PASTORAL LETTER for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time 20th October 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the effects of persistent prayer and in the second reading, St. Paul, writing to Timothy, reminds him of the necessity of openness to the Word of God if he is to be ready for the work that lies before him and effective in his witness to the Gospel.
Indeed, in reflecting on the life of our own Diocese and the Pastoral Plan that has been slowly gathering momentum since the presentations in Deaneries last year, prayer, the Word of God and preparation for action are enabling us to be ready for the work that lies ahead for every person in our Diocesan family.
The working out of the Plan thus far has, in many respects, been preparatory. It has consisted, as it were, in the laying of some new foundations that will be almost hidden from view as the building progresses. This is necessary if we are to be grounded in the person of Christ and truly ready for the action that is to follow. The closure of a small number of church buildings has been painful for all concerned and I am grateful for the way in which parish communities have worked towards these changes, even though it has been difficult. Changes to Deanery boundaries, enacted in August, will enable formation to be delivered more effectively.
Our Diocesan Formation Team has been working very hard to prepare for the delivery of the Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies that will enable people from every Deanery to take on new responsibilities in their communities. The initial response to the CCRS is very encouraging indeed and I ask you all to remember in prayer those who have begun the programme this term and to consider embarking upon this course in the future.
One of the key elements of the Plan is the delivery of Weeks of Guided Prayer in each Deanery. These weeks are now beginning and will be a very important element in the mission of the Diocese. Doing everything from a place of prayer will be absolutely necessary if we are truly to be ready for every good work.
Some of the younger ones amongst us are already showing us the way, for the first group to engage in the Ascent Programme has already begun this wonderful journey to a deeper relationship with the person of Christ.
School Chaplaincy, an increasingly important aspect of pastoral life, has also seen the laying of good foundations through ‘taster evenings’ for those interested in Chaplaincy. A programme of formation will be made available in the coming months so that those whom the Lord calls to this work will be ready to apply for chaplaincy posts as they become available.
It is a little while now since everybody in our Diocesan family received the prayer card for vocations to priesthood. As part of our mission it is really important that each and every one of us prays for vocations to priesthood. We have wonderful priests serving in our Diocese and so that we can continue to be served by devoted and well-formed priests, this prayer is absolutely vital. As our Pastoral Plan unrolls, I call on you to redouble your efforts in prayer for vocations to priesthood. Our vocations team is working on new resources and I shall be leading a retreat for those interested in priesthood early in the coming year.
This outlines just some of the groundwork that has been carried out thus far. A fuller account will appear in the next edition of A & B News – so please ensure that you take a copy when it becomes available.
Now that we are at a moment when the foundational work of these last months is beginning to bear fruit, may I thank you all for the commitment that is being shown across the Diocese. The time has now come to embrace the new possibilities that prayer and formation afford us. Such engagement will enable us to carry out the mission to which the Lord has called us – a mission that is for each and every person in our Diocesan family.
Let us seek the intercession of the Patrons of our Diocese: Our Lady, Assumed into Heaven and St. Philip Howard, whose Solemnity it is today, for the work that lies before us.
With every Blessing,
Yours sincerely in Christ,