Sunday, 15 October 2006

Farewell Bash

Last night I formally bade farewell to the Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden at a special leaving Mass and reception. Of course, as regular readers of this blog will know, I took up residence in Kingsland at the beginning of September and already feel very much at home. Although I've 'moved on,' I was glad to have the opportunity to say goodbye and thank you to my former parish.

It was my first experience of a farewell party and the whole thing was quite overwhelming. The choir had very kindly selected my favourite hymns, which had been sung at my diaconal and priestly ordinations, both of which took place at Willesden – Christ is made the sure foundation, All my hope on God is founded, Draw nigh and take and Jerusalem the Golden.

The reception afterwards, at which I was presented with a cheque and gave a short speech, was a very joyful affair. The party finished at 9pm and I then retired to the presbytery for drinks with Fr Stephen Willis (Rector of the Shrine) and the organist, Simon. I finally collapsed into bed about 1am!

Last night was above all a celebration of the Sacred Priesthood and the privileged role that priests get to play in the lives of their flock. It was humbling to listen to people’s kind comments or read their messages. A priest is often not aware how his ministry affects people. A sermon which the priest himself has long forgotten or discarded, a Funeral Mass, a quick word of encouragement or a home visit can all touch people in ways that you don’t expect at the time. Last night was a timely reminder that Priesthood is not just a job or a function but a wonderful vocation and gift from God.

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