“You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name” John 15:16

Since my appeal on the front page of the newsletter – GIVING OUR TIME AND USING OUR TALENTS (22nd January) there have been some encouraging responses for which I’m very grateful. In that front page I remember saying that from now on I will be approaching people individually as a method of recruitment, but in fact, more frequently, the opposite has been happening. Parishioners have been contacting me by email or catching me after Mass to offer their services. One such encounter was with a relative newcomer to our parish. A young man from Sydney who is studying in the UK approached me after an evening weekday Mass and offered to help. He was particularly interested in catechesis (teaching the Catholic Faith). What struck me about him was that he not only knew his Faith but loved it as well, two vital qualities needed to be an effective teacher. He actually said to me something quite telling, that if people only knew the treasures of the Faith, they wouldn’t abandon it. Please, keep offering, keep volunteering.

Recently, our Archbishop, John Wilson asked the clergy to discuss an initiative, CALLED TO BEAR FRUIT at our up-and-coming Deanery meetings during February. The Bromley Deanery gathers on Tuesday 14th. Please pray that it goes well.

In a recent meeting of the clergy of the Diocese, Fr Stephen Langridge, parish priest of St Elizabeth in Richmond said, “The purpose of Called to Bear Fruit is to ensure that all parishes in the Archdiocese of Southwark are equipped with the vision, leadership, resources and infrastructure needed to enable them to become communities that evangelise, form disciples and inspire witness.”

He also provided some sobering stats: “Within the next five years 53% of the priests in the Archdiocese will have reached retirement age. In 15 years, 72% of priests will be beyond the age of retirement”.

“The outlook for Mass attendance in our Archdiocese is equally concerning. In 1999 it was 96,385. By 2022 it was 67,470, a decrease of 30%”.

Archbishop John tells us that to do nothing is not an option.

I leave you with the following two quotes to think about, starting with Archbishop John and finishing with Pope Francis:

“I became your shepherd because I want the church in our Archdiocese to flourish. I want all of us to be renewed in the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can witness in word and action, that the Lord Jesus reveals the Father’s love for every person. Our first priority is, and always will be, to call people to life in Christ through his Church”.

“The reform of the Church…does not come about with the umpteenth plan to change structures. It means instead, grafting yourself to and rooting yourself in Christ, leaving yourself to be guided by the Holy Spirit – so that all will be possible with genius and creativity”.

Fr Steve