Thousands packed Westminster Cathedral on Saturday for a special Mass in thanksgiving for the 150th anniversary of St Joseph's Society of Mill Hill. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster was main celebrant, alongside several other bishops, Fr Michael Corcoran - General Superior of the Society, and a large contingent of Mill Hill Fathers. Afterwards, members of the Society renewed their vows at the Vaughan Chantry.
As part of the entrance procession, items symbolising the life and work of Mill Hill Missionaries were presented: the missionary cross, missionary red sash and cord, the constitutions, necrologies and directories of the Society, a red mission box and a biography of Cardinal Vaughan. In his homily Cardinal Nichols revealed that he had a cousin a Mill Hill missionary and that the society's red box was a fixture beside the family telephone as he was growing up. "Your witness today helps people to be missionary disciples" he said.
Mill Hill Missionaries are found in almost every continent of the world but more specifically in Africa, Asia, North and South America and in the home regions of Europe. Founded in 1866 for the training of missionaries to minister throughout the world, it was initiated by Cardinal Herbert Vaughan who felt England and Wales needed its own missionary outreach to Asia, Africa and the Americas. "This is a significant jubilee" said Fr Michael Corcoran MHM; "it marks a substantial contribution to the Church in this country over 150 years". He said the Mill Hill Missionaries would be collaborating with other missionary societies of men and women "to nurture the vocation of all our people today for a life on mission, whether women, men, lay or religious". In lieu of a reception after the Mass, he announced that a substantial donation would be made to the Jesuit Refugee Service towards its relief work with migrants.
The Mill Hill missionaries have been recruiting priests, brothers and associates from the traditional mission countries since 1998. St Joseph's College Mill Hill, North London, closed in 2006. Today, Mill Hill formation houses are in the students' home continents, in Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon, India and the Philippines. Mill Hill missionaries in Britain now have their main office in Maidenhead.
The Mass was the first of several taking place around the world. An exhibition was available in St Joseph's side Chapel at Westminster Cathedral showing the history, scope and current missions of the Society, and other events planned for the jubilee year include a conference at Heythrop College with Fr Bob O' Neill MHM, and a video project to capture the vocation stories of Mill Hill Missionaries and associates both young and old.
For more information on the Mill Hill Missionaries see: www.millhillmissionaries.co.uk/
Cardinal Vincent Nichols homily at the Mass: http://rcdow.org.uk/cardinal/homilies/150th-anniversary-of-st-josephs-missionary-society/
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