jubilarians 2023 crop

Praying for our Jubilarians

Praying for our Jubilarians

Today, Tuesday 12th December, we welcomed some of the priests celebrating significant ordination anniversaries this year to a special Mass in the Cathedral followed by a celebration lunch. This year’s Jubilarians are Canon Peter Wilkie (70 years), Fr Tom Grufferty and Canon Michael Hore (50 years), Fr Danny McAvoy (40 years), and Fr George Roth, Fr Innaiah Maddineni and Fr Kevin Bidgood (25 years). It would have also been the Diamond Jubilee of Fr Brian Croughan, who died earlier this year. Here is the homily I preached at the Mass…

We’re happy today to offer up this annual Mass for our Jubilarian priests, those present with us today or not. We pray for dear Canon Peter Wilkie – amazing! – 70 years ordained – Canon Michael Hore and Fr. Tom Grufferty in Ireland, celebrating their Golden Jubilees; both were recently in Rome. We celebrate the ruby jubilee of Fr. Danny McAvoy in Bracknell, and the silver jubilees of Fr. Kevin Bidgood, Fr. George Roth and Fr. Innaiah Maddineni. We pray too for Fr. Brian Croughan, who died in the summer: may he R.I.P. This year would have been his Diamond Jubilee. There are very few jubilarians this year unlike in previous years, but let me assure you, it’s not quantity but quality. Every priest has a story to tell. When I think of my own ordination in 1984, I had no idea what in God’s providence would be in store the next 39 years, the ministries, places I would live in, the people I’d be called to serve. In this Mass, let us give thanks for our jubilarians and their selfless service of the Lord and His Church. Pray too for Canon David Hopgood and the Clergy Support Team who do so much to help and support our priests, especially the retired and those in need.

Let me link this to today’s feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was early one morning in December 1531 that a Mexican peasant farmer set off to walk to Mass, but as he went along, he was suddenly distracted by lights and music, and a female voice calling his name: Juan Diego! Juan Diego! He climbed the nearby hill, and there saw a young woman bathed in light, dressed like an Aztec princess, who told him to go to the bishop to ask him to build a church on the spot where She could shew forth Her Son, Jesus Christ. He hurried off to see the bishop, but the bishop wanted proof. So Juan Diego went back and again met the Woman from Heaven, who told him to give the bishop some flowers. He wrapped them in his cloak, but when he arrived and they fell on the floor, the bishop dropped to his knees. For there, impressed on his cloak, was the beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Soon after, millions converted to Christ, and Guadalupe today is the largest Marian shrine in the world.

I’m sure you will have seen the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe? The belt Our Lady is wearing is an Aztec sign of pregnancy. Indeed, it’s the only image I know that depicts the Blessed Virgin as pregnant, carrying in Her womb the Christ-Child. This image of Mary carrying Jesus within is also a symbol of the Church which carries Jesus in her heart, and which shews Him forth to all as the Saviour of the World. This reminds us of what a priest’s task is: to present to others Jesus Christ and like St. Juan Diego to listen out in obedience to what the Word of the Lord asks.

Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord said Isaiah in that First Reading. Every priest has a story to tell. When I was ordained in 1984 in Altrincham, I was convinced I had all the answers; in fact, ever since I’ve been on a very steep learning-curve! More than anything, being a priest is about, yes, loving and obeying God but it’s especially about loving people, not only the ninety-nine on the hillside but also the one sheep that strays. One thing for sure, and I know our Jubilarians will agree, none of us could be priests without the love, prayers and protection of Our Lady. So in this Mass, let us ask Her prayers for all of us, for all our priests, for more vocations, and not least for our dear Jubilarians. May they flourish Ad multos annos! And may the Lord grant them continued joy in ministry, good health, and one day an eternal reward in heaven.

Pictured are those who were able to join us today, left to right: Fr George Roth, Bishop Philip, Fr Kevin Bidgood and Fr Innaiah Maddineni.