Friday 29 April 2011

First Ordinations of the Pastoral Clergy for the Ordinariate

The Revd David Skeoch, Bishop Alan Hopes,
the Revd Professor Allen Brent, Fr Christopher Back (MC)
(c) Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
At the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge, two distinguished clergy formerly from the Anglican tradition were ordained to the diaconate for the Catholic Church in the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, by the Rt Revd Alan Hopes, Bishop of Cuncacestre and Auxiliary Bishop in the Diocese of Westminster, standing in for Bishop Michael Evans of East Anglia, at his express request, on behalf of the Ordinary, the Rt Revd Mgr Keith Newton, Prot.Ap.

First to be ordained was the Revd Professor Allen Brent, DD, former Professor of History at the James Cook University, Queensland, Australia and currently Senior Member of St Edmund's College, Cambridge. He is an internationally renowned scholar of Patristic theology and early Church history. He was born in the East End, baptised in the Church of England and was also once a member of the Baptist before serving for many years as an Anglican priest. He is also a liturgical and ecumenical scholar, making important contributions to the debates over the influence of Newman in the development of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century and the significance of the revised Roman rite drawing on the Hyppolytan apostolic tradition for Christian Unity. Dr Brent was supported at his ordination by his wife, Cathy. Following his ordination, he was invested in the stole and dalmatic with the help of Fr David Paul, parish priest of St Mary's Catholic Church in Ipswich, and the Revd Dr Michael Robson, Dean, Praelector and Director of Studies in Theology at St Edmund's College.

Second to be ordained was the Revd David Skeoch, a member of the League of long standing. A native of County Durham and graduate of the University of Oxford (Christ Church), for many years he was Chaplain to the Rt Hon and Rt Revd Graham Leonard while he was Anglican Bishop of Truro and then London, before serving for nearly two decades as Vicar of St Gabriel's, Warwick Square, in Pimlico, London. He was also an Honorary Canon of the Diocese of The Murray, Australia. Recently he moved to Suffolk and was received into the Catholic Church, following in the footsteps of Mgr Leonard, along with a small group of lay people he had been ministering to in Ipswich since retiring from St Gabriel's. Following his ordination, he was invested in the stole and dalmatic with the help of Canon Stuart Wilson, rector of St Mary's Church in Chelsea and an old friend from the time they once served together in the Anglican Diocese of London, and Fr Mark Woodruff, priest director of the League and Fr Skeoch's assistant curate at St Gabriel's in 1988-89. Fr Mark commented,
"This is one of the proudest days of my ministry as a Catholic priest. David is not only a fine preacher and excellent teacher, he is a devoted pastor and steadfast friend who has given his life to the service of Christ in the relentless hope of Catholic unity. All those years ago, David taught me how to say mass - properly! - and how it is that life is not to be denied but a gift of joy from God. To think that once again we are in communion and that, God willing, he is to be ordained the Catholic priest he always aspired to be because this was the calling he was certain of, is deeply gratifying. His integrity has not been without cost, but this is the strength of the great and much loved character he is."
The Liturgy of Ordination was a magnificent mutual infusion of the contemporary Catholic liturgical and musical patrimony of the highest quality with much loved elements from Anglican worship. The Catholic tradition was represented by a Kyrie from Plainsong Mass IX by Fr Richard Proulx osb, the Gospel Acclamation by Colin Mawby, and the Sanctus from St Anne's Mass by James MacMillan. The Anglican tradition was represented by the Gloria from the New English Mass II by David Hill, Chief Conductor of the BBC Singers and former Organist of Winchester Cathedral (and before that, Westminster Cathedral) and the Agnus Dei from the Missa Princeps Pacis by W.S. Lloyd Webber, the father of Julian and Lord Andrew, who was for many years Organist of the Temple Church in London.

Another pointer to a mutually enriching shared patrimony of worship was the hymns, two of which also bore the influence of the Christian East, doubtless in honour of Dr Brent's academic expertise. This joyful Eastertide was written by Dr George Woodward, the Anglican cleric who all but invented the modern Christmas carol and was tireless in his translation of continental classic hymnody and the treasures of the Latin and Greek liturgical traditions, imaginatively finding old and new tunes for them to be sung to in Anglican services. He wrote this hymn for Easter, sung to a Dutch Protestant tune, inspired by the poetry of St John of Damascus in the year after his young wife died - "my love ... hath sprung to live this morrow," is especially poignant. Come, ye faithful, raise the strain, translates St John Damascene's Asomen pantes laoi, from the Canon for St Thomas Sunday (that is, Low Sunday), by John Mason Neale, one of the greatest of all translators of Latin and Greek hymns and poetry into English, religious founder and defender of Christian doctrinal orthodoxy in the Anglican Church. Finally, Thine be the glory, risen conquering Son, sung to the stirring tune from Handel's Judas Maccabaeus, translates a hymn by the Swiss Reformed pastor, Edmond Budry. It was an English Baptist minister, Richard Hoyle, whose version of A toi la gloire, O Resusscité from between the World Wars subsequently caught the imagination and enthusiasm of other traditions of which it has now become an inseparable and very popular part.

As Episcopal Delegate of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, Bishop Alan has commended to the various Catholic diocesan bishops, who will be conferring ordination on the Ordinariate's candidates in the coming months, the use of a short rite of thanksgiving and prayer devised by his late eminence Cardinal Hume to mark the length of service and valued Christian ministry which serve as the formative foundations of the Catholic ministry of the new priests and deacons of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This was first employed at the conditional ordination of Mgr Graham Leonard, former Anglican Bishop of London, as a priest in the Catholic Diocese of Westminster in 1994 and again at the ordination of a group of twelve former Anglican clergy in 1995. It did not form part of the prayer of ordination itself, but was set as an introductory invocation leading into the Litany of the Saints (although at the Cambridge ordinations Bishop Alan employed it as part of the rite of election of the candidates prior to his homily). It was not always used in other dioceses and after Cardinal Hume's death it was not used by his successor. But its provision was not time-limited and it was never abrogated and, as shown at Cambridge, remains available as an option to ordaining bishops as they judge the circumstances appropriate.

This highly significant act of prayer was more than a gesture. First, it was an appropriate recognition of the two candidates' long and efficacious service as ordained ministers in the Body of Christ, derived in some sense from the communion of the Catholic Church, in the terms expressed in Vatican II's Decree on Ecumenism. Secondly, it rooted the present life and development of the Ordinariate within the recent history of the wider Catholic Church in England, the foundations that were laid for the Ordinariate nearly 20 years before and which have now begun to come to fruition, and in a happy recognition of the experience and prior discipleship of brother clergy who have taken the same path to fullness of communion in the past.

Here is the form of prayer, with its preamble, as approved in 1994 by the Sacred Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship in 1994 for use by a bishop ordaining someone who has previously served as an ordained minister in the Anglican Communion:

Oratio ad gratias agendas pro ministerio ab electo in Communione anglicana expleto [Prayer for giving thanks for the ministry of the candidate completed in the Anglican Communion]

Deinde omnes surgunt. Episcopus, deposita mitra, stans manibus iunctis versus ad electum dicit: [Then all rise. The bishop, having set down his mitre, standing with his hands joined and turned toward the candidate, says:]

N., the Holy Catholic Church recognizes that not a few of the sacred actions of the Christian religion as carried out in communities separated from her can truly engender a life of grace and can rightly be described as providing access to the community of salvation. And so we now pray.

Et omnes, per aliquod temporis spatium, silentio orant. Deinde, manus extensis, Episcopus orat dicens [And all pray in silence for a while. Then, with hands extended, the Bishop prays, saying]:

Almighty Father, we give you thanks for the X years of faithful ministry of your servant N. in the Anglican Communion [vel: in the Church of England], whose fruitfulness for salvation has been derived from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church.

As your servant has been received into full communion and now seeks to be ordained to the presbyterate* in the Catholic Church, we beseech you to bring to fruition that for which we now pray. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Populus acclamat [The people acclaims]: Amen.

*Bishop Alan substituted the word "diaconate" on this occasion.

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