A few hundred yards West of Exeter Cathedral (Anglican) stands the handsome Catholic Parish Church of the Sacred Heart. There last evening, Fr Paul Andrew, once a Vicar in the Kensington area of London Diocese, was ordained to the priesthood. There were about forty who laid hands on Fr Paul after Bishop Christopher. I guess there were eight wearing Ordinariate chasubles but other members of the Ordinariate (among them Fr David Silk) were in diocesan gear, and besides these were many others who had been Anglicans in the past and had taken the 'normal' route into the Catholic Church — a one-time Vicar of St Thomas' Keyham, the parish where I grew up; the Cantor, who trained at St Stephen's House during my time there as Principal; and several others, including Fr Michael Kirkpatrick, now on the staff of Plymouth Cathedral.
He was priest MC at the Ordination, ensuring that everything went very smoothly. It was good to be in such a crowd. The bun-struggle was held at the Pastoral Centre about half a mile from the Church, but most of the congregation seemed to find their way there. A coach had come all the way from West Cornwall (Fr Paul had been attached to a parish there during his training) and Fr Ivor Morris of the Ordinariate had journeyed from furthest Essex.
Despite severe damage during the unpleasantness of the 1940s, Exeter retains some fine ancient buildings. One of them, the White Hart Hotel, provided us with a bed for the night and breakfast.
It was once a coaching inn, and although its annexe has a lift, the core of the building remains much as it was centuries ago. The Church of the Sacred Heart in the same street is built on the site of another mediaeval inn.
Bishop Christopher Budd naturally made a great deal of the choice of day for the Ordination (the Feast of the Immaculate Concepiton of Mary) and of Fr Paul's longstanding devotion to Our Lady of Fatima.
Indeed it was in Fatima that I came to know Fr Paul best on a number of Pilgrimages there. It was good that in the Litany of the Saints the two beatified little shepherds of Fatima were invoked, together with John Henry Newman and Pope John Paul II. For me, great to be back in the diocese of my youth — though the Anglican diocese of Exeter, even before Truro diocese was detached from it, was always a good deal smaller than the present Plymouth Diocese. In Lymington we are only just over the border in Portsmouth Diocese, yet our journey to Exeter was over a hundred miles; and we could have continued for another hundred West across Cornwall and still been in Plymouth Diocese. Given a boat or helicopter, another twenty four miles into the North Atlantic would have brought us to the Scilly Isles, still part of the diocese! How do our Catholic Fathers in God manage with such huge areas to cover? Trivial, maybe, in Australian or African terms, but in England two hundred miles is half-way across the country.
It seems likely Fr Paul will be in Exeter for a year. Before those twelve months are over there is likely to be a new Bishop of Plymouth, so who knows where he might find himself for his next assignment? Life is full of surprises in the Catholic Church.