Pastoral Letters

Pope Benedict XVI RIP

Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem.

Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands and Superior of the Ecclesiastical Mission to St. Helena, Tristan Da Cunha and Ascension Island

Pope Benedict XVI RIP

Dear friends in Christ.

When I was a novice, I remember a religious sister telling me that Pope Paul VI was “her” Pope. He was the Pope she connected to the most and loved. It always puzzled me as a comment since the Pope is the pope is the pope! That was until the pontificate of Pope Benedict; then I understood her sentiments.

When he appeared on the balcony of St Peter’s, it was like a miracle. After the death of St John Paul, there was a deep anxiety and worry about who would come next. After St John Paul’s long tenure as Pope, who would the Cardinals elect to follow in the shoes of the fisherman? Who could possibly serve as the next Pope? Well, they chose a humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard. A great and good man. Someone who had faithfully served the Church for so many years.

Reading the works of Pope Benedict, there was always one overwhelming thought that would come to my mind, that this was someone who genuinely believed. As we hear in the gospel of St John, “This is the work of God, to believe in the one whom he has sent” (John 6.29). Pope Benedict truly did the work of God. He believed and he passed on that sense of belief in the Lord.

This was the overriding theme of the life and pontificate of Pope Benedict – he always pointed to Christ. There was no confusion, no chaos, just his clear and beautiful proclamation of Jesus Christ as our Lord and God. Even his resignation was, in a sense, his last act of pointing always to Christ.

Whether someone agrees with his choice or not, it took great humility to recognise that this is what he felt the Lord calling him to do.

As we mourn the death of our Pope Emeritus, a great man, a great theologian and a great Christian, we remember above all that he was the servant of the servants; that he gave his life in helping others come to know the one who loves us with a love beyond comprehension. He was, to the end, a true servant of our saviour, Jesus Christ.

Please pray for his soul as he goes from this life to eternal life. Pope Benedict was baptised in the Easter waters on Holy Saturday. May the Lord, who is the resurrection and the life, lead him to eternal rest and peace.

On a personal note, in echoing the words of that religious sister, Pope Benedict was “my” Pope and today, not only has the world seen the passing of a great man, but this poor sinner mourns the death of someone I loved very much.

With the assurance of my prayers and every blessing.

Abbot Hugh Allan, o.praem.

Christmas 2022

Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem.

Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands and Superior of the Ecclesiastical Mission to St. Helena, Tristan Da Cunha and Ascension Island

Pastoral Letter for Christmas 2022

Dear friends in Christ.

A few years ago, I heard about a teacher who went to Russia after the fall of communism. She was sent to an orphanage outside Moscow. She was there from September to March and as they approached Christmas, she realised these children had never heard of Christmas. Under the communist regime, the celebration of Christmas had been banned and these orphans had never been taught about the joy of Christmas. So, she spent a few lessons telling them the Christmas story. The children loved it. They could not hear enough and were so excited to hear about the baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the stable, the star, the three kings and so on.

After speaking to them all, she asked them to draw the nativity scene. She said it was amazing how close the pictures the children drew resembled what we know of as the stable at Bethlehem, except for one boy. He drew a picture of the stable, the crib, the animals, but there were two babies in the crib! The teacher panicked and thought she had got something wrong in telling the story. She sat the orphan boy down and asked him about the picture. She said, “you do know that Mary only had one baby?” Yes, said the boy. “But then why have you drawn two babies?” asked the teacher. “Well,” said the orphan boy, “you said that we all have a home in the holy family at Bethlehem; I don’t have a family and I thought Jesus wouldn’t mind me sharing his crib.”

The joy and hope of that child, after hearing about the wonder of Christmas, is a joy and hope we should all keep in our hearts as we celebrate the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ. It is the truth of our Christian faith that our saviour is true God and true man. In coming to be one with us, he makes a home for us, and we belong to a family, the holy family of Bethlehem.

It is a truth that brings us joy and hope. Even in the midst of the difficulties of life, there is always a place where we truly belong, where we can be at home. It is the place where Christ dwells amongst us; no longer in the crib, but in the tabernacle, in our churches. He longs for us to be with him, to spend time with him. To simply dwell with him, as he comes to dwell amongst us.

As we move from 2022 into 2023, make a new year resolution – no not to lose weight or be more healthy, as good as those things as. Make a new year resolution to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Make time to go into church, even if it just five minutes in your day, and spend time with the Lord. It is the greatest gift that God has given us; the abiding presence of his son in the most holy eucharist. Knowing that we can simply open the church door and he is there – that should take our breath away! Never take it for granted. Remember what a beautiful and precious gift we have been given that we can spend time with the Lord. Not in the small confines of the crib, but in our beautiful churches and truly feel the warmth of his abiding presence. He makes his home with us; please never forget what an awesome gift we have been given.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and a truly blessed New Year. May the Lord of all things, bless the year ahead and fill 2023 with joy, hope and love.

I will offer Mass for you all on Christmas day and entrust you the babe of Bethlehem. May you always make space for him in your homes, as he welcomes you into his family, the Church, which he gave to us to help us get home to him in heaven.

Hopefully, God willing, I will get to visit you all 2023.

Please pray for me!

With the assurance of prayers and every blessing,

+Hugh o. praem.

Abbot Hugh Allan, o.praem.

Easter Sunday 2019

Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem.

Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands and Superior of the Ecclesiastical Mission to St. Helena, Tristan Da Cunha and Ascension Island

Pastoral Letter for Easter Sunday 2019

Dear friends in Christ,

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

A very Blessed Easter to you, to your families and to all your loved ones. May the joy of this great feast radiate throughout your lives.

A great apologist for the Catholic Faith was a man called G.K. Chesterton. I often feel a real connection with him – he too was absolutely enormous! He was really big. Chesterton used to joke that he was the politest man in all of England – because when he stood up in a bus, he could give seats to three ladies!

Chesterton was big not only in girth, but in intellect. Many considered him the most brilliant and most popular journalist of his day. It caused quite a stir when, after many decades of searching, he entered the Catholic Church. Friends asked him why he became a Catholic. Chesterton replied, “To get rid of my sins!”

That is what we see in the celebration of Easter. Peter recounts Jesus’ death and resurrection and then concludes: “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” When Jesus first appeared to the Apostles, he breathed the gift of the Holy Spirit and said, “Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them.”

The forgiveness of sins brings something new into our world. Without forgiveness human history is very bleak. Anger, resentment, bitterness, envy — those things go on and on. We know in our own lives how difficult it is to get rid of resentment. And sometimes even the person who says, “I love everyone” in reality, is seething with bitterness inside.

There is only one way to overcome bitterness: the Cross and Resurrection, the forgiveness of sins. If we open ourselves to the cross, something new enters the world; something new enters our own lives. I am not saying it is easy. On the contrary, nothing is more difficult that receiving forgiveness – and all that it implies for our relations with others. It is not easy, but that is the reason we have before our eyes the Cross – and the Resurrection.

Dear friends, we live in difficult times for Christians. It is becoming increasing difficult to live our Christian faith. But we must keep going and hold to what is true.

The question is: Will we stand with Jesus or pull away from him? Are we going to allow Jesus into our hearts or are we going to drift with the current? A dead fish goes with the flow. A strong, live fish swims against the current.

So as we rejoice in this wonderful Easter day, accept the challenge of the Resurrection. Live for Christ for He has truly risen. Alleluia!

Please pray for me as I pray for all of you every day.

With love, prayers and every blessing,

+Hugh

Abbot Hugh Allan, o.praem.

First Sunday of Advent 2018

Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem.

Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands and Superior of the Ecclesiastical Mission to St. Helena, Tristan Da Cunha and Ascension Island

Pastoral Letter for the 1st/2nd December 2018
First Sunday of Advent

My dear friends in Christ,

This year we marked 100 years since the end of the First World War. On Remembrance Sunday, I spoke at the War Memorial in Chelmsford about the life of Fr William Doyle. He was a Jesuit priest who volunteered to serve as a chaplain during the First World War. He had a remarkable life.

Willie Doyle was born into a well-to-do, devoutly religious Catholic family in 1873. From this Christian home on the outskirts of Dublin, four of seven children entered some form of religious life. Having been educated in Ireland and England, Willie entered the Society of Jesus.

After long years of study, he was ordained in 1907, and soon after was assigned to the Jesuit mission to parishes throughout the British Isles. From the start he excelled as preacher and confessor, and crowds flocked to him.

When war broke out in 1914, Father Doyle volunteered immediately. He knew that, with thousands on their way to meet death, someone had to be with them, because, for many, this was going to be the definitive hour, with all lost or gained, for all eternity.

In 1915, with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, he landed in France. From then on, he marched every mile alongside the soldiers—forgoing all privileges that his officer rank afforded him. This was his “flock,” and he was their “shepherd.” By the end, these battle-hardened soldiers would come to love their Padre. It was no surprise, as he suffered as much as they did. Through barbed wire, and in spite of bullets, shells, and gas, he sought out his “sheep” as they lay dying, often alone in muddied battle fields, bringing Viaticum.

Father Doyle was mentioned in dispatches and recommended for the United Kingdom’s highest award for gallantry: the Victoria Cross. He was passed over, deemed to have a triple disqualification: Irish, Catholic, and Jesuit. It was to make little difference. His eyes were on an altogether greater prize: the sanctity and the salvation of those placed in his care.

Like his comrades, he was shot at, shelled, and gassed, narrowly missing being killed on numerous occasions, his only rest in the same rat-infested trenches. Despite his brother officers’ pleas, he refused to leave the Front, determined to be with his flock throughout this living hell.

When possible, in those flooded, fetid trenches, the sounds of hell reverberating all around, Fr Doyle, with a pyx containing the Eucharist around his neck, spent hours on his knees adoring the Prince of Peace.

Now, this is truly incredible for us to contemplate. That in the midst of the mud, blood and devastation war, Jesus Christ was truly present in those trenches. Places of horror and torment, and there, in the middle of it all, was our Saviour, the Prince of Peace.

This Sunday we begin the holy season of Advent. It is a time of preparation for us to greet the Prince of Peace, the child born in a manger. Yet we can greet Him every day. What a truly great gift we have that in our churches, we can spend time with Jesus Christ truly present in the Eucharist. In the midst of the confusion and chaos of the world we live in, in the messiness of our own lives, we are not abandoned by the Lord. He is always there. He never abandons us. He is with us in the trenches of our own lives.

On August 16, 1917, during the seemingly never-ending Passchendaele offensive, Father Doyle was in the dreaded “No-Man’s Land,” desperately trying to drag a wounded comrade back to safety. In so doing, he was blown to pieces. Unlike the many to whom he had given a Christian burial, his remains were hastily interred in a makeshift communal grave, while all around the battle raged on.

As we begin now the season of Advent, I hope and pray that you can all make time to go into church and simply be with the Lord in the Eucharist. Find time to stop and be still and know that he is the Lord. Come away from the battles raging around us and spend time with our Eucharistic Lord.

It is 100 years since the end of war to end all wars; the earth is still a place of turmoil and violence. Our lives and our hearts can also be places of turmoil and despair. As a beautiful antidote to this, find time to come to the Prince of Peace in the heart of our communities.

In Advent we pray “Come Lord Jesus.” Perhaps this Advent we can come to Him. Come to the peace and love that flows out from His heart. Remember the heroic example of Fr William Doyle and find time to be at peace and be with our Eucharistic Lord.

I hope and pray that you will all enjoy a peaceful Advent and celebrate a very happy and merry Christmas. May our Lord Jesus walk with you into 2019 and bless you always.

Please pray for me!

With every blessing and the assurance of daily prayers,

+Hugh

Abbot Hugh Allan, o.praem.

First Sunday of Advent 2017

Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem.

Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands and Superior of the Ecclesiastical Mission to St. Helena, Tristan Da Cunha and Ascension Island

PASTORAL LETTER FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I suspect that most, if not all of you, have seen at least one of the” Mission Impossible” films. There seem to be so many of them, but essentially they all revolve around the Tom Cruise character taking up a mission that seems impossible but he gets the job done. So, really, the title of the films is quite incorrect. Mission Impossible should really be Mission really quite Possible, though I suppose that is less impressive as titles go.

In essence, that is the message of advent. It is a time to reflect on our call to imitate Christ and to know that this is not a “mission impossible”, but it is mission possible and, indeed, mission essential.

On this first Sunday of Advent, the Church begins her four-week preparation for the celebration of Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ, our Lord and saviour. The liturgical colour of Advent is purple, which suggests that there is a certain penitential dimension to this season, and today’s readings stress the need to stay awake and be ready as we await the coming of the Lord.

According to the tradition of the Church there are three comings of the Lord. The first; when He was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem to fulfil the ancient prophecies made by God to His people, Israel. The second coming is the saving presence of Christ in each new generation of believers as they live out their daily lives in obedience to His teaching. His third and final coming will be at the end of time when He returns in glory as judge, and to make all things new. Our lives might be described as an Advent, as a time of waiting in faith for the final coming of our saviour.

During His time on earth Christ taught us to pray for the coming of God’s kingdom. Each one of us, therefore, is called upon to play our part in building up that kingdom by what we say and do in the ordinary events of every day. The prophet Isaiah in the first reading sets before us his divinely inspired and magnificent vision of universal peace, when the weapons of war will no longer be employed, and the nations of the world live together in harmony under God. It is a reality for which we all yearn. Never doubt that it is a mission that is possible, but only through the Prince of Peace.

Here in England, as I write to you, the days are short and the dark night falls quickly. I know it is very different in the South Atlantic. Our winter is your summer. You are blessed with an abundance of light. Yet there is another kind of light, and the apostle Paul urges us to stay awake and watch for the approaching light of Christ. The days and weeks leading up to Christmas are busy for most of us; but the lovely season of Advent gently reminds us to stop, take stock, to remember and make our own the great truth of our faith that the Son of Mary still knocks today at our door, desiring our company and friendship, and that He will finally return to take us home to heaven. To become a saint is not mission impossible – it is mission essential and, with the grace of God, all things are possible. Trust in Him!

It is now over a year since I was appointed to look after you all. Despite being so far away, you are in my daily prayers. Each day I say a rosary for all of you. For me, a major project in this past year has been to set up a UK based charity to help with the work of the Church in the South Atlantic. This new charity will support all our parishes and help source funds to enable the work of the church to flourish on all the Islands. Setting it up was a difficult task to complete, and at times felt like “Mission Impossible”, but, thanks be to God, it has been set up and will now support you in your work for the Kingdom of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, I pray that Advent may be a grace-filled time for you and your families, and that you may experience all the blessings of Him, who is the Prince of Peace.

With the assurance of my blessing and prayers and please pray for me,

Your brother in Christ,

+Hugh Allan o.praem.

Easter 2017

Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem.

Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands and Superior of the Ecclesiastical Mission to St. Helena, Tristan Da Cunha and Ascension Island

Pastoral Letter for Easter Sunday 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The health professionals used to say that we should eat at least five pieces of fruit a day. I cover this quite adequately by eating a bar of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut each day – plenty of fruit in that! Recently I heard they now recommend ten pieces of fruit a day. This does not worry me too much. It simply means two bars of Fruit and Nut each day. In writing to you, it strikes me that the good doctors have not pondered the difficulties of getting fresh fruit on the islands of the South Atlantic.

Obviously it is important we all try to eat a healthy diet (well, most of the time….), but of greater importance is a healthy soul. Just like a bar of chocolate might be more tempting than a good healthy salad, so there are choices we make every day where we go for the easy option, or the one that seems more pleasurable instead of the right option, the good option.

Every day we are tempted to think we know better than God. We think we know what’s best, we know what to do, and we know it all! Trouble is, we really do not. We need God to help us to do what is best, we need God to help us know what to do and really only God knows it all.

At Easter, we can return to real life, to a true life with God. Easter tells us that life is worth living. The unique and wonderful soul you have now is who you will be forever. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s promise of eternity and so we believe that life will change not end. Who you are now is who you will be for all eternity. So it is important to take care of your soul, to keep spiritually healthy. As we celebrate the joy of Easter, remember that we need God, that we cannot do it all on our own – we need His love and friendship. Christ asks us to love God and our neighbour – this is what makes life worth living.

Today the world has changed. Death is destroyed by life. Today we celebrate Jesus Christ, God who was made man, who suffered, died, was buried and rose again. We celebrate the definitive victory of the Creator and of his creation. Today we celebrate that love is stronger than death. Today we can truly say “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). Christ is Risen – alleluia!

So go home, eat as much chocolate as you can (!) – celebrate this wonderful day of new life and thank God for redeeming His creation, for saving our souls, through the resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.

In our prayers this Easter day, we entrust our beloved friend Mgr. Michael McPartland to the mercy and love of God. May he rest in peace and one day rise in glory. Amen!

Dear friends, please be assured of my daily prayers for all of you, your families and all those you love.

God love you and bless you! Your friend in Christ,

+ Hugh Allan, o.praem.

Second Sunday of Lent 2017

Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem.

Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands and Superior of the Ecclesiastical Mission to St. Helena, Tristan Da Cunha and Ascension Island

Pastoral Letter for the 11th/12th March 2017
Second Sunday of Len
t

Dear Friends in Christ,

The health professionals used to say that we should eat at least five pieces of fruit a day. I covered this quite adequately by eating a bar of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut each day – plenty of fruit in that! Recently I heard they now recommend ten pieces of fruit a day. This does not worry me too much. It simply means two bars of fruit and nut each day. In writing to you, it strikes me that the good doctors have not pondered the difficulties of getting fresh fruit on the Falkland Islands.

At Mass last Sunday we heard how fruit can be pretty dangerous. In the first reading at Mass last week we heard that Adam and Eve eat of the “fruit of the tree” and that is when it all went wrong. So maybe fruit is not that good for us after all.

To be fair, it was not the fruit (as much as I would like to blame it). It was the tempting serpent and then our weakness that led to sin; this first act of disobedience against the command of God.

Every day we are tempted to think we know better than God. We think we know what is best, we know what to do, and we know it all! The trouble is, we really do not. We need God to help us to do what is best, we need God to help us know what to do and really only God knows it all.

The whole purpose of Lent is coming back to God. It is a return to a fruitful relationship with the Lord. The commands of God are there to help us, not to trip us up and ruin everything. The serpent in the story of the garden of Eden says “don’t worry, its fine, do what you like…..” He lies to them. God’s commands might be difficult, they might be hard to follow at times, but they are there to help us and it is the truth.

One of the greatest ways our world is tempted to disobey God is within the sacred ground of marriage and family life. It is something Pope Francis tried to address last year when he published a document called Amoris Laetitia. It is about love, Christian marriage and family life. It is a breath-taking document in its scope and it offers a fresh presentation of Catholic doctrine with many indications for pastoral practice.

Amoris Laetitia is one of the longest ever papal documents. It has nine chapters covering everything from the nature of love, engagement and marriage preparation, to Christian family life and the upbringing of children. Chapter Four is a beautiful reflection on the famous passage on love from St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, a reading that couples often choose for their wedding liturgy. Chapter Seven focuses on bringing up children. Time and again, the Holy Father repeats the traditional teaching of the Church on chastity, marriage, sexuality and family life, but he does so in a fresh way. He acknowledges with sympathy and compassion the difficulties and challenges many face today. Like Jesus with the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11), Pope Francis urges us, whilst acknowledging the reality of sin, to shew care and concern for sinners, not condemnation.

The Pope’s pastoral intention, with all its balance and nuances, is especially evident in Chapter Eight on the care of Catholics in irregular situations, such as the divorced and civilly remarried. The Holy Father wants us to reach out to all those Catholics who have drifted away from the practice of their faith because they find themselves in marital situations and patterns of behaviour which the Church deems to be inauthentic. Jesus wants to offer them Good News. They are still very much members of His Church, with a part to play. The Pope asks clergy and laity to accompany them, helping them to review their circumstances and to grow in faith. With a wise and good spiritual director, it ought to be possible to help them discern how to live better lives and whether something can be done to regularise their situation.

To me, the Gospel story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35), with its themes of the presence of Jesus, grace, conversion and truth, is a good image for the kind of ‘accompaniment’ the Holy Father is speaking of. Cardinal Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto recently reflected on this:

“First, Jesus drew near, and accompanied his downcast disciples as they walked in the wrong direction, into the night. He started by asking questions about their present disposition and by listening to them, but he did not stop there. Instead, he challenged them with the Word of God: ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!’ (Luke 24:25) His presentation of the objective vision of Scripture broke through their subjective self-absorption and, along with his loving presence, brought them to conversion. The disciples of Emmaus accepted the Word of God that challenged them, and … they changed direction and, with burning hearts, raced through the night to Jerusalem to bear joyful witness to the community gathered there.”

Cardinal Collins takes us through it well. Jesus drew near. He accompanied them with His loving presence. He asked them about their situation. He listened to their experience. He gently rebuked them for their mistakes. He taught them about the truth of the Scriptures. He revealed Himself in the Eucharist. He thus restored their hope and led them to conversion.

Sadly, the media have not always given an accurate presentation of what this document from the Pope is about. Has the Church’s teaching changed with Amoris Laetitia? No. It is important to read this, and all papal documents, with a ‘hermeneutic of continuity and reform’ not a ‘hermeneutic of rupture.’ Amoris Laetitia is has to be read in line with Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, with Familiaris Consortio of St. John Paul II and with the teaching of emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, and Francis frequently cites them. There has been no change in canon law. What is new is the Pope’s direct consideration of messy situations. The Holy Father wants the Church, where necessary, to adopt a new and more compassionate pastoral approach, one that acknowledges the Truth yet more vigorously reaches out with God’s mercy to those who are struggling. This can be a delicate balance, especially for pastors. A pastor’s role is not to be a strict sheriff, nor an indulgent ‘fairy-godmother’ – nor, for that matter, to adopt an attitude of ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ – but to be a good shepherd, a wise mentor, a prudent spiritual guide, helping people discern their growth and development towards the ideal.

Does the Pope leave a lot of matters to individual conscience, as some media commentators have suggested? No, he doesn’t, if by conscience they mean ‘What I feel.’ Christians always see themselves first and foremost as belonging to Christ, as members of His Body, the Church. They live ‘under’ the Word of God. So a Christian’s conscience is never ‘What I feel’ or ‘What I think’ but a conscience informed by Catholic teaching, which seeks to apply authentically the teaching and principles of Jesus to daily life and concrete situations.

Always keep in your hearts that there is nothing we can do that God can not forgive, if we return with a humble and contrite heart and are willing to change.

Lent is a time for us to reflect clearly on our obedience to God and to seek his mercy, especially in the sacrament of confession. I hope you will all make good use of this beautiful sacrament during Lent and through out the year.

Going back to my original thought, maybe for Lent I might take up eating more fruit (yes, and pigs might fly, I hear you say) but for sure the greatest thing we can do in Lent is to return to God, to listen to His commands and keep them. We should all take to heart the important phrase we say in the “Our Father” everyday – lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Graciously hear our prayers. Amen

With the assurance of my prayers for you and with every blessing,

Yours in Christ and St Norbert,

+ Abbot Hugh

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time 2016

Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem.

Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands and Superior of the Ecclesiastical Mission to St. Helena, Tristan Da Cunha and Ascension Island

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever more!

It is with profound trust in the loving mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ that I prepare to take up my appointment as the Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands and Superior of the Mission sui juris of St. Helena Ascension und Tristan da Cunha, in succession to the wonderful Monsignor Michael McParland.

The day after receiving my letter of appointment, I visited Mgr. McParland in the hospital and he gave me his blessing. He also wanted me to pass on his blessings and his love to the people of the South Atlantic. In November, I will make my first visit to the Ascension Islands and then the Falkland Islands. In the New Year, I look forward to making my first visits to Tristan da Cunha and St Helena.

Shakespeare called the prospect of eternity “an undiscovered country.” For me, not only the future but where I hope to become part of the family of God will be an undiscovered territory for me. For most of the year, I will continue to live with my community in Chelmsford, but I will travel around the islands of the South Atlantic each year and hope to become your friend as well as your priest.

Since this is my first pastoral letter to you, allow me to say a little about my background. I was born in Hertfordshire, England, but in a large Scottish family. Our home town is a place called Auchtermuchty which is only three miles from an even smaller village called Falkland! After school, I went to St Mary’s Strawberry Hill and trained to become a teacher. On leaving university, I joined the Norbertine Order. After my novitiate, I was sent to study at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford. I was ordained a priest in November 2002. My first job as a priest was a full time school chaplain to a Catholic High School in North Manchester. In 2004 I was appointed parish priest of Gorton in Manchester. In 2006 I was appointed superior of the Norbertine community in Manchester at the tender age of 29! At the time, I was the youngest religious superior in the world, but time has dealt with that one! In 2008 the Order opened a new Priory in Chelmsford and I was appointed superior here. At the same time I was appointed parish priest of Chelmsford and in recent years I have been the Area Dean for Mid Essex.

In my life as a priest, there has been one guiding principle in all I have tried to do and live – it is the salvation of souls. For me, it will continue to be my motto as I serve you and walk with you. Whether we come from the Islands of the South Atlantic or from the wilds of Essex, for each of us, our true homeland is heaven and it is our joy and responsibility to help each other get to heaven; that is why the salvation of souls in Christ Jesus is our hope and our desire. Let us help each other get to heaven, the undiscovered country we can all hope to see.

May Our Lady, Star of the Sea, enfold us in her love as together we go to Jesus through Mary.

Please pray for me. God love you and keep you,
+ Hugh