Bishop's Message for September E-News

Welcome to the September issue of our diocesan E-news!

Friday, September 2, 2022
Office of the Bishop
Right Reverend Patrick McKinney

Welcome to the September issue of our diocesan E-news.

I have used a little of the month of August to reflect on where we are as a diocese and where we want to be. I would like to take this opportunity to share something of this with you.  


During Lent the Deanery ‘Roadshows’ took place. These involved David Lawes and Canon Paul Chipchase, representing the Curia which is the administrative centre of the diocese, and the two Vicars General, Canon Eddy Jarosz and Joe Wheat, and myself. We met with representatives of parishes in each deanery to share something of the challenges facing us as a diocese and plans to respond. For my part, I spoke of the steady decline, over many years, in the numbers of both clergy and parishioners in the diocese, something that had been happening long before the effects of the Covid pandemic. I argued that, as a diocese, we cannot now stay as we are – this is not a viable option – we need instead to begin to respond creatively to this reality so that we can build again to make most efficient use of all our human resources, clergy, religious and laity. This will involve a restructuring of parishes: a further clustering of parishes leading to the amalgamation of several parishes into one new large parish with several churches, and the closure of a few churches. Some parishes are already part of a new amalgamated parish, some are well on the way towards this, and others are just beginning the necessary discussion and planning but, as a diocese, this is now our direction of travel. This first phase of restructuring parishes, and some deaneries, will not of itself bring about a new missionary outlook for our diocese, which is where we want to be going forward. But it is essential that we do first regroup and pool our resources as a diocese so that we are then in a better position to begin to engage more effectively with the Lord’s call to his Church to be missionary and to manage better the challenges we currently face. This phase of restructuring will take a couple of years to complete, but it is already well on the way.  


In pooling our resources in this way the intention is to work together to become a more outward-facing and missionary diocese through our parishes, schools and diocesan organisations. To help enable this, the fewer clergy we currently have will need greater support in terms of administration so that they can be freer to exercise the pastoral care for which they were ordained.  The Curia team will provide some central support and advice, and there will be a need for more paid and well-trained parish administration co-ordinators, something that will become more financially possible as parishes communities become part of a new, bigger, amalgamated parish. Our Curia team is very much focussed on serving the mission of the diocese and our 3 spiritual themes of Encounter, Discipleship and Missionary discipleship which must prayerfully underpin everything we do.  


Over the next few years we will seek to address some of the priorities which have emerged ever more clearly as a result of the diocesan Synodal process which we carried out last Autumn and Lent alongside our ongoing diocesan restructuring discussions. Both laity and clergy recognise that we must find creative and better ways to form people in a deeper understanding of the Catholic faith; that we must recognise the giftedness of people and help them to contribute to the mission of the diocese, which is the responsibility of everyone; and that we all need to be formed in how to think and act in a more missionary way towards the lapsed members of our families, our parishes, our neighbours, so that we can all, gently and confidently, share with others the difference that knowing, loving and serving Christ Jesus makes to our own lives. There is a clearer recognition now that, in our parishes, schools and diocesan organisations, we are being called by Christ Jesus, whose disciples we are, to become more outward-looking, more confident and involved in our wider local communities, more missionary. As a result of this, three diocesan priorities are clearly emerging:

1. To help all our children and young people to recognise God’s personal love for each of them and his call to put their faith into action as his disciples. I do want to acknowledge the good work that is already going on in our schools, at The Briars - our Youth Retreat Centre, and through its outreach work into schools to help the children and young people to encounter God’s love, to hear the call of Christ to be his disciples, and to be open to the ways in which the Holy Spirit helps us to be missionary, to share with others the Good News of God’s love.


2. To recognise the giftedness of the laity and to offer ongoing formation to encourage and equip them for their sharing in Christ’s mission.

3. To support and equip the clergy to be encouragers and enablers of mission.  

These are very real challenges, but we are now beginning to address them. The Synod’s emphasis on listening to and being directed by the Holy Spirit is something that  must guide us as we continue to discern what God is asking of us all within our diocese. Please keep this challenging but very necessary process of reorganisation for mission very much in your prayers, and please do get involved in your own parish discussions.


I'm very excited that the relics of St Bernadette of Lourdes, to whom Our Lady appeared 18 times, will be coming to two locations in our diocese from 6-7 October, St Bernadette’s Church, Scunthorpe and St Barnabas Cathedral, Nottingham. For further details please do take a look at this month’s E-News article on the visit of the relics.

What a wonderful opportunity this visit provides for so many people to come and venerate these relics, and so to draw near to the holiness of this young women of determined faith. Bernadette grew up in extreme poverty with health issues and little in the way of education. May the example of her life and her prayerful intercession encourage each one of us to grow in our faith and to believe that, like Bernadette, God is calling each of us to holiness of life, no matter what hardships and challenges we face in our lives. May the visit of her relics to our diocese bring us many graces and blessings.

St Bernadette, pray for us as a diocese!



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