Oases of Mercy: Parishes Which Radiate Christ
“Wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy.” So Pope Francis describes the parish in The Face of Mercy (MV 12). “A sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey”, a community with “an endless desire to show mercy” is how the Holy Father envisages the parish in The Joy of the Gospel (EG 28).
In his keynote address, Bishop Nicholas sets out to present a vision of a parish which does just that: it radiates mercy, simply because it radiates Christ. He takes his inspiration from one of England’s greatest evangelisers, Blessed John Henry Newman. In the poem Radiating Christ, Newman prays the Lord: “Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.” Newman is echoing the primacy of encounter which is at the heart of Pope Francis’s vision for evangelisation.
Bishop Nicholas traces the steps which need to be followed from committing as individual parishioners to this daily encounter with the Lord to becoming an evangelising community which “touch(es) the suffering flesh of Christ in others.” (EG 24) The Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy are central to this process - for “they will serve as the criteria upon which we will be judged.” (MV 15). If a parish embraces these Works to the full, it will indeed become an oasis of mercy, radiating Christ to all around it.
Embracing the Works of Mercy calls for every parish to “(rethink) the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelisation in their respective communities” (EG 33), says Pope Francis. Bishop Nicholas will suggest how parishes might begin to review their priorities with a view to becoming truly evangelising: it is about “dream(ing)” like the Pope, “of a missionary option … so that the (parish’s) customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (EG 27) The key, Bishop Nicholas will suggest, is to be found in making our own the questions of the rich young man: first to ask, “Who is my neighbour?”; and then “What more must I do?”
About Bishop Hudson
Bishop Nicholas Hudson was born in London in 1959 of a French mother and an English father, the fourth of five boys. He attended Jesuit schools in Wimbledon before gaining an Exhibition to read History at Jesus College, Cambridge: there he was awarded a Bachelor’s degree (Honours) and Honorary Master’s. He trained for the priesthood at the Venerable English College in Rome from 1981-87, studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University where he was awarded the degrees Bachelor of Philosophy, Bachelor of Theology, and Licenciate in Fundamental Theology. He was ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Southwark in 1986.
His first appointment was to the parish of Canterbury - an experience which deepened his enthusiasm for ecumenism. It was there that he met the L’Arche communities founded by Jean Vanier to welcome People with Learning Disabilities: service as chaplain to L’Arche in the United Kingdom, France and Italy has been a significant part of his ministry. He was sent in 1991 to Louvain, Belgium, for further studies in Catechetics. This was by way of preparation to serve then for eight years as the Director of the Diocesan Centre for Christian Education. Here he led a collaborative team working with schools and parishes to develop Religious Education in schools; and Catechesis and Evangelisation in parishes: a particular focus was the development of the Parish Project - aimed at forming teams to develop the parish’s missionary outreach and organisation for evangelisation.
He returned to the English College, Rome in 2000 to be Vice-Rector and Pastoral Tutor. He was appointed Rector in 2004, a role which he exercised until 2013. He was for a short while Parish Priest of his native parish of Wimbledon before his appointment in 2014 as Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster. Here he has Particular Pastoral Responsibility for the parishes of East and Central London; for Evangelisation and Catechesis; Justice & Peace; Marriage & Family Life; and Youth. He was lead Bishop for the national Proclaim 15 Conference in July 2015; and leads the Proclaim initiative in the Archdiocese of Westminster.