On the first anniversary of the creation of the personal ordinariate 10 members describe their poignant journey to full communion

Introduction

It hardly seems a year ago that a packed Westminster Cathedral witnessed the moving ordination of three former Anglican bishops and the first moments of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, writes James Bradley.

Easter 2011 saw around 1,000 Anglicans fulfil Newman’s hopes, as the first wave of ordinariate members were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. At Pentecost, almost 60 priests were ordained, and now – across England, Wales and Scotland – dedicated groups of former Anglicans are making their mark on the life of the Church in these lands.

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There have been moments of profound joy and sheer exhilaration; there have been times of great anxiety and frayed nerves – and the story has only just begun. The first chapter of the ordinariate is written. Now, as that vision of an Anglicanism united but not absorbed, begins to take shape, members of the ordinariate share their views, their hopes, aspirations and fears, as the page turns and the story continues.

They need our support, both spiritual and material. There are still no churches, or buildings, and few funds. If you want to support this personal initiative of the Holy Father, visit Ordinariate.org.uk for details of how you can help.

Deacon James Bradley is communications officer for the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.

1. Deal

I don’t see myself as a pioneer, but Pope Benedict XVI’s call to “maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared” was an imperative not to be denied, writes Fr Christopher Lindlar.

From the erection of the ordinariate in January, through resigning as rector of St Andrew’s, Deal, the exhilarating crash programme at Allen Hall, reception into full communion with the Church in April, ordination to the sacred priesthood in June, and now life pastoring the Deal Ordinariate Group and also serving as Parochial Administrator of a diocesan parish, it has, at times, been a bumpy ride. There have been misunderstandings and muddles, but they fade alongside the warmth of welcome on the ground. My overriding feeling remains one of great relief, coupled with the joy of knowing the truth of unity with the Successor of Peter.

As I look to the next 12 months and beyond, my hope is that the place of the ordinariate is as one more component in the New Evangelisation. I hope and pray that we have gifts and treasure to share in winning these lands for Jesus Christ and his Catholic Church.

2. Torbay

Pope Benedict announced the establishment of the ordinariate on my silver wedding anniversary, which made that day extra-special, writes Jean Chinery.

Despite being married to an Anglican priest, my decision to accept this generous offer had to be made independently of my husband.
In conscience, I could not refuse; fortunately my spouse came to the same decision.

Our son remains in the Church of England, as do many of our friends, and this divide has made the last year hard at times. However, I’ve tried to stay close to my Anglican friends and am fortunate that many of them have respected our decisions.

Dealing with the uncertainties that this first year has brought (particularly regarding accommodation and finance) has not been easy. We have had to move house twice in three months.

But despite the practical difficulties there has been enormous joy and real peace – a feeling of “coming home”. The welcome we’ve received has been wonderful, and I’ll never forget the spontaneous applause as our group was received in Plymouth Cathedral.

Our fantastic group is very active and, without a doubt, our youth event, VOICE, was the highlight of this first year.

3. Oxford

It was with very few doubts, but much trepidation, that I began the formal path to join the ordinariate early in 2011. There have been definite highs as well as moments to pause and reflect since then, writes Thomas Mason.

The catechesis during Lent, in preparation for to be received, gave me (and those around me) a valuable opportunity to reflect on our faith, on what we really hold dear.

The Oxford group has developed from a group of individuals into a genuine community within the Church. We meet week by week for a “vigil” Mass, adapting the space of a modern Catholic church for our style of liturgical celebration. These celebrations have been greatly enriched by the music: at times complex and choral, at times simple and congregational, but always beautiful and deeply enriching.

The definite highlight of the year has been the celebration of Evensong, now in the full unity of the Catholic Church. In Oxford this has been celebrated solemnly on two occasions (with more planned for the future), but also very simply a couple of times before our Mass on Saturday evenings, both styles being deeply resonant of the vision showed by the Holy Father in Anglicanorum Coetibus.

4. Coventry

We knew that 2011 would be an eventful year, and we were right. In March around 40 of us set out from various Anglican parishes in and around Coventry to be received into the Catholic Church as members of the ordinariate, Fr Paul Burch writes.

Filled with a mixture of emotions – sadness at leaving behind friends and familiar places that held many dear memories, and excitement and joy in moving towards the unity for which we had prayed for so long – we took our first steps.

Only a couple of months old by then, the ordinariate was very much an unknown, and something that its first members have had to have an active part in building.

And, here in Coventry, build we steadily have. We have built up our life together as a group, liturgically, spiritually, socially and financially. We have built up a relationship of trust and co-operation with the people of St Joseph the Worker, Coventry, where we are based, and with the parishes of the deanery. And we have built up our vision for the future and our distinctive contribution to the mission of the Catholic Church, in our small corner of it.

It hasn’t all been easy or without problems, but we keep faith that our efforts are part of the construction of something of real value and will be blessed.

5. Birmingham

On Sunday March 6 2011, a group of around 40 Anglicans in Birmingham said an emotional goodbye to their churches, the rest of their congregations and the Church of England, and on Ash Wednesday began to attend Holy Cross and St Francis’ Catholic Church, writes Laura Magson.

We continued to attend Mass there throughout Lent, while we underwent a phase of instruction with the parish priest, until our magnificent Confirmation at St Chad’s Cathedral on Maundy Thursday, which we shared with the other ordinariate groups in the Midlands.

Following another trip to St Chad’s for the first round of ordinations in June, we began our own Mass at Holy Cross, at which we celebrate our heritage with traditional Anglican hymns. Our weekly formation continues as we get to know more about our patron and fellow pilgrim, Blessed John Henry Newman.

I am incredibly grateful for the warm welcome shown to us by the Catholic Church and particularly the priests and congregation of our host church.

As we grow, it is our hope that we will have a building of our own in the future to help us to fulfil one of the primary purposes of the ordinariate: the evangelisation of the nation.

6. London (South)

Most of our group came from St Agnes, Kennington, while I came from St Michael’s, Croydon, writes Jonathan Creer.

So I was a little daunted at the prospect of worshipping at a different church, in a somewhat different rite, with a diocesan congregation and an ordinariate group in which I knew no one, but I was soon put at my ease by the friendliness shown by them all.

We settled into a pattern: attending the local Sunday Mass and afterwards retiring for coffee and instruction. At midday, after the Angelus, we would often go to a local pub for a drink and lunch. It was – and is – a highly convivial group.

From September, rather than joining the parish we established an ordinariate Mass on Saturday evenings. But some things don’t change – we still often retire to the pub afterwards.

Looking back over the year, I have no regrets about my decision to join, hard though it was.

I have missed the people and the very traditional Anglo-Catholic liturgy at St Michael’s, but have made new friends and it is wonderful not to have the constant sense of being an embattled and losing minority within the Church: for Catholics, being a Catholic is normal!

8. Isle of Wight and Portsmouth

As I write this preparations for Christmas are in full swing, writes Ruth Smith. As we recall the journey of faith of Mary and Joseph, and the difficulties that they encountered, I begin to think about the journey of faith that I have travelled in the last year.

After much discussion and prayer, my two teenage children and I decided that the ordinariate was the right path for us. We belong to an interesting group encompassing members from both the Island and the mainland. On Sunday the group celebrates Mass at 9.15 am in St Mary’s, Ryde. Their musicians help out for our services and some of us also sing in the St Mary’s choir. Once a month Mass is celebrated in St Agatha’s, Landport, a former Anglican church in Portsmouth. Most of us from the island go and meet up with our mainland family members.

Though we have moved forward so much in the last year, we know there is still a lot to do. We have hopes of having a church of our own in the future, but money is always an issue.

We are very grateful for our new friends, especially Fr Anthony Glaysher and the people of St Mary’s as they continue to support us. As a group, we wish to thank our pastor, Fr Jonathan Redvers-Harris, and his family for the hard work and strong faith that have helped make our group what it has become, a family.

9. Tunbridge Wells

It’s tempting to describe the ordinariate in terms of the Exodus: small groups of people setting out, leaving behind a problematic situation and trusting that God will lead them to the promised land, writes Tom Davis. But promised lands are not always empty of existing inhabitants, who will also have opinions on the new arrivals.

In Lent 2011, over 70 Anglicans left our church in Tunbridge Wells and joined a small Catholic community in Pembury. While the change was dramatic for ordinariate members, we had the advantage of knowing that change would come. For those in Pembury, our arrival must have been a great shock. The similar size of the two congregations added to the potential for disruption. Over the course of the year both groups have had to learn a lot about each other’s traditions, which on the surface have been diametrically opposed: eastward versus westward facing, contemporary versus Edwardian hymnody, “high” versus “low” ceremonial. It is sometimes difficult for everyone to remember that “different” is not necessarily the same as “wrong”. But going forward, the decision has been made that we are to become a diocesan quasi-parish, under the care of an ordinariate priest, maintaining both traditions. Our hope and prayer is that this will allow us to become one church, supporting two traditions, and happily the early indications are that this is already starting to happen.

10. Hemel Hempstead

Like most who were received into Church via the ordinariate, I found Holy Saturday to be the high point of 2011, writes Ann Murkin.

Since the early 1970s my husband and I had happily belonged to Holy Cross church, Luton; it took four minutes to drive there, 10 minutes to walk. It had always been an Anglo-Catholic parish with traditional values and teachings, and a reputation for good liturgy and music, and we were both heavily involved.

But as things in the Church of England began to change, the dilemma was “what to do now?” Although we knew some of the local Catholic priests and the church was nearby, Mgr Keith Newton had been our bishop and we felt moved to follow him.

After several months of thought, prayer and discussion we decided to join the ordinariate. The nearest group was in Hemel Hempstead and we knew the congregation and priests through Forward in Faith and a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The welcome from the group, and also from the local diocesan congregation and clergy, has been warm and generous.

The only downside is that we now have to leave home an hour before Mass on Sunday – but if you believe in what you’re doing, then it’s all worthwhile.

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