Tuesday 5 October 2010

New Bishop of Shrewsbury

The Diocese of Shrewsbury has a new Bishop - Mark Davies, formerly Vicar General in Salford. Last Sunday he issued his first Pastoral Letter - what a breath of fresh air! He asks for, prays for and hopes for - FAITHFULNESS. He thinks we must look beyond plans and initiatives (the usual refuge of those who don't really know what to do in most of our dioceses) to prayer for an increase of faith and faithfulness (a real answer to our problems) - fidelity to Christ and the teachings of His Church. "Faithfulness" "faith" and "fidelity" are mentioned nineteen times! He begins his ministry by inaugurating a Marian Year in his diocese - trusting her to show the way.


You can read the text here on the diocesan website but I reproduce it in full below with my own highlights.




Bishop of Shrewsbury

to be read in all churches and chapels of the Diocese

on the Twenty Seventh Sunday of the Year

3rd October 2010

At Shrewsbury Cathedral on Friday Bishop Noble handed me the pastoral staff of the Diocese. He invited me to take my place as your new Bishop in response to Pope Benedict’s call. I have only been with you for eight months but I am very much aware of the deep respect and gratitude which is felt for Bishop Brian and the example of faithfulness he leaves for the whole Diocese. I wish my first words to express that gratitude and to give thanks to God for our Bishop Brian Noble. Just a few weeks ago I stood with Bishop Brian at the tomb of the first Bishop of Shrewsbury, it was a moment which put both of us in our places as the tenth and now eleventh bishops of this Diocese. I was conscious, as St. Paul wrote to the young bishop Timothy, that we had, “been trusted to look after something very precious.” (II Tim. 1:14). Bishop Brown, our first bishop, wrote of the, “desolate,” scene he saw at the beginning of our Diocese. There were just thirty three priests serving a vast area across Cheshire, Shropshire and North Wales. Some congregations still gathered in the public rooms of taverns and even in lofts above stables. Yet, it is thanks to their faithfulness that we are here today.

During these last eight months I have been privileged to see your own faithfulness. As I travelled across the Diocese I have seen so many faithful people, so many dedicated priests, so many hard working deacons, so many faithful families, so many communities giving witness in consecrated life. All of you today form Christ’s faithful people in every town and city and rural community of this Diocese. Yet, you have often shared with me your anxiety and concern for the future. In the face of problems which can seem as great as those at the beginning of the Diocese, people ask: How will we continue to pass on our faith to generations to come? So on this, my first Sunday as your Bishop, I wish us to look beyond the many problems and the plans and initiatives we will need to meet them. I want us to begin listening to the Gospel. Let us listen to that prayer first made by the Apostles: Lord, “increase our faith!”(Luke 17:5). For this will surely be the greatest need of our Diocese: to increase in faith and in faithfulness. As the great Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, wrote as a cautionary note to all our strategies and planning, we are not saved by a formula but by a Person and the assurance he gives us, “I am with you!(Novo Millennio Ineunte No. 29).

This same realisation allowed the now Blessed John Henry Newman, who looked at those same unpromising prospects a century and a half ago, to glimpse, in the harsh facts and dispiriting statistics, the promise of something very great: a new spring-time for the Church. An English spring-time, he added, with its sudden storms and set-backs. He saw in the faithfulness of so few, all that God’s grace would make possible. “One thing I know,” he said, “that according to our need, so will be our strength.” It was to that same chapel, where Blessed John Henry Newman had first addressed the English Bishops, that our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, asked the Bishops to gather with him at the end of his visit to our country. The Holy Father had come - it seems strange now to recall this - in the face of much bitter opposition. Yet when he came, there were public demonstrations of faith which saw an eruption of joy on the streets of our cities, as people heard his voice at once gentle and clear in teaching. He knelt with us in the silence of prayer, and led us repeatedly back to the Holy Mass, the Holy Eucharist. He wanted to turn all eyes towards Christ our one Lord and Saviour. His visit spoke to many hearts and took us far beyond the realms of human calculation. We witnessed a work of grace, a communication of faith and, indeed, our Holy Father’s own faithfulness as the Successor of Peter.

In others words, we caught sight in those days of what must always be our real pastoral plan: to be more faithful to the Gospel and to the Catholic faith we have received. This faithfulness, we were reminded two weeks ago, is not only for ourselves but for the many around us and for all who come after us. As Blessed John Henry Newman had strikingly written, and the Holy Father asked us each to consider anew: “I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good. I shall do his work … a preacher of truth in my own place … if I do but keep his commandments and serve him in my calling.” So whatever structures, buildings or plans we leave to coming generations, this faithfulness will be the greatest legacy. Just as back in those brave days when the diocese began, such fidelity will hold the promise through the bleakest times of that new spring-time which Blessed John Henry Newman spoke of.

As Bishop Brown first entrusted the beginnings of Shrewsbury Diocese to Our Lady, Help of Christians, so I invite you to keep with me from 8th December a year of prayer with Mary in all our parishes and families. Our Lady will show us through every changing scene and circumstance that same path of faithfulness, as she said, “let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38). She will help us now to see all that God’s grace makes possible. To Mary, Ever-faithful, I entrust this Diocese with the prayer that we may leave the example of our own faithfulness to generations yet to come.

+ Mark

Bishop of Shrewsbury

Given at Shrewsbury Cathedral on Friday 1st October 2010,

the Feast of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus.

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