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Welcoming our new priests

Liverpool celebrated two ordinations in July as Father Michael Harwood and Father Derek Lloyd joined the community of diocesan priests.

 
by Simon Hart

For each of the two new priests of this archdiocese, their Mass of Ordination this summer held moments that will remain with them always.


In the case of Father Michael Harwood, ordained at St Peter and St Paul’s, Crosby, on Friday 15 July, there were two moments in particular: the laying on of hands – first by Archbishop Malcolm McMahon and then by those other priests present – and the subsequent fraternal kiss of peace.

‘You’re kneeling down in front of them and they lay hands on you and that was the point at which I felt part of something and that was quite moving,’ explains Fr Michael. ‘Then they come back again and give you the welcome – the “kiss of peace”. That was when I felt welcomed into the presbyterate.’

Fr Derek Lloyd offers a similar sentiment as he looks back on his Ordination Mass, also celebrated by Archbishop Malcolm, on Friday 8 July at St Francis de Sales, Walton.

‘The moment of anointing felt completely special and also the laying on of hands – all the other priests present lay on hands and it underlines the idea of the unity of the Church,’ he recalls, again evoking that sense of ‘being drawn into the presbyterate’.

Both Fr Derek, 43, and Fr Michael, 57, have taken circuitous routes into the Catholic priesthood. The former was an Anglican priest for 17 years, serving at parishes in Burnley and Newcastle-under-Lyme before a two-year spell at St Agnes and St Pancras’ parish in Liverpool. As for Fr Michael, the Modern Languages graduate had a long career in Further Education, working as a further education college vice-principal and, more recently, for the Education and Training Foundation.

From September, each will embark on his first posting here in the archdiocese: Fr Derek will serve at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Fr Michael will take over as parochial administrator at St Mary’s, Lowe House, and St Julie’s, Eccleston.

Fr Michael says: ‘I’m looking forward to doing parish ministry, to accompanying people through the sacraments, through their joyous times, through times when they are distressed and unhappy and need help, and getting to feel part of that parish community and leading that parish community on its pilgrimage.’

His ordination, he adds, is a lesson that ‘it is never too late’. As he explains, he had ‘originally intended to go into seminary when I was around, 18, 20, but didn’t for one reason or another. Then a few years ago it just came back. I thought, “This shouldn’t be happening, I am in my fifties”.’

Happen it did – with the help and support of others. Canon Chris Fallon ‘sorted out some spiritual direction’, he recalls, while Fr Carl Mugan and Fr Michael Barrett provided reassurance that a late pathway to the priesthood was possible. There was guidance too from Archbishop Malcolm (‘really supportive’) and Monsignor John Furnival, parish priest of St Peter and St Paul’s.

Fr Michael is also keen to thank the Archdiocese’s two most recent vocations directors – Fr James Preston and Fr Ron Johnson – as well as Canon Philip Gillespie, rector of the Pontifical Beda College, where he studied for four years from 2018. ‘It was a privilege to be in Rome,’ he remarks.

For the former pupil of St Mary’s, Crosby, his Ordination Mass was ‘an event for the parish family’ as well as his own family and friends along with clergy from near and far. And his ensuing first Masses as a priest reflected a wish to include not just the parish where he had his First Communion – St Peter and Paul’s – but also the parish – St Joseph’s, Blundellsands – where he was confirmed.

‘I applied to the Vatican to have three first Masses,’ explains Fr Michael. ‘These Masses carry indulgences with them and I applied for three to acknowledge that St Peter and Paul’s, and St Helen’s and St Joseph’s, are equal in their significance for me. The third of these first Masses was at the St Margaret Clitherow Centre.’
‘Rethinking my theology’
As for Fr Derek, his training comprised two years at St Mary’s College, Oscott, where his studies included Canon Law and Ecclesiology. ‘In a sense it was almost rethinking my own theology that I’d built up over a long period of time and having that challenged,’ he reflects.

At Oscott, the Birmingham University graduate was close to his home town of Tipton in the Black Country. However, it was a Liverpool seminarian, Peter Ross, who proved a particularly strong source of support – ‘he’s been so kind to me and so encouraging’ – along with Fr Andrew Robinson and Fr James Preston. ‘They’re the two priests at Oscott from Liverpool and have been very supportive.’

He is thankful too to Fr Ged Callacher at St Francis de Sales, Walton, where he now lives, for ‘many conversations’. And he cites another conversation – with an old Anglican colleague, Rev Adrian Ling – which took place on the day of his ordination. ‘We’d been at theological college together and he told me he could see it was the right thing for me which was a lovely thing for him to say.’

As Fr Derek notes, two former Anglican bishops now serving as priests were also present for his Ordination Mass, and he points to the unity within the Catholic Church as a central reason for following their path. ‘A vital element was the communion of the Church and the way that unity is expressed by our communion with the Pope and the bishops. This is expressed for me in the way Archbishop Malcolm wears his pallium that is given to every Archbishop by the Pope.’

The idea of becoming a Catholic had germinated for ‘at least a decade’ and during his two years at St Agnes’s Fr Derek would visit the Metropolitan Cathedral to pray at the place where he now embarks on his new life as a Catholic priest.

‘The music for one is what drew me there and being able to sit and be, and say my prayers,’ he reflects. ‘For me, music expresses a great deal about the mystery of worship. And there is the Cathedral itself, which is a beautiful space for worship with all those colours and that light.’
Looking ahead, he continues: ‘The Cathedral expresses the unity of the archdiocese. It seems like an appropriate first posting. I’m really looking forward to being there and being involved in the life of the Cathedral parish.

‘It is the joy of the unfolding mystery. I just feel very happy as a Catholic priest, and it’s now just a case of seeing where that leads and what unfolds and what God has in store.’
From Fr Michael too, there is a conviction that the road taken is the right one. ‘We have had a good formation at the Beda College and I feel well prepared,’ he concludes. ‘I think whatever I might have found daunting will be alright.’


 

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