Dear Mothers, Fathers, Aspirants and friends of the Sodality,
What a year it has been for us as a community. The lockdown has seen extraordinary growth for us in numbers and particularly remarkably our growth internationally. I have always described our charisms as being about joy, friendship, seriousness and diocesan priesthood as fruits of the goal of holiness. It seems to me now that the Lord is leading us to deepen those bonds of friendship that are the Anglican Communion. The friendships that many of us are forging with sisters and brothers around the world will remain one of the many blessings of 2020 for me.
An equally significant blessing for us is Archbishop Stephen becoming our patron. As priests we are servants of the church and called to love the church. We each exercise our priesthood on behalf of our bishop; we are called to belong to a presbytery around him or her. This is a wonderful antidote to the individualism of our times. This link with the Archbishop of York is an important signal of our ecclesial identity; our joy in belonging to this part of the Catholic church. Archbishop Stephen’s personal gifts of joy in his vocation as priest and bishop and confident evangelism further indicate the Spirit’s life in our community.
2019 – 2020 was always going to be a significant year for us because it marks five years since the first members made a commitment to be a community. I am grateful to Liz Jones and Frankie Ward for conducting our review to help us discern the next steps for us.
This will also be the last Foreword to an Ordo that I write. I have always said that I would do just one term as Superior. Moving on to the next Superior will be an important step in the community’s life. I am immensely grateful to the support given me by members of Council, not least Mother Imogen as assistant Superior and Fr Simon as Clerk this year. Thank you too to Fr Sam for his work, significantly on this Ordo which is no small task. Bishop Gregory our Episcopal Visitor has been a great gift to us and to me. His gentle friendship is a source of much joy.
It is impossible for me to state how strongly I believe the Holy Spirit has been leading us in this way we are following and how much joy it brings me. My love of the Rosary and sense of the closeness of Our Lady to me in my priestly ministry have never been deeper. I feel her presence daily at the altar with me just as she stood with St John at the cross. His presence as the beloved disciple is deeply significant for us as priests. Jesus calls each of us his beloved friend and he entrusts each of us to the care of Mary, and Mary into ours. This gift brings tears to my eyes. As we celebrate Mass here in Christ Church Cathedral at the High Altar we do so under the reredos showing Our Lady with St John at the cross. I find it almost unbearable to look at and have to stop myself weeping when I do so. Each of us as priests, each of our dear aspirants in formation for priesthood is stood there gazing on Jesus.
For our year of review Fr Steven Shakespeare wrote these prayers I hope as we prepare for our general chapter next year we will all continue to use them to pray for God’s continual blessing on us.
With my love and prayers and deepest affection,
Canticle of the Priest
I call for glory to come
like dewfall on the grass.
I call for the hour of truth
when love will speak its name.
I call to the One Who Is
from before the world was made.
Let us break the bread of blessing
and raise the healing cup.
Christ is the Gift and the Giver
love on the altar laid.
Through him we are made one
our joy is rendered whole.
With him we are known and kept
safe in the Father’s name.
In him we are freed from the world
made holy by the grace of God.
With Mary, Heart of the Priest,
we offer the Word made flesh.
Like her, we are known and called
and sanctified in truth.
As the grains of earth are gathered
and the vine gives up the grape,
as the water of life is poured
and the oil of anointing flows,
may all we are be offered in prayer
a living sacrament of praise.
(after John 17)
God of demanding grace:
your desire for us
is holiness and fullness of life;
you called Holy Mary
to share in your work of salvation
and become the Gateway of New Life.
As we daily renew our commitment,
bind our offering to hers,
that in the welcome of her heart
and the strength of her prayers
we may be faithful to our priestly calling:
to nurture Christ within us
to labour for his birth
to bear his life-giving body in our hands
and to sing his sacrificial love.
We ask this through Christ,
our High Priest now and for ever.
Canticle and Prayer by Fr Steven Shakespeare