Friday 23rd September saw the first house outing of the year to the Carmelite Sisters in Ware. Welcomed by smiling sisters offering home made biscuits and pots of tea, the day got off to a great start.
Pre-empting the beatification of Elizabeth of the Trinity taking place in Rome on Sunday 16th October, we were treated to a wonderful talk capturing the essence of her writings reminding us how much we are loved by God and indeed how each of us must let ourselves be loved by him. This was followed by Mass, a wonderful shared lunch in their beautiful gardens and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. It was a perfect day! We are so grateful to the Sisters’ for their hospitality and continued prayers for us.
On the 25th June this year, Cardinal Vincent Nichols ordained six of our Allen Hall men to the Priesthood at Westminster Cathedral. We congratulate Frs Chris an de Lisle, Tom Montgomery, Damian Ryan, John Sco , Tony Thomas and Chinedu Udo on their ordina ons. It was a wonderful occasion and a great joy to see many years of prayer, careful discernment, and much hard work, come to frui on for the Diocese.
Likewise on the 11th June four other Allen Hall students were ordained to the Diaconate. Reverends Julio Albornoz, Joseph Okoro and Carlos Quito have now taken up full me pastoral appointments for the next year, and Reverend Michael Maguire a part me appointment on weekends whilst he completes his theological studies. Please keep them in your prayers as they approach priestly ordina on in June 2017.
At the priestly ordina ons this year, Cardinal Vincent reflected on the essen al closeness of the priest to Jesus Christ. He called on the newly ordained, and all of us, to live lives that are marked by unfailing charity, selflessness, gentleness and pa ence – a life where Christ is centre stage and we point to him. This dual closeness and witness to Christ demonstrates that priesthood is necessarily missionary in its character. It is about bringing others to Christ, sharing the good news with them, and helping them along the path of faith.
The great example the Cardinal gave was that of Saint John Southworth, a missionary priest, whose relics rest in Westminster Cathedral. Saint John Southworth’s vision of the priesthood was pragma c, prayer centred and deeply missionary. It is that vision which the Cardinal encouraged all present to ponder and take forward – that we might be a church close to Christ, wise of the world, and outward looking. Please pray for our newly ordained men undertaking their first appointments – and keep praying for more priests.
Every seminary year ends with a period of retreat and reflection. First the deacons go away to prepare for their ordination, then the priests to prepare for their ordination by the Cardinal.
All other seminarians go away with most of the staff as a group. This year we travelled by coach to St Beuno’s Jesuit Spirituality Centre near St Asaph in North Wales. This is a spacious and comfortable 19th century stone building, originally designed for Jesuits as they completed their formation to become full members of the society. The poet Gerald Manley Hopkins worked there and discovered his poetic gifts when responding to a newspaper account of the wreck of the ship Deutschland. The centre is set in the countryside, so walks were easily available, including to the village of Tremeirchion whose parish church is the only Anglican church dedicated to Corpus Christi. In our week not even the sporadic rain deterred us from taking exercise every afternoon.
This was part of our daily discipline as the team of directors led by Roger Dawson SJ guided us in the paths of Ignatian Spirituality. Dermot O’Connor SJ opened each day with a conference on different approaches to prayer. Then, guided in a daily meeting with our individual director, we were allowed the freedom and the physical space to explore and accept what graces and gifts and consolations God wanted to offer us. This was supported by life in silence and the Mass each evening.
All of us returned to the Allen Hall, to pack up for the end of the residential year, enriched and encouraged. Now it is on to the Year of Mercy Jubilee Mass with the Cardinal and the ordination of priests. Then we spread out into parish placements for a month, World Youth Day in Poland and a variety of global experiences including Israel and Kenya.