Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog everyone!
After the traditional summer break in August, I resumed my engagements on 28th August, the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, with a concelebrated Mass for the Augustinian sisters (below), residents and guests, at Boarbank Hall, close to Grange-over-Sands, in Cumbria.
The Sisters base their way of life on the famous rule of St. Augustine written by the Saint for male and female religious around sixteen hundred years ago, and which has certainly stood the test of time. The lunch following the Mass afterwards enhanced the occasion and brought a pleasant and what is now an annual occasion to a fitting close.
Two days later, 30th August, the Little Sisters of the Poor in Fulwood, Preston, kept the feast day of their fairly recently canonised foundress, St. Jeanne Jugan. I offered Mass for the Sisters and residents of St. Joseph’s home, and afterwards joined the residents and guests for what was an enjoyable lunch generous laid on for us by the Little Sisters (below).
I mused how St. Jeanne Jugan must have smiled from on high at the consideration and kindly care given to the residents in all the homes of the Little Sisters as they come to the evening of their life. Our Diocese of Lancaster continues to be richly blessed both by the Little Sisters and the Augustinian community at Boarbank, and other religious families in different areas.
The subject of Religious Life and new communities in our diocese is one which has been exercising me as bishop for some time. The new life and fresh vigour which new movements offer the Church are, I believe, graces of the Lord for our time.
We have welcomed in recent months to our local diocesan Church three members of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, Michigan (above).
The Sisters have settled well in Christ the King Parish, Preston and are now engaged in different and important apostolates for the Diocese, in particular, at this time, the area of New Evangelisation/adult formation, University Chaplaincy at Lancaster, the Tribunal and archival work The three Sisters have been warmly received wherever they go and their impact is already being felt.
The splendid, Grade 1 listed, St. Walburge’s church in Preston, and its proper use has weighed heavily on recent Bishops of Lancaster.
With steady demographic decline in that particular part of the city and a consequently diminishing congregation, this magnificent building was reduced to having a single Sunday Mass and remained closed for the greater part of the week.
Those who know St. Walburge’s and its quite wonderful, prayerful interior, will be not be surprised at the pain, at times anguish, I and my predecessors as bishops have felt when confronted with this seemingly intractable situation, and the resultant challenge to find a viable future for such a sacred and greatly loved building.
I do believe that the Lord has answered our prayer when the fairly recently established Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, (two of their members are pictured with me below) have agreed to take over and be responsible for St. Walburge’s church.
The priests of this particular Institute celebrate the liturgy, legitimately and with the full approval of the Church, according to the Extraordinary Form of the one Roman Rite. It is surprising just how many Catholics prefer to attend Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form, a reminder to us of the unity in diversity which has always characterised the Church.
What is most appealing about the generosity of the Institute (already well established in New Brighton, Wirral, in the diocese of Shrewsbury, and making their mark there) is that our lovely church of St. Walburge’s will now be open for Mass, prayer, the divine office, Eucharistic adoration, Confessions, each day of the week, from early morning until evening.
The Diocese warmly welcomes the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, and a small community will take up residence later this month in the presbytery adjoining St. Walburge’s. There will be a special Mass to inaugurate their mission will be celebrated on 27 September at 12 noon – all are welcome! The priests of the Institute will play their full and active part in the life of the local deanery of Preston and in the wider Diocese as a whole.
To have St. Walburge’s open and active as a place of prayer, devotion and sacramental practice, each day of the week is indeed an answer to prayer and will prove to be a great blessing for all of us. With God’s help, may this important apostolic venture prosper!
Until next week – may God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster