A PASTORAL MESSAGE
FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER
TO THE PARISHES OF ST WALBURGE AND THE SACRED HEART & ST EDMUND CAMPION, PRESTON
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You will know through your engagement with the Fit for Mission? consultation of just a few years ago – how the future of St Walburge church Preston came into very serious question in the light of much fewer people at Mass in this vast and yet most beautiful church. You will be aware how then – and at times since – there will be some priests and people in the Diocese who urge the Bishop to withdraw from inner Preston and to concentrate our resources and personnel on those parts of the Diocese with a greater Mass attendance. There are some voices – even now – who tell me that the presence of the Catholic Church in inner-Preston is finished. I cannot agree – we need to be here in a new shape and form and at the same time to strengthen our missionary presence and vitality!
In the light of this backdrop, and as was already indicated to your Parish Pastoral Council during the recent Bishop’s Visitation of the parish and again on Friday, I have been involved in continuing negotiations with several religious congregations and orders about supporting our mission in the Diocese of Lancaster – including here in inner-Preston. The Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma in the United States will be establishing a foundation at St Augustine’s, Avenham in just a few months’ time and so it is that today, I can also announce to you all that Monsignor Gilles Wach, General Prior of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and I – together with Father Simon Hawksworth – have agreed, to establish a foundation of the Institute at the Church of St Walburge, Preston – hopefully in the autumn.
The arrival and presence of the Institute in the church and presbytery at St Walburge’s will enable the sustainability and care of this magnificent church so that it can be open each day as a shrine or centre for Eucharistic devotion and adoration. St Walburge’s will remain part of the Parish of St Walburge and the Sacred Heart but will specifically provide for the celebration of Holy Mass and the other Sacraments in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. It is envisaged, however, that the current Ordinary Form Mass, will continue to be celebrated here on Sunday for as long as there is a pastoral need and Father Hawksworth will, of course, remain your Parish Priest.
Be aware that the decision announced today aims to offer practical help to Father Hawksworth who, as you know, is required to have canonical responsibility for several churches and schools and yet keep his focus – and yours – squarely on the pastoral work of the New Evangelisation; that is: proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ afresh to those who have forgotten Him or have drifted away from His love.
Brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, I appeal to you as a Christian community to give thanks to Almighty God for this diocesan initiative which represents nothing less than my own clear and active support for St Walburge’s in ensuring, going forward, that St Walburge’s church remains a place of prayer and worship – open each day for all. I ask for your active support for my decision and a warm and kindly welcome for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest to St Walburge’s. An opportunity and gift like this only comes our way once in a lifetime and without the assistance of the Institute at this time the future sustainability of St Walburge’s church and our Catholic presence in inner- Preston would be far from certain.
With sincere thanks for your attention and generous cooperation, and with the assurance of my prayers and a blessing,
+Michael G. Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster