In 2014 The Southwark Diocese set up a The Clergy Support Fund Campaign, which was set up to care for the sick and retired priests of the diocese. An important milestone has recently been reached with over £2 million in gifts and pledges. The overall target is £4.5 million so in just two years half of this has already been raised. Bishop Howard Tripp, who retired in 2004, is a wonderful example of how the fund is put to great use to help our priests. During this year he broke his leg and he writes of his experience. “I have been amazed since retiring and breaking my leg at the interest and concern shown to me. Many have come to visit me bearing gifts, the ‘Get Well” cards have outnumbered the Christmas cards and there have been an abundance of offers of help. It’s not just those I have known recently but those I whom I met or served long ago.
Celebrating the Chinese New Year with my nephew, his Chinese wife and their children earlier this year, I had a Damascus moment when I stooped down to pick up a serviette, went head over heels and broke my leg. Caravaggio’s picture of St Paul, blinded by a great light and falling off his horse flashed through my mind and I thought, ‘This is it – I shall never say Mass again.’
But that was not the view of Archbishop Peter who, after an operation to mend my leg, insisted that I should have a course of physiotherapy and short period of convalescence with the Little Sisters of the Poor under the care of the Diocese. And who is the Diocese? That is you, my brothers and sisters.
My Damascus experience means a great deal more than just physiotherapy. To be able to offer Mass daily and with a congregation, is a very important part of a priest’s life. We are in the Jubilee Year of Mercy and I now realise that during the Croydon pilot campaign we were inspired ahead of the Year of Mercy by the works of mercy in providing care for our sick and retired priests.
Contributing to or helping to run the campaign requires generosity of heart and not just that of the pocket. It is a wonderful way of undertaking the spiritual and corporal works of mercy to which our attention is drawn this year.
May I therefore conclude by saying a great thank you to you all for the care and generosity you have shown me and offer you the assurance of my prayers.”