month of June focus on the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. A number of parishes held Blessed Sacrament processions. This is to be encouraged. As we come to the end of June I commend the Diocese to the protection of Jesus’ Most Sacred Heart.
Confirmation Masses have continued in various parishes during the past week. St.Mary and Michael, Alston Lane, St.Francis, Goosnargh, and St.Bede’s, Carlisle, including parishioners from Our Lady of Eden. This was probably the most unpopular Mass thus far. Whilst we Confirmed the young people and praised God, England were losing to Belgium in the World Cup. Please note; England were competing for a single prize that, if successful, they will only keep for four years then have to hand back. Here we are receiving a far greater prize, and there’s enough for everyone, and it’s ours to keep! With most gifts we can ask ourselves, what am I going to do with it? With the gift of the Holy Spirit we can ask ourselves, what is this gift going to do with me? Exciting!At 9am on Saturday I joined an intrepid bunch of eleven cyclists outside St.Joseph’s church, Lancaster. This was a social event, cycling round the churches in the Lancaster deanery, advertised as a distance of 55miles. The day was fair, the company was good and the pace was modest enough for us to stay together. A number of the churches visited were new to me, and what a delight to find them open for us to clatter in and spend time in prayer. Welcome refreshments were served at various venues.

As we journeyed on we were conscious that Stephen Talbutt was being ordained Deacon for the Diocese at Oscott College. He was very much in our prayers.Sunday was, understandably, a quiet day.
On Monday I attended the opening and first session of the Catholic Teaching Alliance Conference for Teachers and Governors, held at Preston North End. This forum is growing in strength, popularity and relevance for our schools. From the start it was clear that Faith adds a completely new dimension to education, recognising the fulness of life redeemed by Christ.

Our Education system is building on a foundation laid by Christ rather than on one laid by some ideology of the passing moment. It is encouraging to see the positive effect this is having especially on young teachers. They feel valued..
I wish to conclude this week’s Blog by mentioning Fr.Sony, an Indian priest working in the Diocese as Parish Priest at Claughton and Hill Chapel, Goosnargh as well as serving as our Judicial Vicar. Fr.Sony’s performance on the bike ride was phenomenal given his lack of preparation and the condition of the bike he rode. On Tuesday afternoon I joined him for a delicious Indian meal before a beautiful evening Confirmation Mass at Hill Chapel. On Thursday evening he received news of his mother’s death in India. It is in such circumstances that the great sacrifice of serving far from home becomes most obvious. As a Diocese let us be sensitive to the generosity of those from abroad working here for the Lord. They are a sign of His generous love. Let us commend them and their families to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Sincerest good wishes and prayers,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

 

Bishop’s Blog: Confirmations & Gatherings

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
As Bishop I receive lots of invitations to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation, to celebrate various feasts and special occasions, to bless people, things and gatherings. On Friday I responded to an invitation in St.Bernadette’s, Bispham simply to go and enjoy their Summer social entertainment concert. For a change I simply sat back and let them get on with it! It was a thoroughly entertaining evening and I enjoyed just being there in the audience. Thank-you. Over the weekend I was interviewed by BBC Radio Lancashire focussing on the recent Referendum in Ireland. We must take whatever opportunities we are given to promote the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of Life. What people make of our words and how they react to them is not ours to control. Yes, each of us is called to exercise our freedom, following a properly formed and informed conscience, but we must also be aware of the profound effect the consequences of our choices will have, particularly on the most vulnerable. It seems obvious that society is losing sight of the child within the womb. There must be an alternative to abortion.The past week I have celebrated Confirmation Masses at St.Clare’s, Fulwood and at Our Lady and St.Michal, Alston Lane. After the nerves I felt on earlier occasions I am now beginning to enjoy them. These events bring natural families and parish families together in a wonderful spirit of joy and life. After a day at work and school people have made the effort to prepare themselves for something very different. The gift of the Holy Spirit is given so that we can give witness to the life of Jesus to those amongst whom we live. It is a gift to be generously shared.
To balance these large public gatherings each week contains a number of meetings with small groups and individuals representing particular interest groups within the Diocese. Then there are the completely un-planned encounters which keep alive our sense of being part of the Lord’s plan.

May God bless you all.

As ever in Christ,

+Paul

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster

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