Ampleforth Abbey

25 February 2018

Priestly Ordination and vocations events at our parish in Leyland

Photos: Fr Raphael Jones OSB lays hands on Michael; Fr Jonathan Cotton OSB congratulates the newly ordained priest

Fr Jonathan Cotton OSB (Monk of Ampleforth and Parish Priest of St Mary's, Leyland) writes:

Michael Barrett was ordained a priest in St Mary’s Leyland, an Ampleforth Trustee parish in Lancashire on 15 July 2017. St Mary’s is manned by three Ampleforth monks; Fr Jonathan Cotton, Fr Stephen Wright, and Fr Paul Browne.

Michael Barrett had been the head teacher of St Anne’s Primary School, one of the two Catholic Primary Schools in Leyland and a part of our parish. He was appointed in 1991 and was there until he decided to enter the seminary of the Beda College in Rome for men who have the call to be a priest later on in life in 2013. He was a married man with two daughters, Angela and Christina who you will see in this slide show with their father. Their mother, Jackie, Michael’s wife died some years before.

Michael was well known by parishioners of St Mary’s in Leyland. He was much appreciated by the pupils and one former pupil told me that he was the best head teacher he had ever known. He was also a great helper and supporter of the parish and it was fitting that he should be baptised here. There was a practical reason as well. The 700 or so people who attended the ordination could not have fitted at all into his own parish Church of Our Lady’s in Tarleton.

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Click here to see a magnificent slideshow of photographs capturing something of the emotions of the feelings of the day ("one of the most memorable days of recent parish history" in Fr Jonathan's words).

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'Called Beyond'

On Sunday 15 October, Fr Michael also preached about his vocation at the final mass of the “Called Beyond” project that St Mary's is engaged in as a Pilot Parish for a project of the National Office of Vocations.

'Called Beyond' is a parish vocations week aimed at fostering a culture of vocations in the Catholic Church of today. Each day there is a different public event held outside parish premises, where visiting speakers share something of their own vocation story: whether they are single or married laypeople, priests, deacons, monks, nuns or religious brothers and sisters. Our own Br Benedict gave a talk at Leyland about his own story and his thoughts on 'vocation'.

The project is a reminder that everyone is chosen and called by God to be a child of God; everyone has a vocation. And even more than that, each person is called to live out his/her vocation in a particular way - but which? 'Called Beyond' aims to get people thinking about their own call and asking questions.

We have our own page about 'vocations' here

And below you can read Fr Michael Barrett's own thoughts on vocation:




Vocations Homily – St. Mary’s, Leyland. 

Fr Michael Barrett, 15 October 2017, on the occasion of the Called Beyond Vocation Initiative of St Mary’s Leyland.

When Fr. Jonathan asked me to say a few words about vocations and principally my journey to priesthood two thoughts came into my head.

Firstly, so many of you have already shared in this journey over many years and without that support in faith, friendship and prayer I truly would not be standing here humbly before you. What more can I say? Thank you!

Secondly my vocation, our vocation, started on the day we were welcomed into the church - at our baptism. The wish of our parents was to bring Christ into our lives deepening our relationship with God our Father. We are all priest, prophet and king set to do God’s work on earth through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have all been invited to the banquet of the Lord and have responded in so many different, wonderful ways.

We are able to look back on a life and realise that God is there guiding us gently even when the going is tough – through joys and the deepest pain that strikes directly to the heart. Without that baptismal, sacramental journey of faith I am not sure how I could have coped. It is called faith in Christ, Jesus! The Good Lord!

Looking back therefore I have had a vocation that is not exclusive because it is a vocation in which we have all a shared. Experiences in so many different ways. For me it was in the joys of marriage and family life. They were so precious to me and continue to be so. Nearly 40 years involved in teaching that has brought so many blessings.

We are all sons and daughters. Many become husbands and wives as well as parents and grandparents. To be able to hold your child in your arms means that we are All precious in God’s eyes and in our vocation we all become a member of God’s family.

The Gospel acclamation says, “The Word was made flesh and lived among us: to all who did except him he gave power to become children of God” You are all children of God and he loves you so very much.

Have you ever had a nagging, annoying itch that will not go away? Or a thought that tells you that you ought to do something. It is called conscience. After my dear wife, Jackie had passed away – perhaps a couple of years I had that question nagging me. Could I become a priest? Don’t you have to be holy for that? It would be more than a step it would be a monster leap of faith. I had many friends who were so full of care and love. Many who are also priests have all had a huge impact on me. Their haunting words of joy and at times vulnerability of their own priesthood revolved in my mind.

I spoke to my daughters! Their reply was “Are you sure Dad?” I left their question hanging because I needed time, time to think and time to pray. The first time I admitted my thoughts to anyone, other than the girls was to Fr. Jonathan. It was at the end of a long tiring day at school and another meeting. He caught me unawares and popped the question. “Have you thought……..? For the first time I said, “Yes.” What do you think his reaction was? Right let's ring the Archbishop! My response was No!

I had four years in Rome to discern, to think, to pray, to experience other places and people. All this was put into the mixing bowl. These were wonderful experiences to be shared with family and friends but deep down it is your own personal relationship with God which is at the core of your being – yes your own personal commitment.

After ordination I do remember speaking to a friend from Canada. He had been ordained a few weeks before me. I said after all this I don’t quite understand or fully comprehend all this. What I had been thinking about for some years had now become reality. He knew exactly where I was coming from!

Now I am often greeted by parishioners in Longton and Penwortham to ask how I am settling in. It is wonderful to be working with them and once more to be in schools working with the children, staff and parents. They have been so warm in their welcome and a validation of my / our vocation.

Pope Francis when speaking to the Congregation for clergy in Rome in June of this year emphasised that priesthood is at once both fascinating and demanding.

“While reflecting on these two aspects - the fascination of the calling and the demanding commitments it brings with it - I thought in particular of young (newly ordained) priests, who experience the joy of the beginnings of ministry and, at the same time, are aware of what a heavy responsibility it is. The heart of a young priest switches between the enthusiasm of making his first plans and the anxiety that comes with his apostolic labours, which he takes on with a certain shyness: a sign of wisdom. He is very much aware of the joy and strength that come with being ordained, but his shoulders gradually begin to be overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility, by the quantity of pastoral commitments and by the expectations of the People of God.

How does a young priest deal with all this? What is in his heart? What does he need so that his feet, as he runs to bring the happy message of the Gospel, are not paralysed in the face of his fears and his first difficulties?”

It’s the Spirit who makes and remakes the Church and, as St. Paul never tired of saying in different ways, “Just when you think the game is all over, maybe you might let God be God and see what the Spirit can do.”

This is perhaps the answer as we are all Called Beyond to do his work.