Once a year, we Passionists have what’s called “Provincial Visitation”. This means that the Provincial visits all the communities in St. Patrick’s Province, takes time to pray with us, tries to enlighten us as to the current state of the province in general, initiates a community sharing on our life and ministry in the local community, and meets with each individual to listen to their thoughts and reflections on a personal, community and Province level. He also inspects what we call the Sacristy Mass books and signs them, as a check that we are fulfilling all our obligations in terms of celebrating the Masses that are requested, and the Masses that we are obliged to say on a regular basis, e.g. the Holy Souls; the Passionist Mass Guild; Masses for deceased and living Passionists; parents of Passionists and Passionist Benefactors; suffrages for Passionists who have died in the Province more recently, and the Mass for the People that is said at one of the Masses every Sunday, and to ensure we are keeping the proper records.
Here in St. Mungo’s, this visitation took place last Thursday and Friday, 2nd/ 3rd of February. Our Provincial at present is Father Jim Sweeney, a native of Glasgow, but living in our Provincial House at Mount Argus in Dublin. Thursday was the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, which is also the World Day for Consecrated Life. We decided that he and I would meet and concelebrate the Mass hosted by the Archbishop in St. Andrew’s Cathedral for all those in Consecrated Life in the Archdiocese, and then join in the lunch afterwards. These men and women religious are very noticeably an elderly group now, but there are some amazing people among them, still ministering and doing fantastic work into their twilight years. Father Jim was delighted to meet old friends from his time as Rector at the Passionist Retreat Centre at Coodham in Ayrshire (sadly now no more) and from his time in what was called the Movement for a Better World. I found myself sharing a table with a number of sisters from the Carmelite contemplative convent in Dumbarton. I enjoyed their company very much. It was equally noticeable that most of what we might refer to as “younger” religious, tended to be African, Indian or Filippino. We are very grateful for their presence. I would have to say here that the lunch was very substantial and very tasty.
Afterwards, I brought Father Jim out to Bishopbriggs for the formal opening of the visitation, and for the first formal sessions. It had earlier been agreed, before Father Jim and I knew we were to get a lovely lunch at the cathedral, that we would all go out to a local restaurant to share a meal and chat together on a more informal level. We could hardly deprive Fathers Justinian; Gareth and John of a meal just because we had already eaten. They would have lynched us! With the best intentions in the world of eating sparsely, I ended up eating another substantial meal which, certainly at the time, I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t know if any of you would remember a Christmas episode of the Vicar of Dibley, where the vicar has cornered herself into having to share Christmas dinner with a whole host of characters in about four different households. I will always remember her trying to squeeze the last Brussel Sprout into her mouth, and the tortuous look on her face. Well, I felt a it like that and, in my mind at least, I felt that I would never eat another thing again, ever, in my entire life. Of course, I was up eating breakfast the next day, when the visitation continued until the evening time. There was a formal closing in which the Provincial made a report and led us in a final prayer. He was then collected by his brother, a diocesan priest, and after a couple of days at home, he went on to continue his visitation, the next stop being Minsteracres, where Father Antony is.
This will be the first time to include houses in England, following on from the Passionists in England becoming a part of St. Patrick Province only recently. All in all, it was a very pleasant and fraternal experience for all of us, including Father Jim.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.