Christmas Message to the Parish
24 December 2023
This Christmas is our first with one priest serving the whole of Ellesmere Port and Hooton. This pastoral provision for our town has never been attempted and marks a significant and permanent shift in the work of the last two decades, seeking to bring Our Lady Star of the Sea, St Bernard, St Saviour, and St Mary of the Angels ever closer together, forging the bonds of working as one Catholic community. The days of each of the four Churches having their own parish priest - and perhaps an assistant priest working alongside four parish priests - must not seem a long time ago to long-standing parishioners, but over 25 years have passed since.
The two most important celebrations of the Church’s Year we now celebrate as one parish community: the Three Days of Holy Week: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Christmas. Whilst every weekend we have three Masses in each of our three Churches, for Holy Week and for Christmas, we will come together as one parish family.
My own vision has been, since I became parish priest of the whole of Ellesmere Port and Hooton in August 2021, that we ought not to embrace decline, but be open to recalibrating and making our community focused on an outward looking, inclusive, authentically Catholic community: prioritising the vulnerable, the poor, the sick, and those most in need, alongside harnessing beauty in our worship and in our Churches, and continuing to know more about our Faith, both Scripture and Tradition. We have needed to recover the energy and dynamism of the Gospel and the demands that the Lord Himself placed on us: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, sick and in prison and you came to me.’
2023 has been a year in which, through our three social projects: the hot meal provision, The Companions’ Cafe, the Sunday Foodbank, and the Social Supermarket The Bread and Butter Thing our town and community can see that we love them because God loves them. These are the basics of what a Catholic community should be - and our buildings and structures should only ever be of concern to us in so far as they further the Gospel and make the love of God manifest. We can be proud of these six-month-old projects and my heartfelt thanks to our team of volunteers who make them possible.
Our Faith, our Church, and our community must transcend buildings, however treasured, to safeguard not the longevity of structures, but the future of the Gospel in Ellesmere Port and Hooton and to hand on our Faith in Jesus Christ to a new generation who will build on what we ourselves have laid in the time given to us and the graces God has granted.
May God bless you and our parish family in the New Year, 2024. Please pray for me.