To him belong glory and power for ever and ever.
This Sunday we reach the end of of the Churches liturgical year with the great Solemnity of Christ of King! This is an amazing solemnity, as of course all solemnities are, but Christ the King reminds us of who our real King is and that it is Christ who is returning at the end of time to judge the living and the dead and that it is Christ who is our Universal King! I hope you all believe this and I really hope you believe that it is Christ who is going to return at the end of time as He promised us He would! Do you believe it? Please tell me that you do!!!
This past liturgical year has certainly been an interesting one, greatly impacted as it has been by Covid-19 and the restrictions imposed upon us by the Government. In our two parishes the excess deaths were particularly high during the first lockdown. I will certainly never forget the graveside funerals with only six or less mourners present during the first lockdown and how difficult it has been for so many to mourn and grieve without family and friends being there to hug, love and simply be with the bereaved. Many people in this country have died alone during this pandemic which is something I have found very difficult to understand. How could we in a so called civilised society deny a dying person from being with their loved ones as they pass from this world. A Christian society would never allow such a thing to happen.
This past liturgical year has also been memorable for the suspension of public masses during Lent, Easter, Eastertide and Pentecost and again during the end of the liturgical year and the start of Advent. We have not seen such suspension of public religion since the time of the Roman Emperors and in our recent history since the Protestant Reformation and later by Cromwell, who as we know was not a great fan of Christmas.
This past liturgical year has also been my first entire liturgical year with you as your new parish priest, yet I feel I have only been with you for six months as a result of the lockdowns and the social distancing rules. I have not been able to celebrate the Easter Triduum or Pentecost with you yet which was very sad and it has rather impacted on my ability to get to know you all better.
I have also come to know this past liturgical year that many of you are very happy to have me as your Parish Priest, that the majority of you are not too bothered who the parish priest is providing there is a priest to say mass and do baptisms, weddings and funerals; and that there are a small minority of you who can’t stand me as the parish priest, judging from the letters/emails of complaint I receive. Well as they say in politics,
you can’t please all the people all of the time, and that is the same for the humble parish priest. Or as my old headmistress used to say: ‘See how they treated Christ when He came to earth!’ The priest is an Alter Christus after all.
During the various lockdowns I have had some lovely letters, cards, emails and even some spoof newspaper articles concerning Lucky the cat and I have also received some very touching gifts, such as cakes and food during the lockdown period. These are things I am very grateful for and to those kind souls who quietly support me and the church behind the scenes.
This past liturgical year for priests has also been a logistical challenge as things have had to be chopped and changed and postponed at the last minute. Then there was the dreaded risk assessments, the furlough paper work, parish staff sent on furlough, social distancing rules in churches, the sourcing of PPE, the leaking roof at St Patrick’s and the state of the parish finances at St Patrick’s.
St Patrick’s as we know has a huge debt and this has become more omnipresent during this pandemic and the successive lockdowns. The parish debt has grown by around £30,000 this year and it continues to grow. St Patrick’s parish debt is now over £130,000. Before Covid-19 the diocese was in effect subsidising St Patrick’s each month using the surpluses that other parishes have in their bank accounts. Since lockdown 84 of our 91 parishes in the Diocese are now running a deficit budget. This means that the Diocese is no longer able to subsidise St Patrick’s or any other parish.
Please be assured that Fr Ross and the Joint Parishes Finance Committee are working hard to decrease expenditure and identify new streams of income, but we must ask everyone who comes to Mass to consider increasing your weekly donations if possible. Why not consider giving to your local parish whatever you earn in an hour? For some of us, this would be a lot more than we currently donate. Setting up a monthly standing order is a good way of ensuring the Church receives your donations come what may, details of how to set one up are found in the newsletter. I am sorry to go on about money but trust you appreciate why it is so important to do so.
So as I reflect and ponder over the past liturgical year and what has been, I do remain happy and content as the Parish Priest of Woolston and Netley Parishes, but I am a very concerned parish priest. The new liturgical year is going to bring immense challenges for both our parish communities and as a Christian community we need to think long and hard about the role we are called to play in the future of our two parish churches and the future Mission of our two parishes as we look forward to the new liturgical year and 2021.
God bless you all, Fr Ross