On the feast of St Barnabas, Saturday 11 June, seven Anglican clergy who began a spiritual odyssey many months ago came to the final stage of their journey. They were ordained Catholic priests within the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham at Brentwood Cathedral by Bishop Thomas McMahon. Bathed in light, the Cathedral seemed a world away from the busy Saturday streets outside, as its peace was broken only by the uplifted voices of the organ, choir and congregation and the solemn tones of the Bishop and the readers. The sweetness of the music, taken from ancient manuscripts, was such that it brought the odd passer by into the Cathedral to listen.
The seven Ordinands swore an oath of obedience and respect to their Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, before prostrating themselves around the altar for long minutes, as the congregation invoked the prayers of a litany of saints. After the laying on of hands and prayer of consecration, the newly ordained priests were invested with stole and chasuble by their brother clergy and were anointed with Sacred Chrism by the Bishop.
In his homily Bishop Thomas referred to the reading from the Acts of the Apostles for the feast of St Barnabus: “I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them – and so after fasting and prayer they laid hands on them and sent them off.” Addressing the Ordinands, he highlighted several words and phrases: “I am sure you feel in some special way ‘set apart’, ‘chosen’, called by the Lord in circumstances you would not have imagined.”
He said that, like Newman, the Ordinands might ponder ‘strange Providence’ and quoted the philosopher Kierkergaard, who said: ‘Life is lived forwards but understood backwards.’
In the Acts Barnabus is described as ‘a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith’ and he is also known as ‘the son of encouragement’.
The Bishop said: “He wrote no Gospels or letters of exhortation. His ministry was one of encouragement, being alongside, drawing out the best, supporting.” Bishop Thomas said he hoped such encouragement would be a hallmark of the Ordinands’ ministry to come, adding: “You are being ‘sent out’ in a new way and may your ministry express that same faith, goodness and power of the Spirit that Barnabus showed.”
The Bishop also gave thanks for the contribution that priests and people joining the Ordinariate had made to the life of the Church of England and for the depth of the relationship that exists between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. “We appreciate the new life and gifts you will bring to us,” he said, adding a quote from a joint letter issued with the Anglican Bishop of Chelmsford, Bishop Stephen Cottrell, earlier this year: “The setting up of the Ordinariate does not in any way deter us from the ultimate goal of that visible unity within the Church that is Christ’s prayer and which is shared by all Christian people.”
The seven clergymen ordained are:
Rev Lee Benfleet from St Mary’s in Benfleet;
Rev Ivor Morris from Ascension in Chelmsford;
Rev Robert Page from St Margaret’s in Leytonstone;
Rev Jon Ravensdale from St Michael’s in Walthamstow;
Rev David Waller from St Saviour’s in Leytonstone;
Rev Jeff Woolnough from St Peter & Paul in Hockley;
and Rev Canon Robert White (retired, last at St Thomas’s, Brentwood).
In total, more than 4,700 people across the country were received into the Catholic Church at Easter. It is estimated that around 900 of those people were members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham; this includes 61 former Anglican clergy in addition to the five who have already been ordained as Catholic priests.
The Ordinariate has been established essentially for groups of former Anglican faithful and their clergy who wish to maintain as members of the Catholic Church, within the canonically approved and structured ecclesial life of the Ordinariate, those aspects of their Anglican spiritual, liturgical and pastoral tradition which are recognised as authentic by the Catholic Church.
The full text of Bishop Thomas McMahon's homily follows:
“I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them – and so fasting and prayer they laid hands on them and sent them off.” Acts 11.
I am delighted that you are being ordained priest on this feast of the Apostle Barnabas. Allow me to choose a number of words associated with this feast. Let us start with those words in Acts 11 “I want Barnabas and Saul „set apart‟.” Paul certainly had a great sense of being „set apart‟. We read it in Gal. 1. "He who has set me apart from the day of my birth and called me by his grace saw fit to make his son known to me so that I could preach his Gospel to the Gentiles‟.‟
This morning I am sure that all seven of you feel in some special way "set apart‟, "chosen‟, called by the Lord in circumstances you would not have imagined. Like Newman you may be led to ponder what he called "strange Providence‟ in his life. It was something he was very conscious of. I‟m sure you can resonate with his words
when he wrote in his journal: “The Providence of God has been wonderful with me all through my life”. It was the philosopher Kierkergaard who said: “Life is lived forwards but understood backwards”. Today many memories and events must come flooding back as you reflect on "strange providence‟.
The words from Acts “laid hands on them and sent them off”. As you know the word "Apostle‟ means "sent‟ – sent forth to bear the name of Christ to the world. Jesus himself was very aware of „being sent‟, so am I sending you. Those early disciples were "sent forth‟ in the power of the Spirit to preach the Gospel to a hostile world. We
all need that same gift of the Spirit as we go forth afresh to preach the Good News to our secular society. The Scripture Lesson reminded us that “It was there at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians” and no doubt proud to bear the name and suffer for it.
We learn also in Acts that Barnabas was “a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith” – in imitation of his Master who, the Scriptures tell us: „went around doing good‟. How nice it would be as priests if people could so describe us: "a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith‟. One last word – Barnabas is known as "the son of encouragement‟. In the Gospels he is never front stage but there quietly in the background playing a supportive role. He wrote no Gospels or letters of exhortation, his ministry was one of encouragement, being alongside; drawing out the best; supporting.
I believe that in some Eastern rites in the Prayer of Ordination the principal spirit to pray for is the spirit of encouragement. Certainly as priests we are blest to see the action of God and his grace at work in the lives of those whom we serve. This becomes a source of great encouragement for us and so we minister to and encourage on another. I hope all of you have felt a new and personal encouragement in the journey that you and many of your people have recently undertaken. May that same encouragement be a hallmark of your ministry to come.
It is so right that today the Ordination prayer has some additional words affirming that your previous ministry to which you were sent bore much fruit. We give thanks for the contribution that priests and people have made to the life of the Church of England and appreciate the new life and gifts you will bring to us. We are deeply
grateful for the depth of the relationship which exists in this diocese and indeed in this country between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. As Bishop Stephen and myself wrote in our joint letter earlier in the year: “The setting up of the Ordinariate does not in any way deter us from the ultimate goal of that visible unity within the Church that is Christ‟s prayer and which is shared by all Christian people.”
Now you are being "sent out‟ in a new way and may your ministry express that same faith, goodness and power of the Spirit that Barnabas showed.
This Cathedral and diocese are dedicated to Our Lady and you have the special dedication of Our Lady of Walsingham. As this Ordinariate, her Ordinariate, enters a new phase so may we entrust to her the work of bringing it to fulfilment.
For more information about the Personal Ordinariate go to: www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Catholic-Church/Ordinariate/Background-Information
We Need Your Support
ICN aims to provide speedy and accurate news coverage of all subjects of interest to Catholics and the wider Christian community. As our audience increases - so do our costs. We need your help to continue this work.
Please support our journalism by donating today.Donate