A weekend of welcome: Ordinations 2019

Monday 22nd July 2019

This weekend, people from across the Diocese of Salford flocked to Salford Cathedral to witness the ordinations of Fr Robert (Bob) Hayes and Fr Damien Louden.

The joyous ceremony was celebrated by Bishop John, who was joined by many priests from across the Diocese, as well as the friends, family and personal connections of both men, to welcome them into the Priesthood.

In his homily, which you can read in full below, Bishop John told Fr Bob and Fr Damien that this was not the end of their formation journeys and they must continue to grow in their own personal understanding of themselves and to grow in holiness in their own personal contexts.

He said: “In ordaining you, as Pope Francis is very clear, we are not raising you up to anything at all. We are ordaining you down into service.  It is going to be the people you serve who will set the agenda for your lives.

It is going to be important that you give yourselves in service, which means putting to one side quite a lot of your own hopes, ambitions, intentions, if those things aren’t there to serve the people or places in your pastoral care.

That’s essential, we remind ourselves always, we are not rising up to anything, we are here to serve others.”

Bishop John also drew on Pope Francis’s message for Bishops and clergy to be in three places at once: at the front, leading by example, right in the middle of communities, understanding the context in which communities are living in, and at the back, ensuring that noone is left behind.

Fr Bob was presented by Fr Paul Keane, Vice Rector of Saint Mary’s  College, Oscott, and Fr Damien was presented by Spiritual Director of the Pontifical Beda College, Rome, Fr Peter Verity.

Fr Bob Hayes was vested by Fr Simon Firth, and Fr Damien Louden by Canon Jude Harrison.

Please join us in praying for Fr Bob and Fr Damien as they continue their journey of formation in the Diocese of Salford.

Bishop John’s Homily

Thank you for being the reason that we gather in this Cathedral Church today.

But we have got to look at what is happening.  First of all, at what’s not happening.

You are not finishing your formation. That must continue. It continues for all of us. 

The context in which we do this is changing all the time and we have got to keep on learning. We have got to be growing in our own personal understanding of ourselves, who we are, the joy to grasp on to and need to be holy and to grow in holiness in our own personal context.

So your formation continues, but we have come to that moment where we feel that enough formation has taken place for us to unleash you into service. And it’s my great pleasure to ordain you today.

In ordaining you, as Pope Francis is very clear, we are not raising you up to anything at all. We are ordaining you down into service.  It is going to be the people you serve who will set the agenda for your lives.

It is going to be important that you give yourselves in service, which means putting to one side quite a lot of your own hopes, ambitions, intentions, if those things aren’t there to serve the people or places in your pastoral care.

That’s essential, we remind ourselves always, we are not rising up to anything, we are here to serve others.

And Pope Francis is very clear, in fact some of his strongest affirmations are to Bishops and clergy. He is very critical of us and he should be, because we’ve got responsibilities and we need to be reminded of them. The care that we have for other people is essential, we mustn’t get our priorities wrong and he is very fierce on clericalism as you know. But he said something to some Bishops which I think applies also to priests, about where we need them to be.

He tells us we have got to be in three places at once – it’s quite busy in the ordained priesthood.

First of all, we have to be ahead of people, leading them. And if we are going to lead, we have got to lead by example. It is no good telling people what they should be if we are not trying to be that ourselves.  And of course, we won’t be perfect, we won’t get everything right, but if we are aspiring to the right things, that will help other people to understand where they may need to be going too. And if we’re going to be leading by example, we need to understand what example that is.  So, one of our great tasks throughout our ministry is to learn more about the Gospel, about the ministry of Christ and seeing how it applies to me in my life, in my ministry and how I can try to grow in holiness. And if we never give up on those targets – trying to be perfect, to be good missionary disciples – then we will be able to lead other people by example.

The second place Pope Francis wants us to be is right in the middle of our communities.  That’s where there’s all business comes from. It’s vitally important that we know the people we are trying to serve. We want to know their context and their challenges, what are the difficulties they face? We also want to learn their skills, because we want to employ those skills for the good of the church. And certainly in our own generation, the church must grow basing on the willing voluntary offering of so many in running our parishes whilst we get on with what we are here to do.

So we’ve got to be right there, understanding our people in their different contexts, knowing who we are trying to serve with our leadership.

And the third place we have got to be is round the back making sure that no one gets left behind, that no one feels rejected, marginalised, left alone. Because we know that God in his mercy never shuts the door on anyone. And even if they choose not to be part of us, we have to walk with them. We never give up. By our example, by our service, by our love for everyone that God places in our lives.

So there’s your task. Simple isn’t it? Straight forward.

I hope that all of us can keep trying, and through our ongoing formation, learning more about ourselves and walking with our brother priests, trying to encourage them as we hope they try to encourage us in a changing ministry which is demanding. And of course, there is a vital element here that we must not forget, the role of the Spirit. That God does not just say ‘We’re okay now, get out there, get a job, sort the world out, make it a better place, be good priests.’ No. He says, I called you, I chose you, I saw you into ordained ministry and I am coming with you. I will be with you as you serve the people, and when you are generous in your service I will be there strengthening you in all you do and reminding you of all the challenges that we can face together.  So that little prayer in this Diocese, which I think counts a great deal, is particularly important to you as you begin your priestly ministry – Stay with us Lord, on our journey. 

It is vitally important that we try to walk alone and fall over, but if He is with us, we know that we are in the right direction and going at the right speed.

God bless you for offering yourselves to priesthood, God bless you as you begin your ministry and continue to learn within that ministry, as we go on forming ourselves, and offering ourselves generously in the service.

 

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