" How good God is ... ... with those who trust in Him and leave all for His sake. "
Blessed Peter Donders C.Ss.R
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Bishop Ralph Heskett CSsR Homily Installation Mass...

 

 

Homily for Installation

 

Before I begin the homily I would like to thank you, the priests, religious and lay faithful for your warm welcome to the diocese of Hallam.  In particular, I would like to thank all those who wrote to me when the announcement of my appointment was made, welcoming with an assurance of prayers.  Many of those who wrote offered words of encouragement, too, informing me of all the things I could look forward to when I arrived in Hallam, - the many places of interest to visit, some of local customs etc.  One particular custom mentioned by someone born in Sheffield and now living in exile in the north-west caught my eye and I am looking forward to trying it for myself and I quote:

 

“No self-respecting Sheffield home would be without Henderson’s Relish, a slightly spicy black vinegar based product use on savoury pies and fish and chips.” Something to look forward to……..

The installation of a new bishop is stunning in its simplicity. Two simple gestures lie at the heart of the ceremony.. A few moments ago I was led here to the chair by Archbishop Malcom and then handed the diocesan crozier or pastoral staff by Bishop John. Both the staff and the chair, each in their own way, are symbols of the tasks entrusted to me anew here in Hallam: to teach, to sanctify and to oversee the life of the family of the diocese.

 

 At the time of Jesus, the shepherd was a key player in the local community. He was known as a leader, a protector, a nourisher.

  •       The shepherd was the one who knew the best road to travel.
  •       The shepherd was the one who always knew where there was something good to eat and drink.
  •        The shepherd was the one who knew the dangers along the way and how to avoid them.
  •       The shepherd was the one who would protect his flock – with his life, if necessary

Within the family of the Church we are all called to shepherd one another. At different times and in different ways we are all called to guide, to protect, and to nourish those placed in our care as parents, for example, or as teachers, as priests.  Receiving the diocesan crozier from Bishop John today I am reminded that now as your bishop I am charged to continue the role of shepherd that he has carried out with such energy and dedication over the last 17 year. Now it is my task to show you the best road to travel leading by example.  I must show you where there is something good to eat and to lead you with the heart of Christ, the Good Shepherd.

 

From ancient times, the chair has been a symbol of teaching authority.  In universities today, we still speak of someone as holding the chair of some faculty or another.

 

 The Chair is a constant reminder to me of my task of teaching with clarity and compassion. nourishing you with the Word of God and the teaching of the Church and the milk of grace through the sacramental life of the Church. And I take seriously Paul’s word of advice to his friend and bishop, Timothy, “Take great care what you do and teach; always do this, and in this way you will save both yourself and those who listen to you. (1Tim.4:16)

 

And, of course, for us the chair is also the symbol of our communion with God and one another, bishop, priests and people. We are never more a diocesan family than when we gather here in the Mother Church of the diocese, priests and people around the bishop. So it makes  this chair  not just a comfortable place to sit,-  which it is - but also  holy place indeed!

 

Just before I left for Gibraltar in 2010 I gave a mission in our Redemptorist parish in Birmingham.  During the course of the mission, I met up again with a number of parishioners who were teenagers when I was in the community in the early 80s.  Now, of course, they are all seriously middle-aged! One of those I met up with again proudly told me that she had just been promoted to a senior management post in her school and then added, “one of these days, they are going to find me out”! I know what she meant!

 

Thoughts of inadequacy, of not being up to the mark, are often the first thoughts that come to mind when asked to take on a new responsibility. These are some of my own thoughts that I experience as I take up my new role here in Hallam, especially when I am told that Bishop John is a hard act to follow!

 

However, I am consoled by the words we find in the preface for the Mass of the Priesthood:

 

“For Christ not only adorns with a royal priesthood  the people he has made his own, but with a brother’s kindness he also chooses men to become sharers in his sacred ministry through the laying on of hands.”

 

These words are a reminder to me that I am here today not because of any merit of mine, nothing I have done nor indeed what I might do in the future but simply as a grateful recipient of the kindness of Christ, our brother and our Redeemer.

 

I ask you to pray for me:

That I may never be found wanting

That I will always show you the best road to travel

 That I will always nourish you with sound teaching

That through my words and actions you will always experience

the protection and love of the Good Shepherd.

 

Sometime in May, Pope Francis visited a replica of the shrine of our lady of Lourdes. Standing before the shrine he describes Mary as Our lady of Haste. “Mary”, he said, “will always come to our aid when we pray to her, when we ask her help, her protection over us. In the many moments of life when we need the help of her protection, remember that she will not make us wait: she is our Lady of Haste.”

 

Those of who know and honour Mary under the title of Mother of Perpetual Help know this well and have experienced it often at first hand. So with confidence, I place what is to come under the watchful care of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Mary, Our lady of Haste, Patron of our diocese.