January's issue of the Northern Cross, our diocesan newspaper, arrived today. The leading article on the front page immediately demanded that I read it. The article gave an depressing forecast of the way the Church in our diocese will look in 2020 - far too few priests, parishes closed all over the diocese, a continuing loss of practising Catholics. Mind you, a former bishop of the diocese predicted about ten years ago that by 2020 the Church in the North East of England would be finished! So nothing new there then!
The other thing which demanded immediate reading were the Letters to the Editor about the closure of Ushaw College. One letter was from a lady very upset about the apparent apathy and silence of the laity about the closure of the College. One could also ask, what about the clergy of the diocese, especially those who were trained at the College; perhaps they all think that this is a done deal and nothing can be done about it; sort of "Liverpool locuta est, causa finita est." (pace Pope Leo the Great).
The main letter on the page however was from John Bailey, a former editor of the Northern Cross; he writes about his increasing anxiety that nothing seems to be happening, at least in the public domain, which makes it hard for others who wish to help to know how they can help but that Ushaw must be kept open at all costs (he also believes that no-one has brought up the the future of the Ushaw Cemetery - John, if you read this, it has been brought up in a Comment to one of my previous blogs on Ushaw, and there are photos of the Cemetery on my Ushaw College Photo Essay Number Nine).
If I may quote about a swan swimming, the swan glides serenely along on the surface but underneath it is paddling like h....
I know for sure that things are taking place below the level of public attention, and I expect that these things will accelerate in the near future and when agreement is reached among the various folk - mostly laity - who are involved, then no doubt matters will be brought to public notice. It is true that nobody knows what is happening at the Trustee level, because they have not taken us into their confidence and that time is short. But I personally can definitely see a future for Ushaw College, perhaps a little different to what it is today but still a place for the training of priests for the future of the Church and especially the Church in the North East of England. We should not be planning to manage the decline and death of the Church, as we seem to be doing at the moment, but by listening and giving respect to some new but old ideas preparing for increase.
In the meanwhile there are two things everybody can do. As I mentioned once before, we can pray - those who are working for a just solution to this crisis will only do so with the help of prayer.
But also everyone who reads this should sign the online petition about Ushaw. Go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ushaw/.