Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog for this week!
Resuming my Parish Pastoral Visitations, I spent last weekend in the parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Penrith, and St. Wulstan’s chapel of ease, Alston. The area adjacent to Penrith – the Cumbrian fells – is rightly famous for its landscape and very striking vistas, and the scenery there last weekend was stunning.
The steep incline to Alston, which is one of the highest situated towns in England, was partly covered in snow, even in mid-April. The little Catholic community worship in a church dedicated to St. Wulstan and erected by a generous benefactor in 1953. A tradition, however, suggests that the church may now sit on the site of a former prison where, during penal times, one of our martyrs was imprisoned, a wonderful story if true! It was good to meet and be with the faithful parishioners of Alston on Saturday evening.
There were good attendances at the Sunday Masses in St. Catherine’s, which is a compact but well-maintained and attractive church. The parish of Penrith was founded in 1833 by a certain Fr. George Haydock who was, among other things, a noted Scripture scholar and famous for the so-called Haydock bible with its extensive notes, an edition of the bible which has enjoyed considerable popularity in the United States of America. (At his inauguration in 1960 the late President John F. Kennedy took his oath on a copy of the Haydock bible.) St. Catherine’s is rightly proud of its distinguished priest founder and the newly constructed parish centre appropriately bears his name.
I had occasion after each Mass to meet and speak with the parishioners, and was particularly pleased to meet the young Confirmation candidates who are to receive the sacrament later in the year.
I also joined the parish pastoral council in the Haydock centre, listened to their concerns and addressed their questions. I was impressed by the goodwill and interest of so many in their parish which bodes well for the future. They are well-served by a hard-working and devoted parish priest.
Later in the afternoon I paid a visit to a residential care home to spend a little time with some parishioners there, and with a number of others who are housebound in their homes. The territory covered by Penrith parish is indeed extensive, but does take in some wonderful countryside. As I have remarked previously, being in the presence of the elderly and frail brings its own grace, and a reminder where Christ is particularly to be found.
My Visitation concluded on Monday morning with an extended visit to St. Catherine’s Catholic Primary School. The children led an impressive and informative assembly which centred on the Easter story of the appearance of the risen Lord to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. I joined the staff for coffee and took the opportunity to thank them for what they do for the children. Afterwards I toured the school and stopped for a time in each class, and answering their many questions, as best I could. Children can ask searching questions!
On Monday afternoon I continued my journey further west, to the parish of St. Mary’s, Cleator, and to the blessing of a much-needed new parish room. The priests and people of the parish were delighted that this long-awaited project had at last been realised. The various parish activities will from now on enjoy ample space, and the parish can take pride in a job well done.
The remainder of my week was taken up with meetings of one kind or another, culminating in a visit to Blackpool on Thursday evening to take part in a service marking the thirtieth anniversary of Trinity Hospice. The thanksgiving service took place in St. John’s Anglican church, opposite the famous Winter Gardens.
Representatives of the Hospice, past and present, spoke of the journey travelled in the story of Blackpool Hospice, where care of the terminally sick and outreach to their families forms the central part of its work. The service was noteworthy for the presence of representatives of the Muslim and Hindu communities, as well as the Christian Churches. There was a sense of satisfaction and quiet pride about all that had been accomplished in Trinity Hospice in thirty years, which gave hope for the future and the inevitable challenges which it and all hospices face.
Until next week – sincerest good wishes and prayers,
As ever in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster