I attended the opening of St Walburge's Church yesterday - as a Shrine given over to the Institute of Christ the King in a bold and inspired move by Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster. I'm sure it must have been a decision that took a leap of faith - given that there is still an unaccountable hostility in some quarters when it comes to making provision for the Mass of Ages. What a splendid and uplifting sight to see such a vast church packed with people of all ages and celebrating the liturgy for which it was surely built. Built on the outskirts of Preston city centre, the area has become depopulated over the years and so the parish was struggling valiantly to cope with maintaining this iconic building.
Its not just about the building, of course, but the living presence of the Church in this particular area. Just as any family needs a house to call home, the Church, which is the living Body of Christ, needs a home in which to dwell, to grow, to love and to make others welcome. Here is a home that can call people to it by its size and visibility. I'm sure the Fathers of the Institute will make the welcome of all who venture in as splendid as the Church which the Bishop of Lancaster has so generously given them.
Great to see a church full of people!
Thanks to Martin Gardener for these photos (which I lifted from his Flickr site - I was unable to find a way of getting in touch to ask formal permission, so I hope that's okay.) There are plenty of great photos of the day on his site here.
Bishop Campbells' Homily.
The Apostle counsels us today that if we are to boast or glory it should be in the Lord. So it is
therefore, first and foremost, with a profound sense of gratitude to almighty God that we
are here today to witness the beginning of a new phase in the history of this venerable
church of Saint Walburge. To pick up the image of Christ in the gospel parable, in recent
years, for a variety of reasons, there has not been as much oil as we would have wished for
in the lamp that is St. Walburge’s church. The city of Preston has rightly taken pride in its
long Catholic and Christian history, and a powerful symbol of that history has been St.
Walburge’s, visible from near and far through its unique spire. The question has often been
asked during these last decades, what is the future of St. Walburge’s, will it continue and
remain open as a house of prayer and worship as originally envisaged by the founding Jesuit
fathers over one hundred and fifty years ago?
Our presence here today and the fresh initiative now starting give a definite yes to that
question. St. Walburge’s assuredly has a future for which we thank God, the giver of all good
things. The church will now be open every day of the week to cater for the spiritual needs of
those who pass through its doors. Mass will be offered daily, there will be the opportunity
for quiet prayer and adoration, with regular access to other sacraments and religious
devotions. St. Walburge’s church will again become a much needed spiritual presence, and
hopefully a beacon, in this part of Preston where the human spirit will find comfort and
strength in our often confused and troubled twenty-first century world. The new venture
now beginning in this magnificent church cannot but bring down blessings from heaven on
the city of Preston. The common good and the city of Preston will indeed be well served by
the worship and prayer that takes place daily here in St. Walburge’s.
From today another page in the history of St. Walburge’s is being turned and written, made
possible by the gracious and willing generosity of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign
Priest. The Institute has accepted responsibility to ensure that St. Walburge’s continues to
remain what is was intended to be - the house of God and a place of prayer for all people.
As Bishop of Lancaster, conscious and grateful to the generations of clergy who have
ministered here down the years, I thank most sincerely Mgr. Gilles Wach, Prior General and the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest for their acceptance of my bold and heartfelt
appeal to assume responsibility for St. Walburge’s. I also place on record the cooperation of
Canon Amaury Montjean, who has made every effort to ensure that the necessary
negotiations with my clergy and diocesan officers have been smooth and trouble-free.
The gospel parable highlights the wise virgins who stayed alert with oil in their lamps and so
were ready to meet the bridegroom at whatever hour he came. The Church universal is
constantly on the watch for Christ her bridegroom. The sacramental and spiritual
nourishment – like that oil of the wise virgins in our gospel - which St. Walburge’s will offer
to Christ’s people who gather for worship will ensure that they are equipped to meet Christ
as he comes to them in the events of their everyday lives. Mindful of the faith and
commitment of the past generations who have gathered and worshipped almighty God in
these sacred surroundings since 1854, we offer sincere thanks in this Mass for their legacy
of this beautiful building. As we look to the future, with a spirit of renewed hope we entrust
St. Walburge’s and its future to the care and protection of Our Blessed Lady and St.
Walburghe, and make our own the inspiring words of the ancient psalm: This day was made
by the Lord, let us rejoice and be glad. Amen.
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster