So far, it's proven to be an eventful year for one reason or another. Already I've experienced highs and lows and were still only in May!
In March I turned 60 and it's been a time of personal discovery. I suppose whenever we reach a particular milestone we take stock and reality bites. Even with the advancement of medical science and despite an NHS in decline through lack of government funding there is a realisation that I have more years behind me than in front, so all the more reason for us all to get along with those friends we value in life, whatever difference we may have, for as we know arguments can fester and our hold on life is relatively short in the grand scheme of things. And if we ever doubted that then we need only cast our minds back 12 months when in Manchester on Monday 22nd May at 10.31 pm a terrorist suicide bomber blew himself up along with 22 innocent people attending a pop concert in the Manchester Arena. And the sadness continues as the Grenfell fire anniversary which claimed 72 souls, beckons on 14th June.
In a few weeks’ time I have another milestone to mark, the 25th anniversary of my ordination and as well as it being a time of great thanksgiving and celebration, there is a tinge of sadness too, not only as I remember past family and friends no longer alive, but as I prepare to leave my two parishes to take up a new appointment as parish priest to FOUR parishes in the north of our diocese in the autumn. It's going to be a difficult transition for me, my parishioners, and my future parishioners, because inevitably one man cannot do what four men have previously done without that is, some changes taking place. Change I'm fast becoming aware is a necessary part of life if, that is, we are to adapt and move forward. The past is often viewed as being that more comfortable place, we remember with fondness and nostalgia, a place where the summers were warmer, and the grass was greener, and it was impossible to eat a full chocolate wagon wheel in one sitting. But as L P Hartley once said "The past is a foreign country where they do things differently there” yes, it guides our present, but it cannot dictate our future.
In Salford diocese we are now in “consultation” and the bishop's latest initiative is called "Hope in the Future"; a time to consider the needs of the diocese in the years ahead. Part of this plan involves the closure and the amalgamation of some parishes, my present 2 parishes, and future 4 parishes included. This will be a time of great upset as people remember past celebrations, events and people who have brought them thus far. But the future beckons change and change however and wherever it comes is never a welcome traveller, but in order to survive and continue it is a necessary part of life.
And so, to the Guild, we too need to adapt, and embrace change if we are to have a future. We’re not the Roman Catholic branch of NARPO. If our hope in the future is made up solely from those gathered around this room, then it is a limited future at best. Past glories are all well and good, but if we are to have a future we need to adopt a fresh approach to the needs of not just today but the demands of tomorrow too. Most recently I’ve had sight of various email correspondence, some sent to individual members others more generally circulated. They speak eloquently about the past, they grumble bitterly about the present, but say very little, if anything about the future. They use words like fraternity, brotherhood and there being a lack of trust, even implying plots and shenanigans that would be more at home in an Agatha Christie novel. All very disappointing all extremely unsavoury, especially when they come from within a Catholic organisation. I hope today, for the good and the future of the Catholic Police Guild, that we can resolve any arguments made, dispel angry words written, and cease with the personal attacks on good and decent members. To stop the sabre rattling and the posturing and instead embrace whatever the future may bring and do so with a fondness for the past, a respect for the present and a Hope in the Future.
I said at the beginning of my report that I've now turned 60 and how it's been a time of discovery, well on the plus side I now get free prescriptions, free eye tests a 10% discount on Wednesdays only at B&Q and I'm officially entitled to attend my parishes senior parishioners Christmas party. So, every cloud, as they say, has a silver lining, let's work together to find and embrace those silver linings and ignore those far too often dark clouds of despondency and distrust that come our way. St. Michael the Archangel…Pray for us.