On Pilgrimage to Ladyewell

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Dear friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog – a snapshot in the life and ministry of the Bishop of Lancaster!

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First though; I want to to thank everyone for the great support I received following last Sunday announcement (here and here) – this is deeply appreciated. Please keep the Diocese and the Institute in your prayers; that this initiative – under God – will bear much fruit.

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This week’s Blog reflects upon last Saturday’s Diocesan Pilgrimage to our ancient shrine of Ladyewell near Preston.  Thankfully, we had glorious weather for the occasion. I use the text of my Mass homily for the occasion:

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‘The Lancaster Diocesan Pilgrimage to Ladyewell – 8th July 2017

(Is 49:8-10; John 4:14 ff)

In our first reading from the prophet Isaiah, the Lord promises that his people will never again thirst for ‘he will lead them to springs of water,’ while in the gospel the Lord Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman of the living water which he can offer.

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Water is of course a symbol of life; neither we nor the world of nature around us can survive without water.  Wells and springs have long been regarded as holy places where we humans encounter the sacred.

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The Samaritan woman met the saviour of the world at that well in Samaria, and the very name of this pilgrimage shrine ‘Ladyewell’ shows how pilgrims down the centuries have venerated Our Lady here by the well in Fernyhalgh.

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Wells are places of refreshment where travellers can cool down and quench their thirst, and eventually continue on our journey. Our Lord today intends us to understand water in a spiritual sense.

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We are here on pilgrimage at Ladyewell today to meet the Lord and drink from that living water he wants to give us. We come to him as a diocesan family in prayer and worship to find rest and renewed energy on life’s journey. He waits to listen to us as we tell him our particularly story and our need of his divine grace and help.

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We recall today how our journey of faith began in the consecrated waters of baptism, and in those waters we died and rose with Christ through the power of his Holy Spirit. A pilgrimage ought to renew in us the dignity we received in the baptismal waters, that of being a son or daughter of God the Father, who watches over and cares for us.

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The well and its water remind us of the need to be faithful to our baptismal promises

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We come on pilgrimage to this ancient shrine of Our Lady, confident that she will point us in the direction of her Son and keep us close to him.

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As pilgrims we are treading a well-worn path here, one on which thousands have walked in faith before us in search of that living water which Mary’s Son alone can give us.

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Let us pray for and support one another today as we honour Our Lady of Fernyhalgh, praying for ourselves, the universal Church, and for peace in our world.’

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On Friday, we travel to the shrine of Lourdes. for our diocesan Pilgrimage there. We will, of course, be praying for you – the followers of this Blog – and all your intentions.

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Until then, may God bless you all,

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+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

A Decision to Save and Secure English Martyrs’ Church, Preston – now and for the future

A PASTORAL MESSAGE

FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER

TO THE CONGREGATION AT ENGLISH MARTYRS, PRESTON

(Part of the Parish of St John XXIII)

 

Sunday 9 July 2017

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

It is 150 years since the current church of St Thomas of Canterbury & the English Martyrs was officially opened by Bishop Goss of Liverpool. Of course, the mission of English Martyrs was not always so majestic. Bishop Goss appointed Father James Taylor to a house called Wren’s Cottage half a mile or so away from the present church. The stable at Wren’s Cottage was converted into a chapel which could hold 145 people!  The first Mass was celebrated here on 25 December 1864. Plans were very quickly drawn up to build a church that could accommodate a larger congregation.  This church, where you sit today, was designed by the renowned Edward Welby Pugin.

On 1 December 1867, the new church was officially opened by Bishop Goss and, after significant enlargement, later re-opened on 8 February 1888 in a Mass with as many as seven bishops present. It was only on 14 September 1921 when all the debt was re-paid that the church was consecrated.

Of course, with the city centre depopulation in the 1950s and 60s Mass attendance declined significantly at English Martyrs with the parishes on the suburbs benefitting from this movement and the replacement population not being of the Catholic Faith. Consequently, the internal volume of the nave was reduced in 1965 by the creation of a narthex and baptistery at the west end. Subsequent internal changes also acknowledged this trend towards smaller numbers.

You will remember through your engagement with the Fit for Mission? consultation in 2007/2008 and a subsequent Preston review how the future of English Martyrs’ church – among others – came into very serious question in the light of much smaller and older congregations. In a bid to grapple with this reality since April 2009 there have been a series of parish linkings and mergers until 8 October 2014 when the parish of Saint John XXIII was created. Today, this parish has two churches and the pastoral care of numerous schools.

In recent years, the situation has become more acute – especially in terms of a lack of parishioners being actively involved in parish life and helping with the care of the church and grounds. In all these considerations for the future mission of English Martyrs’ Church – this capacity issue has been central.

Of course, there are those who tell us that the presence of the Catholic Church in this part of Preston is finished. I cannot agree. However, the shape of our mission will certainly have to change. On the other hand, many will criticize any effort I make to address these challenges and yet seem to offer no constructive solutions of their own. If we ignore this situation things will continue to deteriorate around us to such a point where public worship could not happen yet reactive repair and security costs would soar.

It is therefore, in the light of this undeniable reality that I can announce to you that Monsignor Gilles Wach, Prior General of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and I – together with Canon Adrian Towers – have agreed, that the Institute will assume the direct administration of English Martyrs’ church – hopefully this autumn. I am extremely grateful to the Institute for this – as they are inundated with similar requests from bishops across the world and have the proven skill, aptitude and record of expertise in the care of large and historic churches.

Already, the young priests of the Institute are doing wonderful work at St Walburge’s since their arrival there almost three years ago.  Inspired by their patron, St Francis de Sales, the Institute strives to form its people in holiness according to their motto of “teaching the truth with charity”.

This decision will enable the sustainability and care of your magnificent church so that it can be open each day for prayer and worship as a fully operational shrine church dedicated to the devotion of St Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs on the old Gallows Hill – with a renewed zeal and energy.  English Martyrs will remain part of the Parish of St John XXIII but will specifically provide for the celebration of Holy Mass and the other Sacraments in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite in a similar way to St Walburge’s.  I would certainly want to encourage everyone at English Martyrs to be fully involved with all that will be offered by the Institute. It is envisaged, however, that the ordinary form celebration of Mass in English, will continue to be celebrated in the church, at least for the next 12 months, each Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning – once the Institute arrive.  Attendance levels at this Mass will be carefully monitored.

Today’s decision offers a much-needed practical and pastoral help to you and your priests in order to preserve your church.  I appeal to you to give thanks to Almighty God for this diocesan initiative, which represents nothing less than my own clear and active support to save and secure English Martyrs’ Church.  This noble and historic church (a grade II listed) building will be a place of devotion and worship – open each day for everyone.  I ask for your full and active support for this decision and of course, a warm and kindly welcome for the Institute.

A unique moment of opportunity and promise lies before us.  Let us thank the Lord in this Jubilee Year for the Church of English Martyrs, for us saving and securing this landmark church and for its renewed legacy going forward. Today is indeed a day to make Catholics proud of Preston!

With sincere thanks for your attention and generous cooperation, and with the assurance of my prayers and a blessing,

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

P.S. Last Saturday we were blessed to have the Priestly Ordination of Father Daniel Etienne at St Peter’s Cathedral, Lancaster.  Daniel had trained for the Priesthood for the last seven years in Rome and Oscott – as well as in several parishes of the Diocese so it was good to see the Lord’s work come to fulfillment.

Many people gathered for the Ordination as well as Father Daniel’s parents and family as well as his many friends across the parishes of the Diocese.  An Ordination is always an ‘ecclesial’ moment – when the whole Church gathers in faith – filled with joy and celebration of a new priest!

We keep this new priest in our prayers as he begins his service of God’s people in the name of the Lord who has anointed him. Father Etienne has been appointed to Blackpool and will be assured a great welcome there.

Please God, the Ordination will be a spur for more priestly vocations in the Diocese. We need many more good priests!

What was particularly striking was the great attendance of the seminarians from Oscott College supporting Father Daniel – I know many people commented upon that as a great encouragement to their faith.

The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church

Dear Friends in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!

St. Irenaeus, a very early bishop of Lyons and who died for the faith, is credited as saying that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” With the solemnity of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on Thursday, followed by that of the martyrs of the Roman Church, it is worthwhile to reflect on martyrdom and its honourable place in our Christian tradition.

In the liturgy Christ himself is referred to as “King of Martyrs” who laid down his life for the salvation of the world. According to tradition, all but one of the twelve Apostles were put to death for the name of Christ. The word martyr comes from the Greek for witness, and a martyr is precisely a witness to the truth. The first martyr, Stephen, is an excellent example of one who bore testimony to Jesus and met death by stoning.

How do we explain the fact that the erstwhile fisherman Peter and the formerly radical anti-Christian Paul were prepared to face death rather than deny faith in Jesus Christ?

A principal reason surely is the experience they had of Jesus Christ: Peter during the Lord’s earthly life and public ministry, and especially his encounter with him after the resurrection; the startling upheaval and conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus when he heard the glorified Lord speaking to him. Both of these great Apostles came to realise the truth from God that is to be found in its fullness in Jesus Christ, and their deep conviction that he was the Son of God in the flesh. No worldly truth or philosophy could sway them from this greatest of all realities, of Jesus Christ crucified and risen.

Peter, Paul and Stephen were but the first in a very long line of those who died for their faith in Christ, many of whom we know, but undoubtedly countless others known to God alone. What is remarkable is how their legacy and memory live on despite persecution, torment and finally death.  Names familiar to us and which come to mind are Saints Thomas More and John Fisher who died in the Tower of London, and our own Lancashire and Cumbrian martyrs like Edmund Arrowsmith, John Southworth, John Boste and Edmund Bamber, to name but a few. They form part of that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ of which the letter to the Hebrews speaks (12:1).

The roll call of Christian martyrs is an extensive one and of universal proportions down the centuries.

In a sermon on martyrdom, St. Augustine observes how the martyrs were sustained by the food they received at the table of the King of Martyrs, Jesus Christ. Through sharing in the Eucharistic food of his sacrificial body and blood they gained the strength to face every trial, even death itself. We here live, by and large, in less troubled times, but nonetheless we are called to bear witness to Christ each day, and to do requires courage, determination and steadfastness.

We are privileged to share in that same sacred food and drink at the Lord’s table as did the long succession of martyrs. They knew instinctively through faith what a supreme treasure the Mass was, and rather than forgo the Mass they risked their lives to be present and celebrate it. May the witness and example of Peter, Paul and so many other martyrs to the faith continue to inspire and teach us as we endeavour to follow the Lord in the very developed world of the twenty-first century!

All martyrs of every time and place, pray for us!

Until next week – May God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster