Almost three and a half years ago in Walsingham the ever attentive Bishop of Richborough overheard a conversation between two young curates in The Bull. He listened to how they were enjoying their first steps in ministry but how they also felt isolated from other catholic-minded clergy. As a solution to what he heard the Bishop has devised and delivered a supplementary programme which complements the post ordination training (IME 4-7) which is offered within dioceses.
What a joy the programme has been. Every year of the initiative has seen growth in the number of participants. This year there were over 30 newly ordained deacons and priests present from all over England and Sweden. The theme this year was The Priest as Evangelist with a wide range of talks and addresses offered from Frs Paul Noble, Edward Martin, Adrian Ling, Darren Smith, and Bishops Lindsay Urwin, Norman Banks and Jonathan Goodall. If I told you that it was all hard labour then I would be doing a disservice to the schedule which also allocated time for prayer, eating together and time for fellowship over a pint or two. The event has become an annual time of renewal for the younger clergy who take part. Gathering together for two nights, united around our bishops at the altar of God, studying the scriptures, learning from each other, and encouraging each other in the joy of ministry has made a difference to my priesthood.
In March this year Pope Francis called upon all priests to renew their love for Christ and for all people to support priests through prayer.
“It is important to constantly renew and nourish the grace and joy of ordination through prayer, daily celebration of the Eucharist, penance, going to confession regularly and listening to the word of God, which is our daily bread.
Bishops, priests or deacons who do not do these things diligently throughout life lose communion with Jesus and they become mediocre, which is not good for the church.
That’s why we have to help bishops and priests to get closer to God with prayer”.
In a really significant way the annual Walsingham conference organised by Bishop Norman helps newly ordained priests to renew their love for Christ in order to be better shepherds to their people. I give thanks that the Bishop overheard that conversation three and a half years ago; I give thanks for my brother priests and deacons recently ordained; I give thanks for those who have funded and delivered the work of Bishop Norman with the newly ordained. I ask you to pray for God’s blessing on this work, for your priest, and all priests throughout the world.