The importance of the day together was in the title of the day: it was for ‘fraternity, prayer and formation’. It is rare for just priests to gather together – it is the first time in well over 10 years if not 20! And the fraternity was as important as anything that was spoken – Just to be together- to have time to chat – to catch up to see old and new friends – Priests from North Staffs and South Oxfordshire from deepest Worcestershire to east Warwickshire and all bits in between.
We were greeted by Archbishop Bernard and after prayer together in which we supported each other invoking prayers of blessings we were introduced to our keynote speaker, His Excellency Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
He began with a very quick journey through the Scriptures and looked at when God entered into lives; Abraham, Moses, Samuel and so he went on through the Apostles and to St Paul and the many vocational stories – he asked, whether we know when God entered into our lives and when he did, to note how our lives changed.
Archbishop Fisichella went on to challenge us. He asked what our focus is for our ministry? And what we should do or rather what we should be? He reminded us that in the Acts of the Apostles (9:42) they were called Christians for the first time – the people could be recognized by their style of life and their witness to the love of Christ – we were asked ‘are we joyful for my life, my spirituality?’
Our second talk was on the Joy of the Gospel and the Gospel of Joy. Canon John Udris and Fr Gerard Bradley (Spiritual Directors at Oscott and Wonersh respectfully) gave between them a fascinating talk linking the role of St John the Baptist (the Shoshebin) with our role of preaching the Gospel with Joy.
Our session post lunch, often referred to as the graveyard session, was given by Dr Andrew O’Connell. He managed not only to keep us awake but to engage us. He used the phrase ‘Let no-one lose the beautiful gift of THEIR vocation’ and it is wonderful to reflect on our vocation, our calling, as a beautiful gift. He encouraged us to be alive as priests – to bring joy – inner peace to our young people; to pray, to be positive, and bring the Good News to the young.
It was then that we were shown a short media clip. It had on it a number of ‘young’ people thanking us for being priests – for our ministry – for our being – for the gift of the Eucharist – just saying Thank You! There were many a priest with a tear in their eye as we were thanked with such thoughtful remarks from so many young people.
The day ended with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. A time to reflect on the day, to reflect on our ministry, to be together in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, with our brother priests – to thank God for vocation and calling and a wonderful day.
On behalf of the priests of the diocese I thank Fr Paul Moss, Mr Chris Smith and the Vocations team based at Oscott College for a wonderful day which gave inspiration, fraternity and joy to so many of us.