Dear Friends in Christ,
Welcome to this Advent Bishop’s Blog for this week!
The final Visitation of the parishes in St. Herbert’s Carlisle Deanery, took place last weekend in St. Augustine’s parish, situated in the city and to the north of the river Eden. The Visitation began in the afternoon with a well-attended and, in my view, very moving service of the Anointing of the Sick.
The level of faith among the frail and elderly members of the parish was almost tangible during the laying-on of hands and in the rite of anointing itself. The Lord does indeed remain sacramentally close to his weak and sick brothers and sisters, meeting us with his spiritual power and healing at whatever stage of life’s journey we find ourselves. This service was also a fine example of how a parish looks out and cares for those of its members in need of a helping hand.
I presided at both the Vigil and Sunday morning Masses, and it was a pleasure to be among the people and parish priest of this sound and thriving parish, and share with them the well-prepared refreshments after the Sunday Mass.
A visit to St. Augustine’s parish invariably represents something of a trip down memory lane for me, given that I was resident in nearby Austin Friars as a priest for ten years, and where I was much earlier ordained priest.
Carlisle Cathedral was the setting on Advent Sunday afternoon for a significant ecumenical service at which a number of Cumbrian churches marked an important step further in their covenant of cooperation first signed five years ago.
Leaders of the Anglican, Methodist, and United Reformed Churches, together with the Salvation Army recommitted themselves to full cooperation wherever possible in every aspect of their pastoral ministry in the county of Cumbria.
As I did five years ago, I again signed a letter of companionship on behalf of the Catholic Church with representatives of the Baptist, Quaker, and other church bodies, assuring those in covenantal partnership of our support and prayerful good wishes.
The Cathedral was full for the occasion, and the friendly, welcoming atmosphere was yet another indication how far the Churches have moved along the path of cooperation and mutual acceptance.
Small steps such as this are important as believers make their way to the final goal of union and communion, so desired and prayed for by the Lord himself on the night before his passion.
On Tuesday evening, twenty-two young people received the sacrament of Confirmation in St. Kentigern’s church, – part of Christ the King & St Kentigern’s Parish, Blackpool. This parish Confirmation has become an annual occasion at this time of the year, and yet again was an excellent example of the school and parish cooperating in Confirmation catechesis, since most of those Confirmed were Year 6 in St. Kentigern’s school.
Both the school and parish are to be congratulated on what again was an impressive liturgy of Confirmation with well-prepared candidates, with a good attendance of parents, family and parishioners.
Afterwards in the parish social centre each of the newly-Confirmed, apart from a certificate, received a gift of a CTS bible as an excellent and invaluable memento of their Confirmation. We make our own the words of the Psalmist, that for these newly-Confirmed, ‘the word of God’ may be a light to their steps and a lamp for their path.’
My official week concluded on Thursday with a welcome pause and an Advent day of Recollection for the clergy in Hyning Hall, the monastery of the Bernardine Sisters, near Carnforth.
A few hours of prayer, reflection, two interesting talks on the richness of the liturgical texts at this time, with a lunch in common, all helped focus our thoughts on the Advent season just beginning. May Advent be a season of grace and peace for all of us!
Until next week,
May God bless you all,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster