I sincerely hope that we are all returning, having had some opportunity to unwind and relax during the summer months. More even than the beginning of the new liturgical year in Advent or the beginning a new calendar year, I believe that the beginning of a new academic year provides the best opportunity for parish communities to start afresh. For it is not only the schools and universities which are welcoming students back for new courses or opening their doors to new students, but similarly our parish ‘Journey in Faith’ begins again, offering those who may be interested a chance to share our way of life and discern what the Lord may want for them. Likewise, all the existing societies begin to meet again and continue their work and prayer. It is for this reason that Bishop Eton and St Mary’s are having the joint assembly at St Julie’s School on Saturday, 10 October.

I am indebted to the members of the small organising committee who have already laid the foundations for the day. The fruit of their work will be evident when you see the programme, which will be published soon. I can only implore you once again to take a good look at what is being planned and be part of the occasion. This weekend I will once again speak at all the Masses about my hopes for the future. We will be meeting at the same time as the Synod on the Family in Rome, and just as the Pope is inviting the whole Church to seek a way forward in dialogue and prayer, so none of us has all the answers to the challenges that lie ahead, but together we will be able to discern God’s will for us and our parishes.

You all know that I am a great believer in trying to read the signs of the times and see the providential hand of God at work in our lives. During the summer we could not have had a more encouraging occasion to remind us of how much good will and energy exist in our communities than the funeral of Cilla Black at St Mary’s. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I am a part of these communities. It provided a wonderful opportunity for people to use their initiative and support one another, ensuring that everything went so smoothly and the parish priest was at the other end of the country until the day itself! In a letter to ‘The Tablet’ last weekend Fr Fagan, a priest from the Shrewsbury Diocese, wrote:

"What a beautiful liturgy we witnessed for the Requiem Mass of Cilla Black. It was indeed a moment of evangelisation to have the Mass broadcast for so long on our news channels... I wish to pay tribute to the way that everyone was welcomed during that Mass and the strength of Christian witness given in Bishop Tom’s homily and the tributes from family and close friends – and those newly designed vestments which the clergy wore. It was a family moment for all who watched. Well done to the Archdiocese of Liverpool. A mixture of the Passion and Resurrection was visible to those who watched and listened."

What Fr Fagan did not know was that the occasion was also an ecumenical one. St Peter’s and St James’ made their facilities available and of course the bells were those of St Peter’s. The Rev Alan Crump at St James wrote to me straight after the funeral and having asked me to hand on his congratulations for “the wonderful job that you all did”, he went on to say: “It was such a blessing to see the church so well presented for all to see God at work through his people.”

What better testimony could we all ask for as we enter upon our Day of Awakening?

My love and prayers

Tim Buckley, CSsR (Parish Priest)