Entrusting the English Martyrs’ church, Preston to the ICKSP

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Dear friends,

Greetings and prayers, as I post this week’s Bishop’s Blog – reflecting upon a major development in the life and history of the Catholic Church in Preston. I reflect upon this today because working to build up the Church in Preston and to secure its future, under God, has been a key part of my ministry as Bishop of Lancaster.

The city of Preston has long been blessed with a number of fine Catholic churches, remarkable for their size, external architectural design and attractive interiors.  These architectural gems, such as Saint Walburge’s,   St. Ignatius (now the Syro-Malabar Cathedral of St. Alphonsa),  and Saint Thomas of Canterbury & English Martyrs, are symbolic of an era of huge numbers of local Catholics at Mass – which has now sadly passed.

In common with many northern cities and towns, Preston has witnessed both considerable demographic decline and urban redevelopment which necessarily has had its impact on the size and age-profile of the Catholic community in the city.  Consequently, The Diocese of Lancaster has been confronted with the major challenge of what to do with these large listed churches.

Thankfully, we have not been paralysed by this situation. We have sought looked beyond the borders of the Diocese – towards the help of others. Indeed, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (three years ago this weekend) took responsibility, at my my invitation, for the splendid grade one listed St. Walburge’s church. It is a source of great delight to know that the Institute are steadily rejuvenating the St Walburge’s site – spiritually and materially.

Meanwhile, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Mar George Cardinal Alencherry accepted the offer of St. Ignatius’ church which, with the blessing of the Holy See, became, just over a year ago, the Cathedral for the new Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Great Britain.

We are truly delighted that St Ignatius has become the Mother Church for the new Eparchy and that this young diocese has such a beautiful Cathedral church in its care. Repair works now progress on St Alphonsa Cathedral, Preston and presbytery at quite a pace.

The lovely church on Garstang Road, affectionately known as ‘the Martyrs’, has likewise witnessed both a dwindling Mass attendance and a sharp deterioration in its maintenance.  Although the cost of maintaining such a historic building is not cheap, as Bishop I could not countenance its closure because of its sign value to Catholic Preston.

A fresh chapter therefore in the history of English Martyrs begins this Sunday with the celebration of a Pontifical High Mass (to be filmed by Sancta Familia Media), as previously announced, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest have generously accepted my offer to assume the care of the church, so ensuring that Mass, sacraments, devotions and prayers take place in the church each day.

I place on record my sincere thanks to each and everyone involved in a huge clean-up operation at ‘the Martyrs’ – church, sacristies and grounds these last few months in readiness for the transfer to the Institute. I am mindful, too, of the substantial repair works going on there over the summer period – all due the momentum of the transfer!

All my thanks go to the Prior General of the Institute, Monsignor Wach for accepting my request and to all those in the Diocese and within the Institute who worked hard to make this arrangement happen.  The church will now be established as a Shrine Church to the promotion of devotion to the English Martyrs and their powerful witness to the Church today.

Mass and liturgies will be mainly celebrated both in the extraordinary form, an integral part of Church life today, but a Mass will be celebrated ordinary form on a Saturday evening – at least for the time being.

This church with its handsome and inspiring interior will now be open every day, allowing time for daily Mass, prayer and devotional visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Confessions and other pious practices. The significance of such a church situated on a main (Garstang) road and being open for visits can hardly be exaggerated in our often frantic and hurried world of today.

The need for silence and an opportunity to encounter the living God in his house of prayer is greater than ever. My hope is that this new Shrine Church of English Martyrs will help meet that need.

The Catholics of the city of Preston have a rich legacy of architecturally beautiful churches, lovingly constructed to the glory of God and paid for by previous generations. By preserving and nurturing this precious heritage we are honouring the memory and intentions of those believers who have preceded us in the faith.

With God’s blessing we are also ensuring, for example, that the church of “the Martyrs” will remain open and welcoming to those future generations of Catholics who will follow us.  My sincere prayer this special weekend is that God who has begun this good work may in his graciousness bring it to completion!

Until next week – may God bless you all.

As ever in Christ our Lord,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

May Cardinal Cormac rest in peace!

Dear friends in Christ,

Welcome back to the Bishop’s Blog after the summer!

On Wednesday the Catholic Church in England & Wales bade a final and indeed fond farewell to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor at a requiem Mass followed by his burial in Westminster Cathedral. 

I was pleased to be present to represent the Diocese of Lancaster.

The Cardinal’s health had been failing in recent months and he died peacefully in a London hospital.

During his final illness Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor had a message sent from his hospital bed to his brother Bishops as well as to the priests of Westminster diocese. He assured everyone that he was at peace and that death held no fear for him. His message was a remarkable testimony to a deeply Christian soul approaching its end.

The liturgy of the Cardinal’s funeral Mass, presided over by Cardinal Nichols, was solemn and dignified but permeated with faith and the unshakeable hope afforded to us by Christ’s resurrection. The music of the Mass, both Latin and English, somehow soothed and eased the sense of loss which we all felt.

The many bishops, and large number of priests, who concelebrated the Mass was an indication of the affection in which Cardinal Cormac was held, and the numerous lives he touched. The huge attendance of laity, ecumenical guests and his extended family, were further evidence of just how much so many people appreciated and felt close to him.

I was privileged to know the Cardinal well and was always struck by his cheerful outlook and warmth of friendship, characteristics highlighted in the excellent homily delivered by Archbishop George Stack.  St Thomas Aquinas taught that grace builds on nature and this was patently true of the life of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor. He brought his many human gifts and talents and put them at the service of the Church in his sixty years as a priest, and forty as a bishop.

Cardinal Cormac was a big man in every sense, both physical and spiritual, but humble enough to acknowledge his faults and seek forgiveness when needed.

The Catholic Church in England & Wales, and beyond, owe this great servant of the Lord and faithful priest a great debt. A great presence has gone from our midst. We pray that he now rests from his labours and enjoys the reward of a good and faithful servant.

The plain coffin of the Cardinal was laid to rest beside the tenth station of the cross in the cathedral, and there his mortal remains await the glory of the resurrection.

Cardinal Nichols read the final prayers of the funeral over the vault and we left Cardinal Cormac finally at home in the cathedral church where he served as Cardinal Archbishop.

 

 

It was with mixed emotions that we went on our way, but grateful to God for having known and being graced by such a wonderful priest and human being.   May Cardinal Cormac rest in peace!

Until next week – may God bless you all,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

 

Photos:  Thanks to Marcin Mazur (CBCEW)

Here in Lourdes!

Dear Friends in Christ,

This week, I welcome you to the Bishop’s Blog from the Shrine of Lourdes, France!

I’m delighted to be here greeting you as I lead our Diocesan Pilgrimage to this well-loved Marian shrine – in this the year when we celebrate 90 years since our very first Diocesan Pilgrimage to the shrine.

For this week’s post I use the homily for our Mass of Welcome this (Saturday) afternoon:

“Mass of Welcome Lourdes Pilgrimage 2017

Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

(Song of Songs 3:1-4; John 20:1-2; 11-18)

Mary Magdalene persisted in her search for the Lord. Peter and John had departed from the tomb but she stayed amidst her distress and tears, such was her deep attachment and love for the Lord. As we just heard in that gospel, she ‘found the one whom her heart loves’, when the risen Christ appeared and spoke to her personally, calling her by her own name. Mary of Magdala’s life would never be the same again. The Lord she thought was dead and buried was in fact living and glorious. The Church calls her the ‘first Evangelist’ for it was her task to go and tell his brothers and sisters the good news of the gospel: that Christ has risen.

We are in Lourdes as a diocesan family on pilgrimage and, like Mary Magdalene, we too are searching and ultimately looking for the Lord. We come to Lourdes to be with Mary, the Mother of the Lord, who will lead us to her Son. We will learn in prayer from the example of St. Bernadette how to persevere in faith, for the little girl Bernadette had to stand firm and insist that Our Blessed Lady had really appeared to her. Lourdes is a special time of grace for each one of us pilgrims. We take the decision to come here, it is almighty God however who calls us by name to set out in pilgrimage in the first place. Let us open our hearts, therefore, and be attentive to the call of God in this most holy place of prayer.

For some of you this will be your first pilgrimage and experience of Lourdes. Be open-minded and patient with yourselves. Talk to Our Lady at the grotto, tell her your story and what’s on your mind. Be carried along by the example and prayers of your fellow pilgrims, and above all be inspired by the faith of the large number of sick you see around you, and those who so devotedly care for them. Be aware that, perhaps above all, Lourdes is a place of spiritual healing where pilgrims find the strength, the faith and the courage to live their lives as faithful Catholics in a challenging and often complex world.

Others among us will have been regular pilgrims to Lourdes over the years and so are familiar with all that goes on here. Yet we must never be complacent. The Mother of God’s Son has still many new graces and favours to bestow on us. Like Mary Magdalene we too continue to search for the Lord, although we believe in him, trust in him, and love him. Part of God’s mysterious purpose for us is to come to Lourdes in July 2017. Remember that our quest for God will only cease when we see him face to face in the eternal life which awaits us.

I urge you as Bishop to support and encourage one another on this pilgrimage as a diocesan family of brothers and sisters.  Charity is the greatest commandment of all, and may that charity and respect for each other be the hallmark of our days here in this great Marian shrine.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. St. Bernadette, pray for us.  St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.  Amen! ”

Our blog closes now until September – so with a remembrance of you all and your intention here in Lourdes , I sign off now until September.

May God bless you all,

As ever in Christ,

Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster

 

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

Trusting in the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Dear Friends,

Last week we celebrated Corpus Christi and many parishes had a Eucharistic Procession. In this week’s Bishop’s Blog – I offer a reflection on the Sacred Heart!

We have just celebrated, Friday past, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a popular and much loved devotion among Catholics.  The origins of this devotion are to be found in the revelations of Our Lord to the French nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), in which the Lord speaks to her of his heart as the symbol of his infinite love for the human race.

Familiar practices, such as the Nine Fridays and Holy Hour derive from the mystical encounters of St. Margaret Mary with Our Lord.  Many of our churches are dedicated to the Sacred Heart, and images of the Sacred Heart are widespread throughout the Catholic world.

When we contemplate the figure and person of our divine Lord, our minds struggle to strike the right balance between his divinity and his humanity, as the Son of God and at the same time the Son of Mary.  Prayer and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can assist us to grasp the reality of his human nature, for his heart beats with love and affection for his brothers and sisters of every time and place.

The Evangelist John relates how one of the Roman soldiers pierced the side/heart of Jesus as he hung on the cross, showing the extent to which his love led him.   Little wonder that the figure of Christ on the cross is such a dominant symbol in every Catholic church, chapel or oratory.

At a simple level when we look at an image of the Sacred Heart we can realise he was human just like you or I, and that his heart is large enough to embrace us and understand our own personal situation and the problems we face.

The hymns and prayers surrounding the feast and devotion to the Sacred Heart are an invitation to enter with faith into the Lord’s heart and find there rest and repose. The gospel passage for the Mass contains the wonder words of invitation and reassurance from the Lord Jesus that when we do come to him he will give us relief from the burden and heat of the day.

 

The utterly unique and ever valid invitation of the Lord to come to him for rest and respite from the cares of daily life has found an echo in the lives of faithful souls ever since he uttered them.

This lovely and consoling feast of the Sacred Heart stands as a reminder that there is One we can turn to in the troubled and uncertain times in which we find ourselves. Only he could extend such an invitation to come to him and find rest and peace.

So dear brothers and sister; let us draw near to that Sacred Heart, and in the words of the time- honoured invocation say, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you!

With every good wish and prayer from the Diocese of Lancaster,

As ever in Christ,

+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster