Southend Ordinariate Group: Statement from Fr Jeff Woolnough

27 02 2011

Fr Jeff Woolnough writes:

My dear friends,

It will come as no surprise to many of you, that I have offered my intention to resign the living of the Parish and to take up the Holy Father’s invitation to join the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. I have met with the Bishop of Chelmsford who has graciously accepted my intention to resign. My final Parish Mass as Vicar will be Sunday March 6th 10am at Ss Peter and Paul to which you are all most welcome! My public ministry will cease thereafter and the resignation will take effect from Palm Sunday, 17th April.  However, my new public ministry to those people of Hockley joining the Ordinariate will begin, Saturday, May 14th 2011, (when ordained Deacon).

This is such an extraordinary way to leave the Church of England as I am not alone: many of you are making the journey to full communion with the See of Peter with me! We have, as a parish, been exploring and discerning God’s will for us since November 2009 when the Apostolic Constitution – Anglicanorum Coetibus, was first published.  Although there is the inevitable sadness of leaving friends and also our beautiful church building, we know in our hearts that we are making the right decision, one made in sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel and its mission in our land. The Church of England seems to have left us behind as she continues to introduce innovations that I (and many of you) believe are damaging to the unity of Christ’s body, the Church. Now is not the time to list such practices, (the good Lord knows that we’ve struggled enough), safe to say that we cannot any longer remain in the Anglican Communion if we are to be people of real integrity?

It is, I should say, precisely because Hockley is and has been a catholic -minded parish for many years that so many of its parish family are so excited at the prospect of joining this Personal Ordinariate!

Those entering into full communion will be received alongside Fr Bob and myself on Holy Thursday at St Teresa’s Rochford. Before that great day we shall attend the Rite of Election at Brentwood Cathedral on the First Sunday in Lent, where we will be enrolled as candidates. God willing, both Fr Bob and I shall be ordained to the order of Deacon on May 14th (Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead), and ordained to the Catholic Priesthood on 11th June, (Brentwood Cathedral). At this point of the journey, our Ordinariate Parish Group will be well and truly formed and we shall celebrate the Holy Mysteries together as one happy family once more. In the meantime, I shall be undertaking a 2 year part -time course of formation and study at Allen Hall Seminary, Chelsea, beginning in March.

As yet, Julie and I do not know where we shall be living, but we put all our trust in God. I pray that we will remain nearby so as to continue the ministry that we have worked so hard to set up here in Hockley these past five and a half years, albeit in the new Ordinariate structure. We have in Fr Keith Newton a truly inspirational and caring Ordinary who will continue to love us and guide us, of this we can be certain!  This may have been an extremely tough decision to make, but when we take this factor on board, it becomes so much easier.  As Bishop of Richborough, Father Keith demonstrated in so many ways, how to care for his flock! Now he is waiting for us, praise God! And so the sadness of resigning/leaving is tempered and thus so much easier to cope with because of his great example of courage and determination to see this amazing project through, on and for our behalf.

To my family, Father Bob and family, Church wardens and PCC officers, to The Friends of Ss Peter and Paul and all who help run the parish; a massive thanks for your love, support and patience. To those who feel that they cannot make the journey with us, thank you too for allowing me to minister to you. It has been a great privilege, I sincerely love you all, equally and will do all I can in the time that I have remaining to work with the Rural Dean and Archdeacon to ensure a continuation of Anglican presence at Hockley Parish Church

Back in July 2005, I interviewed for the post of Vicar of Hockley at Wadham College, Oxford (our patrons). At their recommendation I then met and was interviewed by the Parish Representatives – (Dr Elizabeth Galvin and Les Arnold). The brief from both camps: To maintain and uphold the Catholic Faith. My dear friends, this I have done in all sincerity with all of my zeal, spiritual and physical energy , and in doing so we have certainly progressed, spiritually; our reputation has been greatly enhanced within the wider parish community, especially noted is the warmth of our welcome!

We should be proud then that Hockley’s Ordinariate group is to be among the first wave of those who are to become truly Catholic in every possible way. Of course we may have experienced a few bumps, bruises and mishaps along the way, so do please forgive me for the times that my enthusiasm and passion has got the better of me? You all know me well enough by now to know that this sincere priest from East London loves you all beyond all such things? I should close by thanking the Church of England from the bottom of my heart for nurturing me in the faith, recognizing my vocation, training me, sending me to Mirfield, and then on to Ilford as a curate; to Hockley as Vicar:

I’ve been so very privileged to do this work on behalf of our Lord Jesus Christ, in this part of his vineyard.

This is and remains my calling: to be your priest; to serve you just as Christ came to serve.  Thank God then, that through the generosity of Pope Benedict XVI , that I may continue to love and serve you as a Catholic Priest in the local Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, here in Hockley, a place that my family has come to know and to love; a place that we now call, ‘home’! Much love and prayers for our shared journey of faith. May Our Lady of Walsingham and Blessed John Henry Newman pray for us all.

Father Jeff