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Thanksgiving for the Closer to Christ Campaign

Thanksgiving for the Closer to Christ Campaign
Last Friday 2nd December, I celebrated in the Cathedral a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Closer to Christ Campaign. The Campaign has reached its half-way target and there is so much to thank God for. Before the Mass, there was an opportunity for donors to meet some of our seminarians, who also served at the Mass. Here is the homily I preached:

Yesterday, in connection with the Bishops’ Conference, I had to go to an Education meeting in Birmingham. The keynote speaker was Dr. Karen North from St. Mary’s Twickenham who spoke about the transmission of faith to the young. There are two reasons she said why young people do not practice their faith: their spiritual needs are not being met, and they don’t feel they belong. Many parishes, rather than asking Why are there no young people here? should ask instead: Why would the young want to come here? Research shows, she said, how the influence of parents is crucial. Many Catholic parents, unlike Muslim parents and evangelical Christians, do not actively seek to pass on faith to the young: they rarely if ever sit down and intentionally have a conversation about God. As a parish priest I remember asking parents why they wanted their children to make their First HC: many said I want them to have what I had; they can make up their own minds later. That would never be the attitude, she said, of parents who are full of faith wanting actively to pass it on.

Take pity on us, Son of David. In today’s Gospel, Jesus meets two men seeking a cure for blindness. Do you believe I can do this? He asked. Yes sir, we do. So He touched their eyes saying ‘Your faith deserves it, let this be done for you.’ In the Gospels, Jesus is often shewn curing the blind, making the deaf hear, enabling the dumb to speak. These are cures that symbolise the gift of faith. Indeed, the apostles often ask the Lord: Increase our faith, to which He once replied If your faith were the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain Move from here to there, and it would move. The Readings today then are about faith, deepening faith, and sharing faith with others, not least with the young.

A sign of faith is what we celebrate today, the Closer to Christ Campaign. We are well on the way to our target. In this Mass, we give thanks to God for all that has been achieved through the wonderful generosity of so many. We pray for all our donors and commend them to the Lord. We pray for the parish communities that have completed the appeal: Windsor, Winchester, Fareham, English Martyrs Reading, the Cathedral, Southampton City Centre, St James & St William Reading, Alton, East Hendred and St. Edmund Campion Maidenhead. We pray too for the parishes currently underway: Jersey, Guernsey, St Swithun Wells, St Joseph Maidenhead, Andover, Wokingham, Cosham, Tilehurst, North Hinksey, Waterlooville, Leigh Park, Stubbington, Shirley, Lymington, Faringdon and Waterside. The campaign is about raising the resources we need for our seminarians, for the ongoing formation of clergy and for the care of our retired priests. Some parishes also have local projects of mission and service that are part of our diocesan Ten Year Plan You will be My Witnesses. I know it’s not easy to talk about money yet without it, how could the Church’s mission go forward? Today we thank God for all that’s been achieved and we seek His blessing on the road ahead.

The Lord is my light and my help. In this Mass, let us pray for our donors, and for the seminarians, clergy and retired clergy who will benefit from their generosity. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, but let us also make our own the prayer of the two blind men. Let us ask the Lord to grant us a deeper faith, a faith that fills us with joy and light, a faith that transforms our hearts and minds with generosity, a faith that we will do our utmost to share with others, especially the young.