‘Gaudeamus omnes in Domino (Let us all rejoice in the Lord)’

We have very joyful news in our parish, and they (parishioners with whom I have discussed the following) and myself are of one mind – joyful news. Although not strictly a parishioner, the subject of this blog is very much one of our very own; he will retire this September as the head of one of our primary schools, St. Anne’s.  Mr Michael Barrett has been head teacher at St. Anne’s for 23 years, and, as I have been in Leyland as parish priest for the last 21 years, we have worked closely together. As I say, he does not ‘belong’ geographically; he is active in his own parish of Our Lady’s, Tarleton, but I calculate that, over the years, Mr Barrett has educated well over 700 of our young boys and girls, and got to know their families. He has been an influence for good to many, many people at St. Mary’s, Leyland.

st. annes

Pupils at St. Anne’s School

Over the centuries, teaching has been considered by leaders in the Church as one of the vocations nearest to the heart of Jesus. Jesus came to teach us all about God, a task he performed to perfection, and any teacher who proclaims goodness, love and knowledge, in the living of a coherent life, is also doing the same – following in the ‘footsteps’ of Jesus – as best as he, or she, can. A teacher in our schools, whatever his or her parish, is also a parishioner, in that sense, of St. Mary’s, Leyland. Good parents are considered to be the first, and best of teachers, in the ways of God for their children. What a privilege to be a mum or dad!  But also, what a responsibility!

Mr Barrett is a widower; his beautiful wife, Jackie, died a few years ago at a young age, leaving him with two lovely daughters. That very sad and deep personal experience will have its effects, be felt deeply throughout the whole of life; however, despite his loss, he has followed the personal call of the Lord, and has decided to try his vocation as a diocesan priest, in our Archdiocese of Liverpool, and has been accepted by the Liverpool authorities, and the news is out in the open; moreover, the news is joyful. To become a priest is to be another kind of ‘teacher’ – another type of ‘father’.


 Beda College – Ministry of Acolyte with Cardinal John Foley – March 2010

He will study at the Beda College, Rome, beginning in the autumn of this year. The Beda College is under the ‘wing’ of the English and Welsh Bishops, and is a college for ‘late’ vocations, to which resort English-speaking men from all over the world. Michael will be one of the older ‘students’, in all probability, and his course will take four years to complete. God willing, many people of St. Mary’s will attend his ordination, wherever that takes place, in 2017 or 2018.


Beda College – A weekend for Year 4 – 2010

Why do “we”, why do “I” feel so joyful at this news? For me it is because in this ‘event’, concerning Mr Barrett, somehow I sense that God is more real for me, in my own context. A person, known and highly respected by many and by me, has decided “to give himself to God and God’s people”, and to do so with great joy and happiness. We humans really do belong, one to the other; what one does, what one does not, has its impetus on others, in this case me.  People of any age may take note of this; perchance, it may act as a ‘spark’ to encourage them also to ‘believe more strongly’ that they could find happiness and joy, in this direction. For me, I will only ever find my true happiness, corresponding to my deepest inner feelings and yearnings, in union with God and his will.

Myself, I may not be free to leave everything behind and begin a new life, but I can, in my own circumstances, renew my trust in God himself.  A chosen few may have the freedom, may be  given the courage to do something similar to Michael Barrett, but my faith and trust in God, and his immense love for me, is strengthened by what we witness happening in these days. There is a new joy, that a man I know, and respect, who has already, positively and greatly, influenced me over the years – a man who is a friend, to myself and many others who come into this category –  should make such a decision. It reflects the living existence of God in a way that is much deeper than words.  Little wonder, then, that I feel a kind of exultation.

Little wonder, that this is such joyful news.

Father Jonathan