Fr Peter Wilson, Senior Chaplain of Newman House, London, writes:
Down the years a number of students have described Newman House as akin to an Oasis for them: a place of respite from the often harsh realities of the spiritual desert in which they spend most of their time.
The Archbishop has asked us at Newman House to be a welcoming community for one of the Ordinariate groups which are forming in London. These groups are part of a mechanism the Holy Father has erected by which members of the Anglican Church can come into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining some elements of their Anglican heritage – what is known as patrimony. This is a bold move by the Pope and a new approach to ecumenical relations. The Pope has indicated that those Christians who have a different religious and spiritual history from our own need not abandon that altogether, but can rejoice in it and be proud of it. As long as their traditions and beliefs are consonant with the Catholic Faith, they can find a home within the one body that is the Church. The Holy Father has judged that these particular Anglicans are one such group. A new venture is thus beginning in the Church’s long and venerable history.
I hope that the group who will be joining us will come to see Newman House as a bit of an oasis for them as they step into the wilderness. They will leave behind much: friends who do not wish to join the Catholic Church, their cherished and cared for church buildings, their familiar way of doing things. They can see the goal toward which they are travelling, but they still need to get there. As they spend this time between Ash Wednesday and Pentecost with us, we will try to make them as welcome as possible and assure them of our esteem and affection as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We pray that they will find among us spiritual nourishment and refreshment for their journey ahead. No doubt they will have many questions for us – as will our own students for them! This will be mutually enriching.
We have a great spiritual patron in common: the Holy Father has placed the Ordinariate under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. He too knew the pain of separation in the “parting of friends”, he was misunderstood and had to make his famous Apologia pro vita sua, (explanation for his life); he sought wisdom, truth and holiness. His great devotion to our Lady was under her title of Sedes Sapientiae, Seat of Wisdom, with which we are so familiar. The Ordinariate is dedicated to our Lady of Walsingham – whose shrine many of our students as well as our new brothers and sisters know well and love deeply. There is already far more we have in common than we might imagine!
How delighted we are to be able to share our little oasis with our new pilgrim companions. Welcome, brothers and sisters.
Fr Peter Wilson