It’s good to be home.
It was a few days after last Christmas that I flew to Vietnam and spent some time with the families of each of our students and priests who come from there. They were keen to hear news of their sons. Bishop Paul wrote a letter to each family, and that was very well received.
After that, I went to Rome and joined 28 other priests for a three-month sabbatical programme of study. The lectures covered a wide range of topics (scripture, canon law, art history, prayer, doctors of the Church, liturgy etc.). We undertook field trips to many churches and places of interest.
As well as the quality input, it was good to sit with priests from different places and to share our stories of priestly life. There was frank acknowledgement of the challenges facing the Church, and recognition that we all have to be part of the solution. But what stays with me is the deep love these men all had for the priesthood and the people they were serving. It was rather moving. I felt greatly heartened.
Now I am happy to be home again. Father Tien has done an outstanding job in guiding the parish over these months. I am grateful to him, and to the Marist Fathers who have assisted over this period.
Next weekend, Bishop Paul will outline his plan for the reorganisation of the diocese to make us more fit for mission. Indications are that it is going to be a hugely significant step for all of us. Of all the parishes of the diocese, I think we are most ready to receive and engage with what Bishop Paul will unfold. St Francis of Assisi Parish has been journeying along this path for some time. We’ve seen much change, and we’ve also seen how God blesses us when we learn (and re-learn!) to trust in Him.