Archbishop Vincent Nichols paid a warm tribute to the priests, deacons and religious in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, during his homily at the Chrism Mass in the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St Chad, on Wednesday 8 April.
Archbishop Nichols, who was Installed as the eighth Archbishop of Birmingham on 29 March, said: "Today is a day for renewal in the ordained ministry. We priests seek renewal in our fundamental ministry of sanctifying the people, of preaching the Word, of teaching and ordering the life of the Church so that it reflects something of the goodness of God."
"Today also has a special poignancy - at least for me. This is the tenth time I have been privileged to lead this celebration. It will be the last."
The Archbishop of Birmingham told the congregation who packed St Chad's Cathedral, including more than 250 priests: "This diocese has a great richness and character. Among the great figures who stand tall are Cardinal John Henry Newman and Bishop William Bernard Ullathorne, OSB, (the first Bishop of Birmingham 1850-1888)."
He said: "This diocese has a tremendous richness of religious women and inspiring leaders in work among the poor and in education."
"This Archdiocese is not afraid of change. There are new patterns of shared ministry. There is plenty of innovation for parish mission and for the promotion of prayer, and for work with young people.
"People arriving here from many countries throughout the world find our diocese a welcoming place. The face of this diocese, its people and its priests is firmly cosmopolitan and full of the richness and diversity of our human family."
Archbishop Nichols declared: "I am sorry to be leaving this great diocese. More poignantly, it will be hard to be no longer part of this presbyterate. You are a fine body of priests, with different characters and temperaments,
dedicated, motivated, generous and spirited.
"I admire the enthusiasm of the young priests. I salute the wisdom and endurance of the older men now in their 70's, 80's and one in his nineties. I appreciate those, like me, in the mid-years of their ministry, when perseverance and a-day-to-day dedication is called for and willingly given."
Archbishop Vincent Nichols concluded: "Today at this Chrism Mass we renew our promises and resolve to stay focused on the tasks and challenges of the priesthood. Let us also be resolved to pray for each other. As you know, the claims of God upon me have been made clear. I will need his hand on my shoulder. That is made real in prayer."
At the end of Mass Archbishop Nichols stood outside St Chad's Cathedral for more than 30 minutes and greeted each one of his priests in turn, followed by every member of the congregation. It was a poignant ending to a deeply emotional occasion in the life of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols is pictured here with the priests of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, after last week's Chrism Mass,
Front row (left to right) Abbot Cuthbert Johnson, OSB, now Chaplain at Oulton Abbey, stone, Staffordshire; Bishop David McGough; Bishop Mark Jabalé OSB, Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Chipping Norton; Bishop Philip Pargeter; and Bishop William Kenney.
Picture by Peter Jennings