LOOKING TO THE FUTURE WITH CALM REALISM
Fr Tim Buckley CSsR (Parish Priest)
Most of you know that on Sunday 22 September I spoke at all seven Masses in our two parishes, Bishop Eton and St Mary’s, Woolton. I considered that it was an opportune time to review my previous eight years as parish priest and assess how we should respond to the challenges of the future. As an aide memoire I am recording the key points I wished to stress.
- Firstly, I noted that when I took over in 2011 (June 1st in Bishop Eton and September 9th in St Mary’s) there had been much discussion about how we would cope, particularly in view of the fact that St Mary’s would no longer have a resident priest. A plan had been put forward which would have reduced the Sunday Masses from seven to four. There was much disquiet. With the restructuring of the Redemptorist community, I was able to suggest that we would try to retain the existing timetables in both parishes (Sundays and Weekdays).Apart from transferring the Saturday evening Mass in Bishop Eton to Sunday evening, no changes have been introduced and to date we have managed with only the occasional blip.
- Eight years ago I stressed my hope that our two parishes would flourish and that much would depend on both communities pooling gifts and resources to achieve this.Our Awakening Day in October 2015 was a remarkable experience and bore much fruit. I believe that in many ways we are indeed flourishing. However, along with the wider Church, we continue to face new challenges and this may be the moment to take stock and look for new initiatives that will enable us to respond effectively.
- I do have a concern that many people may still not have grasped the seriousness of the situation regarding likely provision of clergy to celebrate the Eucharist and theSacraments. This was illustrated by the number of people who bemoaned the fact that “they had taken Fr Charles Randall away and had not replaced him.” My response was to ask: “who do you understand THEY to be?” “THEY” happen to be the members of our Redemptorist Provincial Council: Fr Ronnie McAinsh (Provincial) who is over two years older than I am, Fr Andrew Burns (our Rector and a contemporary of mine) and Fr Richard Reid, whom many of you know and who is now Rector and Parish Priest of St Mary’s Clapham as well as being Vicar of the Province and Vocations’ Director, to name just a few of the many hats he wears. They are not trying to make life difficult for me or for you. Like the Bishops and other Religious Superiors they were simply trying to ensure that we fulfil as many of our commitments as possible, in spite of the rapidly dwindling resources.
- We need a NEW MIND-SET. For example, in the near future, it is simply not going to be possible to provide the timetable we have maintained for the past eight years. At present, it is being sustained by two generous and remarkably capable confrères, Fr Jim Casey (85 years) and Fr Michael Henesy (84 years).
- It does not seem to me that there is anything obvious that we need to do immediately, so I am proposing that we follow some wise advice, offered to me many years ago by Fr Timothy Radcliffe (former Master General of the Dominicans). In the early 2000s I had been asked to facilitate the clergy meetings in Portsmouth as they restructured the Diocese from 90 parishes to 24 pastoral areas. He recalled how, as Master General, he and his confrères were regularly confronted by issues to which there was no obvious solution. He always proposed the following: “Can we just agree on the next step and if, in a month or so, we find we have to step back and try again, so be it?” May I suggest that we do the same as and when the occasion arises? In the meantime, will you please be patient, if from time to time, I have to adjust the weekday timetable because of mounting commitments in any given week?
- There are two areas, in which I wish to ensure that we are as well organised as possible: hence the meetings for Ministers of Holy Communion, which have now taken place, and an invitation for people to consider training as Ministers for Funerals. This training will be available in the Archdiocese in November.
Of course, in any future decision making we will need to take account of the requirements of our Pastoral Area (Deanery) and indeed of any decisions which result from next year’s Synod. Therefore, I urge everyone to take an interest in the Synod and contribute to it whenever possible.
Thank you for your patience and understanding and for all the encouragement you give to me and all the members of the Redemptorist Community.
Love and prayers,
Tim Buckley, CSsR