So it has been announced publicly now that my next job is to be chaplain at Manchester University. I will be moving in sometime by the end of this week. I will be on my own till Christmas and then 3 other Jesuits will join me. It is a very exciting new mission, with a conglomeration of over 85,000 students (the biggest in Europe I’ve been told) and 400-600 coming to the Sunday evening mass. Outside the chaplaincy is also the busiest bus stop in the country (foot-fall wise) with more than 2000 passengers embarking and disembarking an hour, so we really are in the thick of it. Fantastic! Many of mates think it is hilarious that a scouser and Liverpool fan is going to Manchester to be chaplain, but as I said on local radio yesterday, over the last 20 years us Liverpool fans have had to learn humility, which is a good quality for a chaplain. I hope that brought a smile to a few Mancunian faces…. Daniel into the lions den!
Probably by advent we will be taking back the Holy Name Church (next door to the chaplaincy) as the Oratorians will move to their newly founded oratory nearby. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude as in essence they saved the Church. Last week a national newspaper reported that Roberto Mancini (Man City manager) is a regular mass attendee click here, so I will have to exercise restraint in the pulpit! At the back of the church is a beautiful copy of the Rubens painting of St Ignatius and St Philip Neri, the founder of the Oratorians (see right). They were great friends and St. Philip encouraged a number of his own disciples who displayed a desire for missionary work to become Jesuits. Philip was fascinated with the plans of St. Francis Xavier, whom he befriended before the latter set off on his missionary journeys. Ignatius used to pass along the letters of St. Francis reporting back to Rome, which Philip and his companions would read and discuss together in community. However, Philip was told by a wise Trappist that “Your India is to be Rome.”, a city which is always in need of missionary and reforming zeal! We owe a great debt to Father Ray Matus and his companions for all the work they have done in Manchester and I hope we can keep the spiritual synergy going!