Having moved from Woolwich Parish into Cathedral House at the beginning of September, Fr Michael Branch engaged in a busy first weekend of activities in St George's Cathedral as its new Dean, between concelebrating at the London Mass for Life with Bishop Sherrington on 3rd September and celebrating his first Mass with the Cathedral Parish at 10 am on Sunday 4th September 2022.
Fr Michael's joy at being with his new parish was evident and, despite a well-prepared Sunday homily on paper, much of his address came from the heart as he spoke movingly of the inspiration of Saints John Henry Newman and Mother Teresa of Calcutta in relation to the unfolding of his new role:
“We are all called by God to do a definite service as missionary disciples with the common goal to share God’s love. As a Cathedral Parish we are rich in diversity and culture, a family united and fed by Jesus in Word and Sacrament, especially in the Eucharist."
Fr Michael continued by saying how important it was for him to listen and learn as Dean and Parish Priest, to discern the exciting plan Jesus is inviting us to follow without hindrance or obstruction.
In conclusion, he identified the most pressing challenge of our time to be the cost of living crisis, and how he anticipates the need for Cathedral Parish to foster partnerships with the Local Authority and other charities to help the most vulnerable and needy this winter. Mindful of the great witness given by the Missionaries of Charity, he concluded with a rallying call from St Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who wrote,
“There is a terrible hunger for love. We all experience that in our lives – the pain, the loneliness. We must have the courage to recognise it. The poor you may have right in your family. Find them. Before you speak, it is necessary for you to listen, for God speaks in the silence of the heart. Speak tenderly to them. Let their be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well.”
Fr Michael also thanked the Archbishop for having appointed him Dean and Parish Priest of St George's Cathedral. He remembered especially Canon Richard Hearn with affection and stated that he hoped to build on his good work. He also thanked Fr Francis Murphy who has been outstanding as the Acting Dean, ably assisted by Fr Dermott O’Gorman, describing them as "two of the finest priests".
After the service, the congregation was invited to enjoy light refreshments in Amigo Hall and to have the opportunity to talk with Fr Michael and the Cathedral Clergy. Sharing his enthusiasm for coming together as a spiritual family, Fr Michael shared that he looking forward to achieving wonderful things together as a community.
Fr Branch's formal installation as Dean of St George's Cathedral by Archbishop John Wilson will take place on Tuesday 11 October at 7 pm. All are welcome.