Under Newman's Eye


Reading Oratory School

We met at the Oratory School near Reading, founded by John Henry Newman.  The occasion was a Colloquium, organised by the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.  I went there, as did a number of other priests of the Ordinariate, not quite knowing what to expect.


Ever since leaving the Church of England last year, there has been a Society of the Holy Cross-shaped hole in my life.  The SSC was a great support and encouragement to Anglican priests during the dark days of the 1990s, and it had continued to sustain many of us until we joined the Ordinariate.  Did the Catholic Church have anything like this to offer?

 By Divine Providence it was just about the time that we were leaving the CofE that the British Province of the Confraternity was being founded.  It came about as a direct response to the Visit of Pope Benedict, and his beatification of Cardinal Newman.  For me, the aims of the Confraternity seemed to echo those of SSC: in brief, Fidelity, Formation and Fraternity.  But how would we ex-Anglicans be received?  I wrote to ask if it would be possible for us to join and attend the Colloquium, and had a very positive welcome.

The welcome at the Oratory School was no less warm.  What is more, I was pleased to find some familiar faces — not just from the Ordinariate, but also the Secretary to our Portsmouth Diocesan Finance Council, Dn Stephen Morgan, and Fr Selvini in whose Anglican Parish we had once conducted a Mission from St Stephen's House.

Dn Bradley, Fr Elliott & Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett

There were others, too, who had begun their priestly formation at SSH, or had some other past link with Anglicanism.  Of the Ordinariate, Mgr Burnham was present — no doubt to hear Mgr Andrew Wadsworth of the ICEL speaking about the new Translation of the Roman Missal.

Formation before the Liturgy Lecture

Fr Simon Heans is earning a crust back in teaching, so it was a busman's holiday for him to come to a school during half-term.  Even more this was so for Fr David Elliott who, besides looking after the Reading Ordinariate Group, teaches at the Oratory School.  You probably know, from his blog, that Fr Ed Tomlinson was there from Sevenoaks, and other bloggers are likely to add their own take to the event.  At both Masses during the Conference, Dn James Bradley, photographer extraordinaire and personal Deacon to the Holy Father, did the Ordinariate proud by never putting a foot wrong.  So six of us in a total attendance of fifty was a pretty good representation.  As more of the Ordinariate get to hear about the Confraternity it seems likely that more will sign up — though already there are twenty Ordinariate paid-up members.  Oh, and our Guru from Allen Hall was there too, Fr Stephen Wang.  So it was a very happy occasion.

For me, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury was a huge help, basing his talk on priesthood not just on St Jean-Marie Vianney, the Cure d'Ars, but also on his own pastoral experience.  Mgr Andrew Wadsworth opened up the new translation of the Missal in very revealing ways — how a new, more serious register of language might help in engaging the laity more fully in worship, and how reverting to the ad orientem approach to the Altar might remind us we are worshipping the Almighty, not our local community.

FIDELITY Bishop Geoffrey

Before we left we heard Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett from Australia, giving us the history of the Confraternity in the antipodes — for our international brotherhood began in the USA, continued in Australia, and has only now reached Britain.  He was prepared to answer, he said, "easy questions" — so Fr Peter Edwards rescued him when a googly was bowled asking his opinion of the English Hierarchy.

In all, a wonderful occasion.  We expressed our Fidelity to the Holy Father and the Magisterium at every turn, but especially in the Liturgy.  We were helped in our Formation by all those who addressed us.  Perhaps above all I welcomed the Fraternity I found, making me feel truly welcome in this part of the Catholic Church.  The Fraternity's web site gives information about future meetings, and about how you can register an interest.  While primarily for Clergy, it is possible for lay people to show their support by becoming Friends of the Confraternity.

The Societas Sanctae Crucis — Society of the Holy  Cross — has a long and fascinating history in England and beyond.  For me, this week's meeting in Reading recalled some of the same spirit as was shown in the early days of SSC.  How good the Lord is, in preparing a way for us.

No distant scene; one step enough for me. Mist begins to clear at the Oratory School.

Author: Fr. Edwin Barnes

Bishop Barnes read theology for three years at Oxford before finishing his studies at Cuddesdon College (at the time a theological college with a rather monastic character). He subsequently served two urban curacies in Portsmouth and Woking. During his first curacy, and after the statutory three years of celibacy, he married his wife Jane (with whom he has two children, Nicola and Matthew). In 1967, Bishop Barnes received his first incumbency as Rector of Farncombe in the Diocese of Guildford. After eleven years, the family moved to Hessle, in the Diocese of York, for another nine years as vicar. In 1987, he became Principal of St Stephen’s House, Oxford. In 1995, he was asked by then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, to become the second PEV for the Province. He was based in St. Alban’s and charged with ministering to faithful Anglo-Catholics spread over the length of Southern England, from the Humber Estuary to the Channel Islands. After six years of service as a PEV, Bishop Barnes retired to Lymington on the south coast where he holds the Bishop of Winchester’s license as an honorary assistant bishop. On the retirement of the late and much lamented Bishop Eric Kemp, he was honored to be asked to succeed him as President of the Church Union. Both these appointments he resigned on becoming a Catholic in 2010. Fr. Barnes is now a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, caring for an Ordinariate Group in Southbourne, Bournemouth.

2 thoughts on “Under Newman's Eye”

  1. I hope this does not mean that the Ordinariate clergy will try to turn this Confraternity into a closed club like the Society of the Holy Cross, of which some were members in their Anglican years. The last thing the Church in England needs is a right-wing, sectarian mentality which reinforces a Church within a Church. The real problem with Ordinariate clergy is that they have not had the opportunity of settling down and finding their feet in a new world.
    The Anglo-Catholic and Roman mentalities are as differnt as chalk from cheese.

  2. John, why do you supose the Ordinariate clergy (no more than 15% of the membership of the Confraternity) would want to 'turn it' into anything? For myself, I was just pleased to be welcomed into a group of Catholic clergy who seem intent on deepening their priesthood and encouraging each other to live up to the challenges of our high calling.

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