Plymouth Bishop's Plan for Evangelisation

Bishop Mark O'Toole with Abbot David Charlesworth & Cardinal Pell

In huge contrast to yesterday's worrying and nasty blog subject, today I am pleased to bring you something very encouraging!

Bishop Mark O'Toole, recently Ordained to Plymouth Diocese, continues to delight and impress with his Catholicity (it seems incredible that I even have to say that of a Catholic bishop really doesn't it?)

When I received the LMS Magazine at the weekend, I was delighted to read an interview with Bishop Mark which is available here. In it he articulates a clear plan of action which seems to follow on naturally from his recent excellent Pastoral Letter on Vocation. In that letter, he stated his belief that the challenge faced by the Church today is not a lack of vocations, but rather a lack of responses. The solution to this problem seems obvious to me, and I'm no bishop! Mark O'Toole is, and thankfully he seems to see it clearly. Young men will not answer the call to a luke-warm vision of Catholicism. If the Catholic Church does not stand for something, how can young men take a stand for the Catholic Church?

Bishop Mark says:
Our goal must be to instil in our young people such a love and appreciation for the sacraments and the priesthood that they will not only consider a vocation themselves, but also encourage their peers to be open to such a path.
And now, he says how he is going to bring this about: by a systematic and formulaic evangelisation of his diocese, which has a sparse Catholic population currently of perhaps between 3-4%. In an extremely exciting an innovative move, Bishop Mark tells the LMS Magazine that he has had fruitful talks with Fr. Armand de Mallery of the FSSP (the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter). The FSSP is a community of Roman Catholic priests who do not take religious vows, but who work together for a common mission in the world. The mission of the Fraternity is two-fold: first, the formation and sanctification of priests in the cadre of the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite, and secondly, the pastoral deployment of the priests in the service of the Church.

Unsurprisingly, their seminaries are bursting with young, orthodox priests, and Bishop Mark is in talks to see if some of these young men might be interested in manning a parish in his diocese. I find this an inspirational move and extremely heartening. I am frankly rather shocked that no one has thought of it before. It speaks of a rebuilding of the faith. A faith fostered in such a parish will no doubt yield vocations. Just look at the situation in Arundle & Brighton, where the majority of the few seminarians they have come from an orthodox parish

I have traced out several times before how the evidence is clear. Where the faith is taught and nurtured, the fruit is plentiful. Where relativism, modernism and heresy abound, the faith dies. This pattern is evident throughout the world.

Bishop Mark is also looking to standardise provision for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, but not simply that in isolation. He recognises that for this to thrive, it needs to be enthused about by passionate people. Therefore he is proposing the provision for the EF is accompanied by catechesis and pastoral support. This is fantastic! Teaching about the Mass? When was the last time anyone taught you what the Mass was for? When we get together and share our passion for Christ, only good things can come of it! This is building up the Church, this is the kerygma right here!

I can't believe it, Bishop Mark really does get it. He also states in the interview how he recognises that people who value the EF have a clear love of Jesus, of the Church, of the liturgy of the Church and have great faith. 
How can you say that the people who celebrated it for 1500 years were wrong?- you can't ban it or regard it as lesser, It's about recognising that it has a legitimate place.
This is so heartening; a Bishop who seems genuinely interested in fostering the Catholic faith, in encouraging and working on the work Christ commissioned his apostles with as opposed to the progressive mindset of simply "managing decline".

The article, which you can read in full here is full of hope and reveals an intelligence focused on sharing the beauty of the faith and the love of Christ with others. Bishop Mark understands the problems and challenges as well as what is at stake and what is achievable here. 

Please join me in praying for Bishop Mark, and the success of his important work in Plymouth Diocese.


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