Dear Brothers and Sisters
Apart from dreading yet another pastoral letter, I am sure most of you are thinking, “Surely, not more retiring collections!” The Church in our diocese has a history of living hand to mouth. There are not mountains of gold accruing in off-shore accounts nor stocks and shares daily doubling our income. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, I leave that for you to comment. But the fact of the matter is we are totally reliant on God’s providence and on the generosity and good will of one another. That doesn’t sound so bad, though, does it?
This year six priests have laid down their pastoral office as parish priests either because of age or sickness. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their stalwart and generous ministry to us all in the diocese over so many years of pastoral service. In thanking them I likewise, on your behalf I am sure, thank all 28 retired priests of our diocese. We still depend on them to help out in summer periods so we can have Sunday Mass. We do as much as we can to support our retired priests, but we are limited by the money we have available.
So having established the need to provide for our priests and explained that there is no hidden pot of money I once more ask your generosity and help. Of course the other fact that we need to take into account is that the same people whom our retired priests first served are in a similar position and there are not great numbers in the succeeding generations to provide the wherewithal. I realise that this does not help the situation, but it is important that we face facts together and don’t live in a fool’s paradise, like the famous Mr Micawber, presuming that something will turn up. The only thing that we can rely on is God’s providence and one another’s goodness and generosity. We use our annual retiring collection to provide additional care for our retired priests – help with housing, healthcare, as well as financial support. Last year’s collection raised almost £16,000, which was a great help to us and certainly to our retired priests.
So with absolute confidence I turn to the Lord and ask his blessing on our diocese and especially on our retired priests, and at the same time I thank you for your assured generosity in giving to the Diocesan Retired Priests’ Welfare Fund in the retiring collection at this Mass.
Yours in joyful and blessed hope,
Bishop of Middlesbrough