The day before I left for my retreat in Schoenstatt, I attended a meeting of the newly formed Deanery Councils in St. Andrew’s Cathedral. I had arranged for the chairperson of our Parish Pastoral Council to meet me there as our lay representative. I walked down to the cathedral from St. Mungo’s, partly because I would probably need to take out a mortgage to pay for parking in the city centre, and partly because I fear bringing the car into the city as, in the past, I have tended to get confused, and could find myself driving along a one-way street, or along a bus lane, inviting a hefty fine.
The gathering was due to begin with a time of prayer, and a Liturgy of the Word, in the cathedral, led by Archbishop Nolan. I had arrived a few minutes early and was waiting in the foyer, watching out for my colleague to arrive. I greeted a priest whom I hadn’t seen for a while and, before I knew it, he was asking me to hear his Confession. We found a quiet spot and celebrated the Sacrament. In the meantime, however, my colleague arrived and was forlornly looking round to see where I was. Thankfully, I was able to catch his eye and link up with him before the service started, and we took our place among the others, a gathering of parish priests and parish lay representatives, numbering around 164 people.
The prayer service was simple, with a short homily from the archbishop to set the scene for the day, which of course was around the task of restructuring the Archdiocese, and discerning how, in a spirit of collaboration, we can best use the resources at our disposal, people, funds and buildings, to engage in the mission of Evangelisation at this current time, hopefully bringing renewal to parish life. After the prayer, we made our way into the Clyde Street offices, firstly to meet and greet informally in our deanery groups, and then to meet more formally in plenary for a series of inputs followed by questions and discussion. I found the inputs very good and very challenging, especially the input on what we might be demanded of us in this process by way of collaboration. One of the inputs presented us with some very stark statistics re church attendance, buildings and finances, but also in relation to the number of priests we can expect to have active in the diocese in a few years’ time. I was very conscious that in my Log, a few weeks ago, I had referred, similarly, to some very stark statistics in relation to the Passionists as well. So, there is no denying the scale of the task ahead of us. In these days, as we follow the evangelizing journeys of Paul and Barnabas in the first readings at Mass, in what were very difficult times for the fledgeling church, I was particularly struck by the reading last Tuesday in which we were told that Paul and Barnabas put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in faith. Fresh heart and perseverance, those would be wonderful gifts to have on this journey, as well as trust, courage, and openness to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We were told that the meeting would finish by 2 o’clock. I don’t know if that had anything to do with a certain football match being played at Celtic Park at 3 o’clock, but certainly my own colleague was glad that the promise was kept and, on the dot, we were leaving Clyde Street on time. One thing I have come to realise and appreciate about the archbishop is that he likes to keep things simple and focused, and that was certainly the case on that day. We look forward now to the follow up meetings in our own deaneries, and to the challenges ahead. The first such meeting took place for our own East and North Deanery last night and was conducted in a good spirit.
Out at Bishopbriggs we had a recent visit from our Provincial, Fr Jim Sweeney, and also Fr Paul Francis. We had a good meeting with them about many things. Normally we would have a meal together too but, unfortunately, there was a Parish Pastoral Council meeting that night as well, and Fr Gareth, Fr John and myself had to come in for that. Still, we are all keeping as good as can be expected, especially Fr Justinian, the healthiest man in the house at 92.
As ever, protect yourself, your loved ones and others, and protect Christ in your lives.