A Word of Encouragement for the Pro-Life Movement

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog! – a word of encouragement to those who work in and pray for the Pro-Life Movement.

Sometimes, we can tend to assume that as long as we’re well-intentioned, God will overlook the more ugly side of our actions. But nothing in Sacred Scripture supports this. In fact, you will find very little soft sentiment in the words of the Lord Jesus. We can, of course, count on God’s mercy and compassion, but we can also count on his justice.  God will always love us, no matter what we do. But love always tells the truth.

Here’s the truth: Three hours ago Pope Francis Tweeted:

“We are called to defend and safeguard human life, especially in the mother’s womb, in infancy, old age and physical or mental disability.”

Consequently, we cannot claim to be Catholic and then ignore what our faith teaches on serious matters of human dignity, especially on a foundational issue like abortion. We need to be faithful and well-informed Catholics first. If we are, then our Catholic convictions will naturally enrich our country’s public life.

For some Catholics, sadly the price of admission into mainstream British life has meant that we somehow keep the Catholic brand name and tribal loyalty, but are content to live a mix of nostalgia and generic good will and ‘keep our heads down’ in the public sphere. Rather, as Catholics, we have a baptismal duty to sanctify and humanize our country; in other words, to lead it to Jesus Christ.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the (1967) Abortion Act in Britain, we recall we’re citizens of heaven first and we have pro-life obligations to the poor, the homeless, the disabled, the elderly and the refugee.  But abortion is foundational. There’s no way around it. It’s the cornerstone issue for any society because it deals with the most basic human right of all – the right to life.

We just cannot build a just society while allowing more than a 185,000 abortions a year (in England and Wales), or even half that number. This is why “abortion reduction” strategies can sound persuasive and do have value, but they never adequately address the brutality and injustice of abortion itself, or abortion’s deep wounds to both women and children – with 8.8 million lives lost thus far in Britain since the introduction of the Act.

Some Catholics – including some periodicals and newspapers who claim to use that name – seem simply embarrassed by the abortion issue.

The abortion struggle gets in the way of their natural political alliances. Others don’t really agree with the Church’s teaching, or don’t accept the personhood of the unborn child. Others just want a respectable way to explain away this issue and get on with what they regard as the ‘real’ work of the Church!

I don’t think we’ve lost the abortion struggle just yet. Quite the opposite. A social conflict like abortion or racism is fundamental; it challenges the moral premises of a society and can often go on for decades. Overturning the Abortion Act is achievable. So are legal restrictions on abortion and legal protections for the unborn. Let us work and pray under God for this intention – especially with the Rosary this October – always with the compassion of Christ.

Until next week, let us pray for each other and for all those Catholics and others, too, who work to nurture and protect human life at its most vulnerable,

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

On the Educational Mission of the Church

Dear Friends in Christ,

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

The Diocese of Lancaster celebrated its annual Education Mass (my homily for this Mass is here) this past Friday evening in St. Peter’s Cathedral, Lancaster. The large and enthusiastic attendance of all those involved in any way in the Church’s educational mission entrusted to her by Christ underlined the significance of this Mass.

The occasion gave me, the Bishop and first teacher of the faith in the Diocese, the opportunity to thank our priests, teachers, governors, chaplains, catechists, those involved in RCIA, and others, for their commitment and assistance in this challenging ecclesial apostolate.

The reason for the Church’s existence is to speak of Jesus Christ and hand on his saving Truth from one generation to the next, until He returns in glory and makes all things new. The apostles and disciples were given this mandate by the risen Lord to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth, a task which consequently has no limits. And wherever the Church establishes herself in any part of the world, her members will necessarily be engaged in forming minds and hearts after the manner of Jesus Christ.

So in the cathedral last evening as a teaching and educational community we invoked God’s blessing on the labours of so many, especially in our schools, colleges and parishes, who endeavour to prepare the way for the One, like John the Baptist, who is the greatest of all teachers, the Son of God.

Through this blog, I again acknowledge and express my thanks to the large number of those who form part of our educational community, which is comprised of eighty two parishes, seventy three primary and eleven secondary schools, and the Cardinal Newman College in Preston. The scale of these institutions for a relatively small diocese indicate just how seriously the Diocese of Lancaster approaches the task given her by her Divine Founder.

I am also very aware of the quiet but effective work of handing on the faith which so often takes place in our parishes – with the active help of our schools – in together – preparing our children and young people for those important sacramental moments in their lives, such as First Penance, First Holy Communion, and the Sacrament of Confirmation.

I am, of course, also conscious of the serious challenges that face Catholic Education and our schools today in our country with social relativism in the home and prevalent in politics, literature, TV and film and, of course, in and through the extraordinary rise of the newer and social media. Besides, today’s powerful and programmatic secular sociological trends often undermine or disregard our Catholic vision of life and love and our overwhelming respect for the human person, and respect for foundational bedrocks of society, such as the primacy of the family and defense of those most vulnerable in our society.

Our Catholic schools, have to operate within this demanding context and yet must continually seek to be faithful custodians of the Truth, beauty, and goodness of God in a way that allows for the joy of the Gospel to be palpable to all who have contact with our schools – Catholic and otherwise.

When our Catholic schools are experienced as beacons of Christ’s joy and care, then we bring our children, young people and those who educate them to the Truth who speaks insistently and compellingly to that hope that dwells in our hearts. Our hope is ultimately found in the person of Jesus Christ.

Our distinctive schools, colleges and academies continue to exist to form hearts, mould minds, and transform lives through the teachings of Jesus Christ, His Gospels and the teachings of His Catholic Church and so we have a lot to be hopeful about when we pin our future endeavours and plans on Him.

We are coming to realise ever more that each member of the Church through baptism is called to witness and be, in a certain sense, a teacher of Christ. The importance, therefore, and the central teaching role of the parish community, emphasised by Pope Francis, can hardly be overstated. So, thank you to all of you who give so generously of your time and spiritual gifts to the sacramental development of our children and young people. Please do continue this wonderful work, and call and encourage others to assist you.

Returning to last evening in the cathedral, it was heartening and greatly reassuring to see such an excellent number of young aspiring teachers who are taking their first steps in Catholic Education. Whatever the challenges facing us as a Church in the field of education, and retaining and safeguarding the thoroughly Catholic spirit and ethos which we have inherited constitutes one of those challenges, there is much to be thankful for.

Please keep in your prayers the efforts of our Diocese of Lancaster to be faithful and play its part here in the North West in fulfilling the mission of the Lord to ‘teach all nations’.

Until next week – let us pray for each other,

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

After Pontifical High Mass at ‘The Martyrs’, Preston – off to Walsingham

Dear Friends in Christ,

Welcome this week’s post of the Bishop’s Blog!

It was a heart-lifting experience last Sunday morning to see the beautiful Preston church of Saint Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs filled to capacity, when a Pontifical Mass was celebrated in the extraordinary form to mark a new chapter in the particular history of this church.

It seemed to me as if this venerable place of worship was once more breathing fully in both lungs, and through its splendid liturgy praise and worship were offered to Almighty God.

While Sunday Mass in the ordinary form will continue to be celebrated weekly for now, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest will now take care of this lovely church and ensure that there is Mass each day in the extraordinary form, that the sacraments will be administered, and a regular pattern of prayer and devotional life be available to all who come to English Martyrs, and for which it was built.

We give thanks to God for the hope generated for the future, and for the consolation and inspiration given to us by those wonderful liturgical moments that we were privileged to be part of last weekend in St. Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs church, Preston. To God be the glory!

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, the village itself, and the rural Norfolk surroundings offer much peace and tranquility to the pilgrims who make the journey there. I spent the last five days in Walsingham with thirty-four others from the Diocese of Lancaster, and all were unanimous how enriched we felt as a consequence.

Only the small Slipper Chapel remains of this ancient Catholic shrine, but the hallowed atmosphere of the site is suggestive of the presence of Our Lady and of the prayers recited there by countless generations of devout pilgrims, coming here since the eleventh century.

Since the official pilgrim season was almost at an end, our little group had the shrine more or less to ourselves. We had Mass each day and walked the pilgrim mile, reciting the rosary. Apart from the last day, the weather was kind and we enjoyed pleasant autumn days. We were encouraged and uplifted by one another’s company, always aware that that we were in a special place.

Walsingham offers a precious space away from the noise and bustle of modern life, a place where we can get in touch with the deeper rhythms within ourselves, and commune quietly with Our Lady and her Blessed Son. We had many intentions, including those of the Diocese of Lancaster, so all were remembered and placed confidently into the hands of Our Lady of Walsingham.

During this short pilgrimage we had a memorable visit to Oxburgh Hall, a forty minute drive from Walsingham, the seat of the Catholic Bedingfeld family since the thirteenth century. A notable feature of this striking, moat-surrounded, building was the presence of a priest’s hiding hole (said to have been built by St Nicholas Owen) where priests would take cover as they went about ministering in time of persecution, at risk to their lives.

The present heir, Sir Henry Bedingfeld, with his wife, Lady Mary, welcomed us warmly and spoke of the family’s long history and loyal adherence to the Catholic faith, in good times and bad. We had the privilege of having Mass in their chapel on the estate, at a fifteenth century richly adorned Belgian altar.

We came away from Oxburgh Hall made just a little more conscious of the debt we present day Catholics owe to families like the Bedingfelds who steadfastly refused to abandon their Catholic heritage.

We left Walsingham feeling much the better for having been at Our Lady’s shrine, with many of our pilgrims determined to make the long journey again next year!

Until next week,

May God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

Entrusting the English Martyrs’ church, Preston to the ICKSP

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Dear friends,

Greetings and prayers, as I post this week’s Bishop’s Blog – reflecting upon a major development in the life and history of the Catholic Church in Preston. I reflect upon this today because working to build up the Church in Preston and to secure its future, under God, has been a key part of my ministry as Bishop of Lancaster.

The city of Preston has long been blessed with a number of fine Catholic churches, remarkable for their size, external architectural design and attractive interiors.  These architectural gems, such as Saint Walburge’s,   St. Ignatius (now the Syro-Malabar Cathedral of St. Alphonsa),  and Saint Thomas of Canterbury & English Martyrs, are symbolic of an era of huge numbers of local Catholics at Mass – which has now sadly passed.

In common with many northern cities and towns, Preston has witnessed both considerable demographic decline and urban redevelopment which necessarily has had its impact on the size and age-profile of the Catholic community in the city.  Consequently, The Diocese of Lancaster has been confronted with the major challenge of what to do with these large listed churches.

Thankfully, we have not been paralysed by this situation. We have sought looked beyond the borders of the Diocese – towards the help of others. Indeed, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (three years ago this weekend) took responsibility, at my my invitation, for the splendid grade one listed St. Walburge’s church. It is a source of great delight to know that the Institute are steadily rejuvenating the St Walburge’s site – spiritually and materially.

Meanwhile, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Mar George Cardinal Alencherry accepted the offer of St. Ignatius’ church which, with the blessing of the Holy See, became, just over a year ago, the Cathedral for the new Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain.

We are truly delighted that St Ignatius has become the Mother Church for the new Eparchy and that this young diocese has such a beautiful Cathedral church in its care. Repair works now progress on St Alphonsa Cathedral, Preston and presbytery at quite a pace.

The lovely church on Garstang Road, affectionately known as ‘the Martyrs’, has likewise witnessed both a dwindling Mass attendance and a sharp deterioration in its maintenance.  Although the cost of maintaining such a historic building is not cheap, as Bishop I could not countenance its closure because of its sign value to Catholic Preston.

A fresh chapter therefore in the history of English Martyrs begins this Sunday with the celebration of a Pontifical High Mass (to be filmed by Sancta Familia Media), as previously announced, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest have generously accepted my offer to assume the care of the church, so ensuring that Mass, sacraments, devotions and prayers take place in the church each day.

I place on record my sincere thanks to each and everyone involved in a huge clean-up operation at ‘the Martyrs’ – church, sacristies and grounds these last few months in readiness for the transfer to the Institute. I am mindful, too, of the substantial repair works going on there over the summer period – all due the momentum of the transfer!

All my thanks go to the Prior General of the Institute, Monsignor Wach for accepting my request and to all those in the Diocese and within the Institute who worked hard to make this arrangement happen.  The church will now be established as a Shrine Church to the promotion of devotion to the English Martyrs and their powerful witness to the Church today.

Mass and liturgies will be mainly celebrated both in the extraordinary form, an integral part of Church life today, but a Mass will be celebrated ordinary form on a Saturday evening – at least for the time being.

This church with its handsome and inspiring interior will now be open every day, allowing time for daily Mass, prayer and devotional visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Confessions and other pious practices. The significance of such a church situated on a main (Garstang) road and being open for visits can hardly be exaggerated in our often frantic and hurried world of today.

The need for silence and an opportunity to encounter the living God in his house of prayer is greater than ever. My hope is that this new Shrine Church of English Martyrs will help meet that need.

The Catholics of the city of Preston have a rich legacy of architecturally beautiful churches, lovingly constructed to the glory of God and paid for by previous generations. By preserving and nurturing this precious heritage we are honouring the memory and intentions of those believers who have preceded us in the faith.

With God’s blessing we are also ensuring, for example, that the church of “the Martyrs” will remain open and welcoming to those future generations of Catholics who will follow us.  My sincere prayer this special weekend is that God who has begun this good work may in his graciousness bring it to completion!

Until next week – may God bless you all.

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

May Cardinal Cormac rest in peace!

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog after the summer!

On Wednesday the Catholic Church in England & Wales bade a final and indeed fond farewell to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor at a requiem Mass followed by his burial in Westminster Cathedral. 

I was pleased to be present to represent the Diocese of Lancaster.

The Cardinal’s health had been failing in recent months and he died peacefully in a London hospital.

During his final illness Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor had a message sent from his hospital bed to his brother Bishops as well as to the priests of Westminster diocese. He assured everyone that he was at peace and that death held no fear for him. His message was a remarkable testimony to a deeply Christian soul approaching its end.

The liturgy of the Cardinal’s funeral Mass, presided over by Cardinal Nichols, was solemn and dignified but permeated with faith and the unshakeable hope afforded to us by Christ’s resurrection. The music of the Mass, both Latin and English, somehow soothed and eased the sense of loss which we all felt.

The many bishops, and large number of priests, who concelebrated the Mass was an indication of the affection in which Cardinal Cormac was held, and the numerous lives he touched. The huge attendance of laity, ecumenical guests and his extended family, were further evidence of just how much so many people appreciated and felt close to him.

I was privileged to know the Cardinal well and was always struck by his cheerful outlook and warmth of friendship, characteristics highlighted in the excellent homily delivered by Archbishop George Stack.  St Thomas Aquinas taught that grace builds on nature and this was patently true of the life of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. He brought his many human gifts and talents and put them at the service of the Church in his sixty years as a priest, and forty as a bishop.

Cardinal Cormac was a big man in every sense, both physical and spiritual, but humble enough to acknowledge his faults and seek forgiveness when needed.

The Catholic Church in England & Wales, and beyond, owe this great servant of the Lord and faithful priest a great debt. A great presence has gone from our midst. We pray that he now rests from his labours and enjoys the reward of a good and faithful servant.

The plain coffin of the Cardinal was laid to rest beside the tenth station of the cross in the cathedral, and there his mortal remains await the glory of the resurrection.

Cardinal Nichols read the final prayers of the funeral over the vault and we left Cardinal Cormac finally at home in the cathedral church where he served as Cardinal Archbishop.

 

 

It was with mixed emotions that we went on our way, but grateful to God for having known and being graced by such a wonderful priest and human being.   May Cardinal Cormac rest in peace!

Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

 

Photos:  Thanks to Marcin Mazur (CBCEW)

Here in Lourdes!

Dear Friends in Christ,

This week, I welcome you to the Bishop’s Blog from the Shrine of Lourdes, France!

I’m delighted to be here greeting you as I lead our Diocesan Pilgrimage to this well-loved Marian shrine – in this the year when we celebrate 90 years since our very first Diocesan Pilgrimage to the shrine.

For this week’s post I use the homily for our Mass of Welcome this (Saturday) afternoon:

“Mass of Welcome Lourdes Pilgrimage 2017

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

(Song of Songs 3:1-4; John 20:1-2; 11-18)

Mary Magdalene persisted in her search for the Lord. Peter and John had departed from the tomb but she stayed amidst her distress and tears, such was her deep attachment and love for the Lord. As we just heard in that gospel, she ‘found the one whom her heart loves’, when the risen Christ appeared and spoke to her personally, calling her by her own name. Mary of Magdala’s life would never be the same again. The Lord she thought was dead and buried was in fact living and glorious. The Church calls her the ‘first Evangelist’ for it was her task to go and tell his brothers and sisters the good news of the gospel: that Christ has risen.

We are in Lourdes as a diocesan family on pilgrimage and, like Mary Magdalene, we too are searching and ultimately looking for the Lord. We come to Lourdes to be with Mary, the Mother of the Lord, who will lead us to her Son. We will learn in prayer from the example of St. Bernadette how to persevere in faith, for the little girl Bernadette had to stand firm and insist that Our Blessed Lady had really appeared to her. Lourdes is a special time of grace for each one of us pilgrims. We take the decision to come here, it is almighty God however who calls us by name to set out in pilgrimage in the first place. Let us open our hearts, therefore, and be attentive to the call of God in this most holy place of prayer.

For some of you this will be your first pilgrimage and experience of Lourdes. Be open-minded and patient with yourselves. Talk to Our Lady at the grotto, tell her your story and what’s on your mind. Be carried along by the example and prayers of your fellow pilgrims, and above all be inspired by the faith of the large number of sick you see around you, and those who so devotedly care for them. Be aware that, perhaps above all, Lourdes is a place of spiritual healing where pilgrims find the strength, the faith and the courage to live their lives as faithful Catholics in a challenging and often complex world.

Others among us will have been regular pilgrims to Lourdes over the years and so are familiar with all that goes on here. Yet we must never be complacent. The Mother of God’s Son has still many new graces and favours to bestow on us. Like Mary Magdalene we too continue to search for the Lord, although we believe in him, trust in him, and love him. Part of God’s mysterious purpose for us is to come to Lourdes in July 2017. Remember that our quest for God will only cease when we see him face to face in the eternal life which awaits us.

I urge you as Bishop to support and encourage one another on this pilgrimage as a diocesan family of brothers and sisters.  Charity is the greatest commandment of all, and may that charity and respect for each other be the hallmark of our days here in this great Marian shrine.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. St. Bernadette, pray for us.  St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.  Amen! ”

Our blog closes now until September – so with a remembrance of you all and your intention here in Lourdes , I sign off now until September.

May God bless you all,

As ever in Christ,

Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

 

On Pilgrimage to Ladyewell

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Dear friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – a snapshot in the life and ministry of the Bishop of Lancaster!

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First though; I want to to thank everyone for the great support I received following last Sunday announcement (here and here) – this is deeply appreciated. Please keep the Diocese and the Institute in your prayers; that this initiative – under God – will bear much fruit.

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This week’s Blog reflects upon last Saturday’s Diocesan Pilgrimage to our ancient shrine of Ladyewell near Preston.  Thankfully, we had glorious weather for the occasion. I use the text of my Mass homily for the occasion:

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‘The Lancaster Diocesan Pilgrimage to Ladyewell – 8th July 2017

(Is 49:8-10; John 4:14 ff)

In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, the Lord promises that his people will never again thirst for ‘he will lead them to springs of water,’ while in the gospel the Lord Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman of the living water which he can offer.

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Water is of course a symbol of life; neither we nor the world of nature around us can survive without water.  Wells and springs have long been regarded as holy places where we humans encounter the sacred.

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The Samaritan woman met the saviour of the world at that well in Samaria, and the very name of this pilgrimage shrine ‘Ladyewell’ shows how pilgrims down the centuries have venerated Our Lady here by the well in Fernyhalgh.

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Wells are places of refreshment where travellers can cool down and quench their thirst, and eventually continue on our journey. Our Lord today intends us to understand water in a spiritual sense.

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We are here on pilgrimage at Ladyewell today to meet the Lord and drink from that living water he wants to give us. We come to him as a diocesan family in prayer and worship to find rest and renewed energy on life’s journey. He waits to listen to us as we tell him our particularly story and our need of his divine grace and help.

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We recall today how our journey of faith began in the consecrated waters of baptism, and in those waters we died and rose with Christ through the power of his Holy Spirit. A pilgrimage ought to renew in us the dignity we received in the baptismal waters, that of being a son or daughter of God the Father, who watches over and cares for us.

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The well and its water remind us of the need to be faithful to our baptismal promises

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We come on pilgrimage to this ancient shrine of Our Lady, confident that she will point us in the direction of her Son and keep us close to him.

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As pilgrims we are treading a well-worn path here, one on which thousands have walked in faith before us in search of that living water which Mary’s Son alone can give us.

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Let us pray for and support one another today as we honour Our Lady of Fernyhalgh, praying for ourselves, the universal Church, and for peace in our world.’

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On Friday, we travel to the shrine of Lourdes. for our diocesan Pilgrimage there. We will, of course, be praying for you – the followers of this Blog – and all your intentions.

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Until then, may God bless you all,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster