Lenten Pastoral Letter

Lenten Pastoral Letter

Please find below the text of a Lenten Pastoral Letter from Bishop Toal. The Bishop has asked that this document be distributed to the lay people of every parish in the Diocese. 


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

As we begin Lent I wish to offer a few words of reflection and encouragement as we seek to turn again to the Lord, and by sharing in his journey to the Cross know the joy of his Resurrection.

It was a special joy for many of us from the Diocese to share in Bishop Nolan’s episcopal ordination in Kilmarnock last Saturday. Bishop Nolan was ordained Bishop by the hands of Archbishop Cushley, also a son of Motherwell Diocese, so it is right to feel blessed that two of our priests are now Bishops of Scottish Dioceses. I found Bishop Nolan’s words reflecting on the faith of his parents and their influence upon him and his brothers and sisters very moving and illuminative of how the Catholic faith has been lived so enthusiastically and passed on with such fervour by so many Catholic families across the towns and villages of Lanarkshire. My own wish and prayer is that this will continue to be the case into the future while recognising the challenging times we face today. Certainly it would be good to see many more parents attending Sunday Mass with their children and thus honouring and upholding what is the most precious and necessary way of participating in Catholic life and worship,

Recalling the meetings held in each of the nine deaneries during the latter part of 2014 1 would like to thank all who attended these meetings, those who spoke at them, and those who have written to me expressing their opinion on the matters discussed. It is necessary to let people know that we need to consider the future ministry and management of our parishes, and that further reorganisation will be necessary because times change, and in particular the provision of parishes and priests to man them needs to be reassessed. I have set up a commission with lay and clergy members, under the chairmanship of the VG, to assess what was said at the deanery meetings and to advise me on future planning. The Diocesan Council of Priests is being re-established and will meet next week. Through this forum I will be advised by the priest representatives from the various deaneries on all aspects of Diocesan life. Through these discussions, and those of the other diocesan commissions and committees, hopefully we can progress some of the ideas expressed at the deanery meeting in regard to forming consultative bodies at parish, deanery and diocesan levels, and thus work together in planning the Diocese’s future.

On Lent I offer some thoughts on its importance and the challenge the Lord sets before us as his disciples. As we read St Mark’s Gospel through this liturgical year we hear of the great enthusiasm of the apostles as they left everything to follow Jesus. At first they are enthralled with all that Jesus says and does and they begin to speculate about their own importance and the success they imagine they will be part of. Jesus speaks to them of the suffering he will face and tells them they must carry the cross behind him. They do not understand, indeed they tend to reject what he asks of them and end up betraying, abandoning and denying Jesus. Those specially chosen to share his moments of anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane cannot stay awake, do not witness the Lord’s own struggle to accept the Father’s will. The failure of the apostles to understand the Lord as the suffering, servant Messiah is presented to us so that we may learn and be ready to accept what it truly means to be his disciple— to follow him on the way of the cross, to die to self, and to offer our lives fully to God and our neighbour in imitation of our servant king. This is hard and we must rely completely on the Lord and the power of his grace working within us. Lent is the time of grace during which we turn to the Lord and ask for the strength to be his true disciple. Spiritually therefore I commend especially that we listen attentively to God’s word in the Liturgy taking to heart the call to repentance and conversion. I commend also that we pray the Stations of the Cross publically and privately through the weeks of Lent, so that by meditating on the Lord’s passion and death we may experience also the joy of his resurrection.

I have spent some of this morning, Ash Wednesday, at the launch of SCIAF’s Wee Box Campaign, so I commend that we all make a special effort to support SCIAF through this Lent. As we mark the 50th Anniversary of its foundation it is important that we remember that SCIAF is our, the Catholic Church in Scotland, international aid charity and it’s Lenten Campaign should be fully supported each year in every parish. I ask that this be the case in all the parishes in the Diocese. The other charity that belongs to us all is Mission Matters Scotland (The Pontifical Mission Societies) and this also should be well advertised and supported each October in our parishes.
In regard to charitable giving It is my impression that other charities can displace the Church’s own charities and I think parish priests and the parishes they lead should know that their first duty is do what the Church wishes, as expressed by the Bishop, rather than their own individual projects. This principle applies also to the necessary assistance needed for the work of the Diocese of Motherwell, and for the work of the Church in Scotland, and encourage your full and generous support when we take up special collections especially for the needs of the Diocese. The Diocese needs help especially to care for our retired and infirm priests, to train new priests, to pay the diocesan employees, to run the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, to support various projects and individuals working in the Diocese, to support parishes undertaking building or repairs, and to make its necessary contribution to the costs of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. I feel it is my responsibility to emphasise and promote the communal effort needed on behalf of the Diocese’s mission and to encourage the Diocesan community to think in this way.

I thank you all for the great effort being made by so many to live our faith to the full in our demanding times. Yes we do face some difficulties, as the Church in Motherwell Diocese and as individuals and families, but we draw strength from the communal practice of our faith, especially at the Sunday Eucharist, knowing that the Lord is always with us and indeed carries us through the desert and waste places to the promised land. May our journey with Him through this Lent purify and renew us and keep us united in his love.
With my prayers and very best wishes,

+ Joseph Toal,

Bishop of Motherwell

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