Archbishop Longley & Bishop Brignall
The Episcopal Ordination of Monsignor Canon Peter Brignall and his Installation as the Third Bishop of Wrexham, took place in Our Lady of Sorrows Cathedral, Wrexham, in North Wales on Wednesday, 12 September 2012, Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary.
Bishop Edwin Regan, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Wrexham, now Bishop Emeritus, was the principal consecrator of Bishop-Elected Peter Brignall, his former Vicar General; together with His Excellency Archbishop Antonio Mennini, the Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain, and Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, a former Bishop of Lancaster.
Among the concelebrants at the memorable Mass for the Ordination of a Bishop, were Archbishop Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster; Archbishop Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham; and other members of the hierarchy of England and Wales; together with priests of the Diocese of Wrexham and other priests Bishop Edwin Regan warmly welcomed Bishop-Elected Peter Brignall and members of his family, some of whom had travelled from Germany, where his mother came from, especially for the occasion. Bishop Regan ended his welcome in Welsh which featured in the ceremony – including the second reading and the final blessing.
During his homily on the theme “The Duties of a Bishop”, Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff addressed the bishop-elect, the clergy, deacons, religious, civic leaders, interfaith and ecumenical guests and members of the congregation who packed the small Cathedral Church to capacity – and those watching in the nearby church hall.
Archbishop Stack said: “The Sacrament of Orders is conferred through the laying on of hands and prayer. The imposition of hands by all the bishops happens in silence. The soul opens in silence to God whose hand stretches from eternity into the world of time and embraces this man, directs and orders him for the service of the whole Body which is the Church.”
Archbishop Stack added: “The anointing of his head with the Oil od Chrism, sealing the bond between Christ and his new apostle. We know from the Prophet Isaiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me. The mitre represents a crown of holiness in life and ministry. It is also a reminder that holiness cannot by-pass the crown of thorns, the crown of suffering in each person’s life.”
The ceremony, which lasted a little over two hours, had a special meaning and poignancy for me, particularly the moment when Bishop Regan anointed the head of Bishop Peter Brignall with chrism.
The Cantors sang the Antiphon from the early 14th Century Bangor Pontifical - Unguentum in capite… – the most complete pontifical surviving from the British Isles and one of only two extant medieval liturgical manuscripts with musical notation which are known to be of Welsh provenance. How appropriate that it should be the Bangor Pontifical that was sung that day.
On Thursday, 17 August 1995, I suffered a massive sub-arachnoid brain haemorrhage and the doctors only gave me a five per cent change of survival and if I should survive, less than that of not being left a vegetable!
The haemorrhage happened without any warning while I was on holiday in Anglesey, with my wife Stella and our two children, Sarah then aged 12 and Joseph aged 10. I was taken by ambulance across the island of Anglesey in North Wales to Bangor hospital semi-conscious.
Stella vividly describes what happened next: “First thing on Friday morning, 18 August 1995, I rang Bangor hospital and the medical staff suggested that I come and see the doctor. Peter was in an ordinary ward while it was established what was going on.
“I went with our children to Bangor Hospital and then returned to the holiday home, owned by friends, situated overlooking the sea near South Stack Lighthouse, and began packing; as we were due to go back to Birmingham the following day. I was not prepared for what happened next.
“During the evening around 10.45pm I received a phone call from the consultant who was looking after Peter asking me to get to the hospital as quickly as possible as Peter was now in ITU, un-conscious and not expected to survive the night!
“I was insistent that the consultant contacted the Roman Catholic Chaplain for him to administer the Last Rites of the Catholic Church to Peter before he died!
“It was late at night. I was with two small children in Anglesey on my own, nearly an hour away from Bangor. The hospital sent an ambulance car for us. I was worried about many things during that never-to-be-forgotten drive, not least the fact that the priest would not understand our situation because I am not a Catholic.
“When we arrived, literally running into the intensive care unit, I was met by Father Peter Brignall, the Catholic Chaplain, and the medical staff. Father Peter was English. He was calm, kind and welcoming and prepared for us.
“Father Peter gathered us round Peter’s bedside where he lay unconscious, and asked Sarah and Joseph, both Catholics, if they would like to take part in a simple service and to say prayers for their father.
“Fr Peter anointed Peter with oil, said the prayers and then we all said the Our Father together. It was very peaceful and quiet. No sense of panic, just the sound of machines whirring and ticking in the semi-darkness.
“I cannot put into words how welcoming and reassuring Father Peter was to me and how important he became to me over the next ten days that I spent at Bangor Hospital.
“Father Peter came and prayed with Peter, and then with me every day. Denominational barriers were just not there. He respected me as a practising Christian from the Evangelical Anglican tradition.
“Father Peter quite simply enriched my days at Bangor Hospital and was a life-line during one of the most difficult times of my life as Peter lay near to death.
“Peter was taken by ambulance, still unconscious, from Bangor Hospital to Birmingham on Bank Holiday Monday, 28 August 1995. He regained consciousness the following day.
“Later when Peter had recovered – God had spared his life – I told him that Father Peter would go far. He will be made a bishop one day, mark my words!
“Peter and I visited Bangor Hospital to thank Father Peter personally for what he had done for us and our family. We went to a late Saturday afternoon Mass that he celebrated
in the hospital chapel and then took him out to supper in Llandudno.”
By the time of the State Visit of Pope Benedict XVI in September 2010 Monsignor Peter Brignall was Cathedral Dean of Our Lady of Sorrows, and Vicar General of the Diocese of Wrexham. I invited him to contribute a reflection on the celebration of Mass, the Blessing of the mosaic of Saint David and the lighting of the taper of Our Lady of Cardigan in Westminster Cathedral, for the Official Record of the historic visit “Benedict XVI and Blessed John Henry Newman” that I wrote / edited.
Meanwhile, during the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Peter Brignall, in September 2012, the tears rolled gently down my face as Bishop Edwin Regan concluded the Anointing of the Bishop’s Head.
It was a deeply prayerful and emotional moment as I recalled in my mind that a little over 17 years earlier a devoted hospital chaplain, Father Peter Brignall, had anointed me with oil as I lay near to death!