Dear Friends in Christ,
Greetings and prayers to all you readers of this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
We are accustomed to hearing so much bad news nowadays that we can easily forget that good things still happen, often against all the (human) odds. Here, in the Diocese of Lancaster, near Kendal, we are blessed to have a Cenacolo Community in our midst – a wonderful fruit of the Spirit present in the Diocese for the last 11 years!
A wonderful Italian nun, now quite frail, by the name of Mother Elvira, was appalled by the sight of young people on the streets of northern Italy, who were suffering from one form of addiction or another. So, in July 1983, she decided single-handedly to do something about it, and the result, intended or otherwise, was the movement or ‘School of Life’ we know as Cenacolo, now gradually becoming worldwide.
So for the past eleven years young recovering men have been spending a year or more in our Cenacolo, breaking with their past through the power of the Lord and looking to a more wholesome future. They live, work and pray in what was an old presbytery, chapel and grounds called Dodding Green, and an area with a long tradition of Catholicism.
Part of their programme is manual work on buildings and land, and to the credit of successive groups, they have utterly transformed – rather symbolically – derelict buildings, and changed the face of what was not much more than a wasteland into pleasant and useful agricultural surroundings.
Prayer, devotions, Mass and the sacraments form an integral part of their life, and in this context I acknowledge the dedication of a number of priests who have ministered selflessly and quietly at Cenacolo, Dodding Green since its foundation at the invitation of my predecessor Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue who turned 82 last Wednesday.
I went to Cenacolo last Sunday to offer Mass on the eleventh anniversary of its foundation, an occasion which always brings a good number of supporters and helpers, but also some parents and families as well.
It was a particular joy to administer the sacrament of Confirmation to a young Italian man resident there, in the presence of his parents and other family members who had made the journey from northern Italy.
The liturgy was simple but deeply moving, and I can only imagine the feelings and emotions of his immediate family. Tears were not far away! Miracles still occur, and I could only wonder at the personal odyssey this newly-Confirmed man had made in recent years, and his active response to grace and the Lord’s call in his life.
The strict manner of life which the young men willing embrace at Cenacolo is not easy, but it does prove that a break with the past and its tentacles is possible, given the necessary support and prayers of so many friends and well-wishers.
Those who have passed through this and other Cenacolo communities will always be grateful from the fresh start they have found, and the possibility of a new start in their life – with the Lord. I am always touched when they pray spontaneously for Mother Elvira, whose role in the Cenacolo movement is now one of silent witness, prayer and presence.
A further miracle, surely, consists in what the Lord has achieved through the labours and determination of Mother Elvira. The seeds she has courageously and generously scattered have indeed borne much fruit.
Thank God for the 60 Cenacolo communities around the world, for the work they do and the good they accomplish. Please keep in your prayers all associated with this wonderful movement of the Holy Spirit within our Local Church; that it may continue to flourish and bring hope and new life to those afflicted with addictions.
Until next week – may God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster