Dear fellow Parishioners
When a journalist asked Pope Francis, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” he replied, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon”. While that may sound profound coming from Pope Francis, it perhaps sounds a bit pompous coming from a student for the priesthood and, though it may be equally true, I still have a large blank space to fill so I better say something more.
I grew up in Manchester and went to Catholic schools until going to study for a degree in law at the University of Sheffield. After graduating I started a career for a large accountancy firm in Manchester and eventually transferred within the firm to their New York office. New York was a great place live. I made some good friends and enjoyed the lifestyle, especially the sports – running, cycling and swimming mainly – although I did miss my football (the real kind, played with the feet). Work was going well but I had a sense that it wouldn’t satisfy me for the rest of my life. After 6 years in New York and some soul searching I decided to respond to what had been a persistent, gentle prodding for a number of years: that the priesthood might be where the Lord wanted me. There was no great lightning strike, no whispers in my ear while praying and no visions of the Virgin Mary involved; just a sense that I might find fulfilment in the priesthood in a way that I would not were I to follow one of several possible alternative ways of life.
I entered the seminary in the Archdiocese of New York and completed the first two years in their diocesan seminary. I was then invited to continue to study in Rome at the North American College where I started a degree in Theology at the Gregorian University and gradually picked up a version of Italian in the process. Having completed two years of that degree, I am now in the process of a year of practical pastoral experience before continuing with my studies.
It’s great to be here in Clitheroe and Sabden. Thank you for your kind welcome over the past week or so. I look forward to getting to know you all over the next couple of months.