I was nominated by the Bishop’s Conference to be the next Master of the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom in 2020, and the appointment was made by the Trustees after the nomination was approved at the Annual General Meeting. So, I become the fifth Master after Fr Fletcher, our Founder, Fr Filmer, Mgr. Goulder and Mgr. Stark.
When the Guild was founded in 1887, the founders recognised the need to support the Church in its work for evangelisation, in those areas where the presence of the Church was scarce, especially in rural areas and in on the new estates. This was the origin of the Poor Parish Grants which has been the main stay of the work of the Guild since its foundation, and the focus of its fundraising activities. This continues to this day and the lion’s share of the Guilds annual budget is allocated directly to parishes in need. However, the world in which we live today is a very different place and so the Church asks us to be aware of the 'Signs of the Times' and to use this awareness in focussing our work to identify present day needs.
We are only too aware of the decline of the practice of faith in our society, and this presents us all with the challenge of being witnesses to the Gospel to the women and men of our times. Recently a new document was issued from Rome called, 'The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church'. It highlights the vital importance of the Parish and speaks of the need for a 'Pastoral Conversion' being a new phase of evangelisation that the Church is called to foster today. The Holy Father recommends that:
If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37). 
The new document on pastoral conversion takes this insight and applies it to the context of twenty-first century parishes.
Beginning with a consideration of the signs of the times, it is necessary, in listening to the Spirit, to produce new signs. With the Parish no longer being the primary gathering and social centre, as in former days, it is thus necessary to find new forms of accompaniment and closeness. A task of this kind ought not to be seen as a burden, but rather as a challenge to be embraced with enthusiasm. 
We seek to respond to this challenge, by supporting our parishes financially, but also introducing a new work, called the Dowry Initiative, inspired by the Rededication of England as the Dowry of Mary in 2020. The Dowry Initiative seeks to encourage and support innovative organisations and individuals in the work of the New Evangelisation. We will be re-launching the Guild magazine the Ransomer which goes back to the earliest days of the Guild, this will firstly be online and we hope to publish in a magazine form annually. It will focus on best practice and reviews in the areas of evangelisation and parish life.
When restrictions are lifted, I intend to visit every diocese in the country, to celebrate Mass and to talk on the work of the Guild, exploring how we can understand what the Church is asking of us in this time and how we can each play our part in this new sharing of the Gospel to the people of our country.
Mgr John Armitage
1 Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 
2 'The pastoral conversion of the Parish community in the service of the evangelising mission of the Church' 
If you would like to receive a copy of The Ransomer, join the Guild and you will receive one for free. Alternatively, check back here in the coming months to make an order.