Sunday, 16 January 2011

First Priests of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

As Archbishop Vincent Nichols remarked at the Mass of Ordination, this is what history looks like as it is being made. Fathers John Broadhurst, Andrew Burnham and Keith Newton, once bishops of the Church of England, were ordained to the order of presbyter and thus to the priesthood of the Catholic Church in Westminster Cathedral, to create a new configuration of the Church in England & Wales in its mission to serve the truth about Jesus Christ and the unity of his people.

At 10 am, the Cathedral was already half full. In the long corridor linking the Sacristy to the Clergy House and Archbishop's House, nearly 100 other priests and seminarians had begun to gather, some old friends and colleagues of the candidates, and just as many who were priests of Westminster, Portsmouth, Birmingham, Brentwood and other dioceses, as well as from religious orders, including Abbot Aidan Bellenger OSB of Downside, Fr Aidan Nichols OP and Fr Christopher Jamison OSB, appropriately the director of the National Office for Vocation. There were also over 20 seminarians from Allen Hall. Two days earlier they had saluted the newly ordained deacons with the song Ad Multos Annos, traditionally sung in recollection of those leaving the College at Douai, Allen Hall's ancestor, on their way back to England in penal times, to face danger and even martyrdom. To those who witnessed this moment on the preceding Thursday, it was a most moving sign of incorporation not only into the priestly ministry of the Catholic Church worldwide, but into everything that being a Roman Catholic priest has meant in the history and spiritual development of England's national and religious life. As the students sang Vivat!, deacons John, Andrew and Keith entered into, and were embraced by, a rich inheritance that is truly costly.

The great Liturgy (follow the link to see the Diocese of Westminster's photo record of the day) began at 1030 am with the Processional Hymn, Thy hand, O God has guided thy flock from age to age, by Edward Hayes Plumptre, the 19th century Anglican classical and scriptural scholar, Dean of Wells and biographer of the fellow hymnographer and Non-Juror, Bishop Thomas Ken. Phrase after phrase was apt: "Through many a scene of strife" ... "the faithful few fought bravely, to guard the nation's life" ... "And we, shall we be faithless ... not so, in God's deep counsels some better thing is stored". And so it proved to be. After the Introit Sacerdotes Dei and the Greeting, the Archbishop asked us to sit, remarking that even though there were so many people to greet there was a message even more welcome: thus he introduced the Message from Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, announcing the Decree erecting the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, under the protection of the Mother of God and the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. (Here is the report from the Vatican Information Service.)

An interesting remark in the letter mentioned that Archbishop Nichols was representing Cardinal Levada, and thus not only acting as President of the Bishops' Conference and in the customary primatial role of the Archbishop of Westminster. Had the Cardinal been able to be present, it is he who would have presided at the ordinations in the name of the Apostolic See. For clearly the Ordinariate is not a department of the diocese of Westminster, nor a suffragan see, nor an initiative subject to the Bishops' Conference: it is directly subject to the Apostolic See of Rome. Of course, the new Ordinary is by virtue of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus a full member of the Bishops' Conference; and there to support and participate in the ordination of the first priests of the Ordinariate were Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood and Bishop Alan Hopes, Episcopal Delegate of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales for the Ordinariate. Present too were Mgr Vincent Brady from the Apostolic Nunciature and Mgr Marcus Stock, general secretary of the Bishops' Conference. From the outset the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is thus part of the the endeavour of the universal Church in the eyes of the Apostolic See and integral to the life and work of the Church in the local dioceses of England & Wales.

When the name of the Ordinariate was announced there was a gasp of delight and satisfaction. The news had started to emerge after the diaconal ordinations on the preceding Thursday. The three candidates had needed to swear two sets of oaths, the first to the Archbishop of Westminster, in whose diocese Bishop Alan Hopes was ordaining them as Episcopal Delegate and in the name of the Holy Father, and the second to the Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. including, as John Broadhurst observed at the reception, the new Ordinary. Thus, when the Reverend Keith Newton's name was at last  publicly confirmed as the Ordinary on Saturday, there was further palpable pleasure and satisfaction.

After the Confession, the magnificent Choir of Westminster Cathedral sang the Kyrie and Gloria in Excelsis from Victoria's Missa O Magnum Mysterium. The Epistle was Ephesians 4.1-7, 11-13. There was no Gradual; and the Alleluia Tu es sacerdos preceded the Gospel from John 20.19-23.

When the Rite of Ordination began, the three men were called forward from the nave and came to stand before the Archbishop seated before the High Altar. The Ordinariate having no Vicar General or other official, it fell to the Episopal Delegate of the Bishops' Conference, Bishop Alan Hopes, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster and Titular Bishop of Cuncacestre (Chester-le-Street), to present the candidates for priesthood to the Archbishop. There was an insertion into the wording of Bishop Alan's presentation (in bold italics):

After inquiry among the people of Christ and upon recommendation of those concerned with their training and with the permission of the Holy See, I testify that they have been found worthy.
The text of the Archbishop's homily can be downloaded here. Or listen to it here.

After the promise of obedience to "your Ordinary" (also made by Keith Newton), there was no insertion in the rite of that introduction and prayer sanctioned by the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship and used by Cardinal Hume to ordain former Anglican clergy in the 1990s. There had been some dismay expressed about this at the diaconal ordinations, but in fact Archbishop Nichols in his homily had warmly spoken of the contribution and and generous spirit of the Church of England in recognising the integrity of the three in their decision and onward journey, at the same time as recognising their distinguished ministry and episcopal service in the life of the Anglican Church. At the same time, he reaffirmed the Catholic Church's whole-hearted commitment to the visible unity of Christ's people in the hope that, according to the words of the Holy Father, the Ordinariate would serve this end in a "prophetic" way. Some of the priests afterwards discussed the omission of the prayer used previously to lead into the Litany of the Saints, but we felt that everything it had said was expressed far more fully by what Archbishop Nichols had said in his homily. We also felt, even those over whom that prayer had been said years before, that it was important at the ordination of the first priests of this almost radically new structure in the Church in this country that the three be ordained - and be seen to be ordained - according to the same rites of the Church as any other Roman Catholic priests - no more no less.

The three candidates for Catholic priesthood prostrated themselves and the Litany of the Saints was prayed. Someone said the congregation was mainly male. Perhaps it is that we have become a little used to not hearing so many men singing in Church, but the voices of women were no less strong and insistent at this solemn moment of prayer for three much loved pastors.

The solemn silence as first the Archbishop laid hands, almost visibly bringing down the Holy Spirit in his power upon Keith, then Andrew, then John, followed by Bishop Alan, Archbishop Longley, Bishop McMahon, and then the 100 priests was very long and moving. Nothing stirred; no one spoke; no mobile phones went off. If they did, no one noticed. One of the beautiful things about divine Liturgy is that it is full of moments, but in the fulness of time you lose track of time. After the Archbishop spoke the Prayer of Ordination, someone in the north of the nave loudly promoted a round of applause; but as we were in the middle of the Rite of Ordination few of the clergy joined in; and we proceeded with the investiture of the priestly stole and chasuble, conveyed up to the sanctuary by the three new priests's wives, Gill Newton, Judi Broadhurst and Cathy Burnham.

The hymn Veni Creator was interrupted for the Archbishop to anoint the newly invested priests and, when it was completed, it was the three nuns received alongside the three former bishops on New Year's Day who presented the gifts of the paten holding the bread and the chalice containing the wine mixed with water for the Archbishop to entrust to the three new priests in turn, as they all prepared to concelebrate the eucharistic sacrifice.

At this point, the Archbishop descended from before the High Altar and greeted each new priest with the Kiss of Peace. The other bishops followed suit and then the priests. Again there was silence and expectation as this proceeded, but now the atmosphere was more relaxed and the sense of prayer was of gladness and gratitude to God, something we priests as we exchanged the peace in turn with the new Fathers Keith, John and Andrew, our brothers in the service of the Body of Christ, were deeply aware of coming from the People.

For the Offertory chant, Charles Villiers Stanford's Beati quorum via integra est was sung, another admirable piece of the Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony now shared by the Catholic Church. Someone remarked that this motet was a tribute to the Oxford Movement and its appreciation of Latin Christianity, but Stanford was a convinced Church of Ireland Protestant and he had written the piece not for an Anglo-Catholic celebration but mindful of the Latin services of the Prayer Book in use in the university not of Oxford, but of Cambridge. It was published in 1905, 12 years after he had stepped down as Organist and Master of the Choristers at Trinity College, Cambridge, where for 19 years he revolutionised and just about re-invented choral singing in the liturgy of the Church of England.

The three new priests concelebrated with the Archbishop using the Roman Canon; the fourth concelebrant was Bishop Alan Hopes, Episcopal Delegate to the Ordinariate from the Bishops' Conference. The Sanctus was from Mass VIII, Missa de Angelis. Agnus Dei  was taken from the Missa O Magnum Mysterium by Tomas Luis da Victoria. The Communion Motet was Edward Elgar's Ave Verum Corpus, followed by the chant Ego vos elegi and the hymn - this time an English hymn from the Catholic spiritual patrimony - Henri F. Hémy's O Bread of Heaven.

Many of the priests asked to distibute the Holy Communion remarked afterwards that never in their experience had there been such a volume of people present, only a fraction of whom received the Sacrament. Fr Peter Geldard estimated afterwards that 90% of those who came to him asked for a blessing. Evidently a very large proportion of the 1500 present were Anglicans discerning their own personal journeys ahead.

Following the prayer after Communion, the Archbishop asked us to congratulate the new priests, having completed their ordination with the celebration of the Eucharist, and there was sustained and loud applause. After his pontifical blessing, the Archbishop went up to kiss the Altar and then immediately descended, removed his mitre and knelt before the three new priests to receive their first blessings as Catholic priests. This time the order was not alphabetical; Fr Keith as the new Ordinary went first.

Then the procession of the seminarians, the Metropolitan of the British Orthodox Church of the Coptic Patriarchate of Alexandria, Abba Seraphim as an ecumenical representative (and himself a former Anglican), followed by the deacons, priests and bishops left to Blessed John Henry Newman's Praise to the Holiest in the Height. Surely, the tune for this great hymn in the Anglican patrimony in full communion with the Catholic Church is now no longer Richmond, J.B. Dykes' Gerontius or Somervell's Chorus Angelorum, but definitively Billing by Richard Runciman Terry, Organist of Westminster Cathedral 1901-1924.

After the hymn, as the Procession was still making its way through the Cathedral to the Final Movement of Louis Vierne's First Organ Symphony, a deep cry of acclamation and cheering went up, the like of which I have never heard in Church before. Some thought it unseemly, but others saw it was the unbridled joy and hope of the people present. Afterwards, the Archbishop, who went to join the people in the Piazza outside, remarked upon how "jubilant" they were.

In the sacristy, the 100 priests awaited the return of their new brethren and there were several minutes of sustained applause. Bishop Alan, said "We bow to the Cross", then "Prosit", and it was done. Many of the servers, seminarians and clergy took turns to kneel before the new priests to receive their blessings, led by Bishop Alan and Archbishop Bernard.

In the reception in Archbishop's House, Archbishop Vincent once again warmly congratulated the three new Catholic priests and remarked on the historic and momentous excitement of the occasion. It was not only about three new priests God had given to his Church to do a new thing, but about the aspiration and joy of the people who were still gathered outside. In responding, Father Keith thanked Archbishop Nichols, Bishop Hopes and Cardinal Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Someone asked, "Who was the Ordinary you swore obedience to?" "The Pope," said Fr Keith. And thus in paying tribute to the trust of the Holy Father in Frs Keith, John and Andrew, we all raised a glass in honour of Pope Benedict.

Ad Multos Annos - Vivat Pater Keith, Vivat Pater Ioannes, Vivat Pater Andreas.

After the Reception, Fr Geldard took me to the Library in Archbishop's House, to show me the chair in which he had sat opposite Cardinal Hume, two decades before, and with leaders of the League at the time opened up the question of a structure for Anglicans desiring to be Catholics to belong to the Catholic Church in a corporate structure for full communion. We felt deeply aware of how all the work and thinking then, the 500 or so priests who have been ordained in the Catholic Church from an Anglican background in the 1990s and since, the prayer and imagination of Cardinal Hume, the then Bishop Nichols and others at the time and others after - and the vigilance of the then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict - and its issue in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, had led to this great day.

Fr Mark Woodruff

Here is the Statement from Father Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham

Here is the Statement of the Bishops' Conference of England & Wales

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