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Sunday, December 4, 2016
When the Bishop came to Carlisle'
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 "When the Bishop came to Carlisle, two thousand Catholics assembled at the railway station. There was a great sense of anticipation, because the Bishop was making his first official visit to the city. They knelt on the platform as they waited for the train from Lancaster to arrive. Eventually the train drew in. Resplendent in his top hat and frock coat, the Station Master greeted the Bishop at the door of his carriage. The huge crowd spontaneously broke into a spirited rendering of Faith of our Fathers which threatened to shatter the glass roof of the station." This took place, of course, in 1925, soon after the Diocese of Lancaster was formed. The Bishop then was Wulstan Pearson. Last month the present Bishop, Patrick O'Donoghue, making his first official visitation to the Carlisle Deanery, turned off Junction 43 of the M6, having driven himself up from Lancaster, and arrived at Our Lady and St Joseph's Parish just in time for tea. In 1925 Carlisle was predominantly a railway town. Even today its fine railway station carries on its façade the coat of arms of seven railway companies that used the station before the days of nationalisation, Beeching and Railtrack. Today more people work in other industries: tyre manufacturing, food production, engineering. The local Church has changed too. There are more than twice as many parishes in the Carlisle Deanery today than there were then, but the pattern of Catholic practice is different. As many people as then now want to be known as Catholics [Baptism figures are hardly different from seventy years ago], but the level of practising Catholics, as in so many other places, is now lower. However, strangely enough, the active involvement of lay people in the life of the Church is probably greater today than it ever was before. So many contradictions and problems! Bishop Wulstan Pearson wouldn't recognise the Church of today: Bishop Patrick wouldn't want to be part of the 1925 episcopal style. Our Bishop's two-week visit to our deanery, which began on 18th September, was intended to be, as he said himself, a learning exercise. To listen to what our people were saying, to encourage us, to get to know us better, to pray with us, and to help us to bring the Church more effectively into the lives of those around us ­ especially into the lives of those who find life difficult. He wanted us to celebrate our Faith with him. He left it to the people and clergy to draw up a suitable programme for him. In the end he worked his way through fifty-five engagements during the fortnight. He met literally hundreds of people. From the highest to the lowest in the Deanery he listened and learned. From consorting with Mayors and both City and County Councillors and other civic dignitaries and dining with them in the marbled splendour of the County Offices, to sharing a dry stale crust with the clergy in their mean and humble abodes. In between Bishop Patrick met with doctors, nurses, social workers, carers, magistrates, police, local government employees, a judge, and solicitors. He met the Bishop of Carlisle, the Chairman of the Methodist District, prosecutors, teachers, school governors, catechists, members of parish organisations, pupils in our schools, farmers, divorced and separated Catholics, and our ecumenical brethren, as well as very many ordinary parishioners to numerous to mention. The attendance at nearly every meeting and liturgical event exceeded anything we expected, which indicated the enthusiasm of the people for his coming among them as a true shepherd of his flock. Often people said that they really appreciated the opportunity of discussing with him and one another so many matters that affect not only the life of the Church, but of the community as a whole. Bishop Pat went home ­ very tired no doubt, after a demanding fortnight ­ after praying with, talking to and visiting folk in every parish of the Deanery. Three weeks ago we didn't know what exactly to expect. Now he knows more about us and we about him, as we try, together with him and with God's help, to live our Christian lives in a changing world and a very different Church. Yes, it was a happy and worthwhile visitation. source: Diocese of Lancaster http://www.lancasterrcdiocese.org.uk
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