On the arch above the altar in our chapel can be found words from the Book of Isaiah: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’ AWN Pugin placed those words there as a reminder to us that each church building serves as a house of prayer for everyone.
This notion was brought home to all of us at Oscott during our most recent set of ‘Pastoral Study Days’. These days take place at the end of each term and serve to give us a glimpse into a particular area of ministry. Previously, they have included profound insights from the Jesuit Refugee Service, Jesus Caritas and those who work within prison chaplaincies.
This time, however, the focus was all around Catholic patrimony. The various speakers drove home just how much of our time as priests will be taken up by the maintenance and renovation of our buildings. One speaker gave us solid, practical advice on things to look out for such as subsidence and damp. During another talk I recalled a conversation I had with a priest some time ago, who said to me: ‘As a priest you will end up doing the work of Joseph along with the work of Jesus.’ Funny but true, I suppose.
I think that our churches ought to be warm, inspiring and deeply prayerful places, but nevertheless this vision requires a lot of work behind the scenes. Aside from all of that, it was great to see the beauty of some of the churches in our country – and a number of those shown to us were from Liverpool Archdiocese. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful houses of prayer.
I have been back in Liverpool this past month with early January bringing the annual gathering for seminarians for our Archdiocese with Archbishop Malcolm McMahon and Father Ron Johnson, our vocations director. It was a great afternoon, during which we were all able to catch up with each other and share a meal.
Additionally, Oscott seminarians spend a three-week placement back in their respective dioceses at this time of year and so I joined Fr John Gorman at his parish communities of Byrn and Ashton-in-Makerfield. These lively parishes made me feel so welcome and I’m very grateful to have been a worker with them in the Lord’s vineyard, even if it was just for a few weeks.