Pastoral Letter from the Right Reverend Monsignor Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the establishment:
My Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, 15th January 2012, marks the first Anniversary of the erection by the Holy See of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham under the patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. A year is not a long time in the life of any institution particularly that of the Catholic Church, but as it was such an historic moment we should not let it pass without reflection.
An Anniversary is an opportunity both to look back with thanksgiving and look forward in hope. It has been an extraordinary year as we have moved from places we have known and loved to find a new and welcoming home in the Catholic Church. I echo the words of St Paul writing to the Church at Corinth “I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given to you in Christ Jesus” 1 Cor 1:4. I give thanks to God for your courage and faith sometimes at great personal cost. Many people have travelled a similar road before us, our patron Blessed John Henry Newman being one of many, but what is unique is that we have travelled together responding to the generous invitation made by our Holy Father Pope Benedict specifically to people like us. Although there have been difficulties and anxieties many people have told me of the joy and fulfilment of entering into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. We can also be thankful for those Catholic congregations and countless individuals, lay and ordained, who have so wonderfully supported and encouraged us over the year. We have much to thank God for. There have, of course, been disappointments and setbacks on the way but these have been outweighed by the warmth of the welcome and the knowledge of being in communion with the See of Peter and countless millions across the world. This is something we have prayed and longed for but has been realised for us in a way we could never have envisaged beforehand. It puts into practice the Holy Father’s vision that it is possible for Christians from different traditions to be united in a common faith, expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in communion with the successor of Peter.
Of course, there have been some misunderstandings; partly because the Ordinariate has begun in a modest way, many Catholics have had no personal contact with Ordinariate groups or individuals. It is up to all of us to help people understand and to make a reality the vision that Pope Benedict has set before us, that the Ordinariate should be ‘a prophetic gesture’ to contribute to the wider goal of visible unity between the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. It is to help us to experience in practice how we can share the gifts we have received to strengthen each other for our mission to a world that desperately needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. As we keep the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this month we should pray even more urgently for the unity of Christ’s Church which Pope Benedict reminded us, during his visit to the United Kingdom last year, is a particular charge and care for the successor of Saint Peter.
What of the future? We face it with faith and hope, committing it to the Lord. There is a constant stream of men and women being received into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate, we expect several new groups to be received at Easter and we are preparing for a number of ordinations to the priesthood around Pentecost. In addition several young men are exploring the possibility of ordination within the Ordinariate. This is all extremely encouraging but could be a strain on our limited financial resources. I ask you to be generous in your financial stewardship; not simply making your financial contributions in response to needs but in response to God’s overwhelming generosity to us in Christ “who though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” 2 Cor 8:9. If we all do this we will be able to prepare for the future with confidence.
Finally I want to encourage you all. We are part of an historic moment in the Church, we each have an important part to play in realising the possibilities and opportunities this year has set before us, remembering that nothing will be achieved without prayer and holiness of life. St Paul writing to Timothy encourages him to train himself in godliness and continues “for to this end we toil and strive because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, especially those who believe” 1 Tim 4:10.
As we look forward to the future with hope we entrust the life and mission of the Ordinariate to the prayers of Our Lady of Walsingham and Blessed John Henry Newman.
With the assurance of my prayers,
The Right Reverend Keith Newton