Visiting the Parish of Our Lady of Furness, Barrow & Oscott Seminary

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Dear Friends in Christ,

Parish Visitation last weekend took me to the Furness peninsula and to the fairly recently formed parish of Our Lady of Furness, Barrow.

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In common with so many other places the Catholic community in Barrow formerly consisted of a number of parishes but has now become a single parish, still having several churches where Mass is celebrated each Sunday.

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The new parish of Our Lady of Furness is gradually finding its feet and beginning to forge for itself a new and united identity, under the excellent ministry and guidance of the parish priest and his assistant priest. As with all mergers there were the expected teething problems at the outset, but the Catholics of the parish while retaining their own area identity appear to be growing in the awareness of being a single parish.

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I did congratulate priests and people on the generosity of spirit with which they embraced the new structures, and they are a fine example of how it is possible to accept change and adapt to a changing Church and changing times. I was principal celebrant at several of the Masses and spoke at all the others, and was touched by the warmth of welcome given me as bishop in all four churches.

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A tight schedule prevented me from spending longer with the individual congregations, but it was a delight to greet each of them even for a short time after Mass. The devotion of the people and their love of the Mass were evident, and a visible proof to me of their strong and deep Catholic faith.

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On Sunday evening I visited a nursing home in the town where some of the parishioners are now resident.It gave me the opportunity to speak to these frail and weak members of Christ’s body, concluding with a blessing, and so assuring them that they were not forgotten. I was struck by the care the parish extends to the sick and housebound, especially through the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and their regular visits. The cheerful disposition of those who care for the sick also struck me.  What a difference a smiling face makes!

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On previous visits to the parish I had been in two of the four primary schools, so on this occasion I confined myself to the Sacred Heart and Holy Family schools. Both of these visits were a pleasure and I thought that Monday mornings could begin in worse ways!  I met the pupils and staff of both schools at their assemblies and in their individual classrooms, and they eye-catching colour arrangements in the classrooms left one in no doubt that we were in the season of Lent.

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The initiative and commitment of teachers and pupils are most commendable. So a very satisfactory pastoral weekend came to a close, and the priests and people of Our Lady of Furness parish deserve credit as they move forward under God and Our Blessed Lady into a new phase of Catholic life in Barrow.

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On Tuesday the rector and staff of Oscott seminary, Birmingham, hosted their annual day for bishops and religious superiors having seminarians there. I found this to be a worthwhile visit to our two Lancaster students there.

In their presentation the staff spoke in particular of the pastoral care and formation given to the seminarians throughout their six year stay there, something which impressed all of us bishops and religious superiors.Our two Lancaster students there, I felt, are in good hands.

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Saint Mary’s Oscott seminary exudes Catholic history. It was the setting for the First Synod of Westminster in 1851, during which the now Blessed John Cardinal Henry Newman preached in the college chapel. The College also hosted HH Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010.

At Oscott we touch part of our Catholic roots there and I mused how fortunate the seminarians are to worship regularly in such hallowed and historical surroundings. Also, the healthy number of students at present in the seminary assures us that there will indeed be a new generation of priests to serve God’s people in England, Wales and Scotland.

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Until next week – let us pray for each other and for more vocations to the Priesthood!

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As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA

Bishop of Lancaster