St John Fisher: A Good Shepherd

I often think about and pray for the many parishioners who are key workers in the NHS, and Care Homeslocally and further afield. I was really moved by the creativity of 18 year old Jessica Wilcox-Drew’sportrait of a nurse wearing PPE. She drew it by using the word “hero” over and over again. She was inspired to begin the pencil and fine-tipped pen free-hand sketch, after taking part in the Clap for Carers.

St John Paul II said: “Society needs artists, just as it needs scientists, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers and mothers, who ensure the growth as a person andthe development of the community by means of that supreme form which is the art of education”. He goes on to note that this medium has a unique role in promoting the Gospel of human dignity. This message “is translated into colours shapesand sounds which nourish the intuition of those who look and listen.”

Part of my pastoral ministry this week has been to research the life of Saint John Fisher. Given that our parish schools are named after him and St Gregory, l was delighted to discover a direct connection between them. Pope Gregory sent St Augustine (of Canterbury) to convert the Anglo Saxon people -beginning in the south of England. This involved establishing the See of Rochester, Kent, in 604 AD. Exactly 900 years later, in 1504, Saint John Fisher became Bishop of this diocese. Whenever, Fr Bob lookedup from his chair in the dining room of the presbytery, or from the Altar, he could see a statue of St John Fisher. The more I read, I came to recognise that he drew great inspiration from our patron.

St John Fisher lived a simple life and had that quality of quiet humility.Coming from Yorkshire, he ‘told it like it is’ but always with a pastor’s heart. He was a dedicated priest,bishop and cardinal who said he modelled himself on Jesus the Good Shepherd. He cared especially, for the poor and vulnerable, was deeply committed to the education of young people and appointed only the best staff to teach them and priests to serve them.

He maintained Church property diligently, yet frugally. His sermons contained examples from daily life and he chose to remain as a Bishop in Rochester for over thirty years-even when offered the opportunity to move on. He was not perfect,but he was a man of great integrity. Despite his national and international achievements as a Scholar and political figure, he was a little shy, but had many friends and was much loved. He chose as his Episcopal motto Christ’s words to the disciples be “fishers of Men”.

May St John Fisher be, as he was to Fr Bob, our inspiration too.

With my prayers for you all and your families

Fr Peter Conley