Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ

Bishop Ralph Heskett, until recently the Bishop of Gibraltar is now the Bishop of Hallam.  I have welcomed him warmly on all our behalf.

He is somebody that I have known for many years, since the days when we were both in Liverpool.  He has wide experience as a Parish Priest both in Liverpool and in London.  He is a Redemptorist Priest and has run Parish Missions all over the country, including in some of our own parishes here in the Diocese of Hallam.  I know that when you get to know him you will take him to your hearts.  In September he will celebrate a Mass in each of the Deaneries.

With Bishop Ralph’s permission, I write to offer my thanks and say my farewells.  I will be moving back to the Archdiocese of Liverpool to be involved in local parish pastoral work.

But I have enjoyed seventeen wonderfully happy years here in the Diocese of Hallam.  It has been a joy and privilege to work with the priests, religious and laity of this Diocese during a period which at times has been difficult because of the declining number of priests and occasionally for other reasons as well.  Thank you for your patience, understanding and support during those difficult periods but thank you being the wonderful people you are during the whole period.  I was genuinely able to say in the Press Release which went out announcing Bishop Ralph’s appointment that during my seventeen years the relationship with priests and people has been warm and truly collaborative.

I have spoken personally with the priests and religious of the Diocese on other occasions, but I do need to signal before everybody the debt I owe to them, for their patience, on occasion for their forgiveness, for their positive collaboration and for their friendship.

On the wider front, I have been very blessed with the friendship of so many other leaders of the Christian Churches in these parts and in more recent years also with the friendship of leaders and others from the other religions.  They have been great and very positive partnerships, deeply rooted in our faiths.

It is always dangerous to name names, but I do need to name two people, perhaps representing the clergy and the laity in a very special way.  I owe them both a very great debt of gratitude.  Mrs Sheila Parden became Bishop’s Secretary very shortly after I arrived.  She had been Administrator of the Marriage Tribunal in the Pastoral Centre and has become the voice of Bishop’s House on the telephone to the myriad people who ring.  She has done a wonderful job of organising a disorganised Bishop through those seventeen years with patience and great tact!  I treasure the moment of truth when I heard a youngster from the InReality Team telling her parents, “The Bishop is the boss, but if you want to get something done, talk to Sheila Parden”.

And the second person of course, is Mgr Kilgannon, the Vicar General.  He had been Vicar General with Bishop Moverley and very generously agreed to continue working with me.  I doubt that he thought that that would last for seventeen years but I do not know what I would have done without his wise counsel, encouragement and support.  To him also I am deeply indebted.

Bishops come and go, but the Church, local and universal, goes on.  And I will continue to pray for God’s blessing on the new Bishop and the people of this Diocese, which is now of course the Diocese to which I belong wherever I may be.

May God bless you all.

Yours devotedly

John Rawsthorne

Emeritus Bishop of Hallam