Important news on the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. The Ordinariate has now been given a central London church of its own – and has also been given charge of a South London parish.
These are significant developments. The Ordinariate was established in 2011 to offer to Anglicans the opportunity of being in full communion with Rome while keeping their own traditions and heritage. It is the fulfilment of the idea suggested in discussions between Pope Paul VI and Dr Michael Ramsey, the then Archbishop of Canterbury – that the Anglicans could be “united but not absorbed”.
The central London church is the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in Warwick Street. It has a notable history, and was visited in the early 19th century by the young John Henry Newman who would later become Victorian England’s most notable convert to the Catholic Faith. In recent years it has been a place of controversy, as it was used for Masses organised by homosexual and lesbian groups which did not uphold the teachings of the Church. These Masses have now been discontinued: the announcement was made as 2013 opened, by Archbishop Vincent Nichols, and he also announced that the church is to be handed over to the Ordinariate. It will become the Ordinariate’s London headquarters and the focus for major events. Here, the Ordinariate can establish firmly its own liturgical traditions and gather together its members from across Britain on great occasions.
Meanwhile, on the south bank of the Thames, the Church of the Precious Blood at London Bridge is to be run by a priest of the Ordinariate, under an arrangement with the Archdiocese of Southwark. Father Christopher Pearson led a number of members of his Anglican parish – St Agnes church at Kennington – into the Catholic Church in 2011, and they have been worshipping together at Precious Blood Church for some while. The Salvatorians, who ran the parish, announced in November that they were leaving, and the parish is now to be given into the care of Fr Pearson and the Ordinariate. The church, a fine building dating from the 1890s, has already become used to Ordinariate traditions as a weekly Evensong is held there in addition to all the usual Catholic parish events and the Sunday Masses.
The Ordinariate has grown quietly since its foundation in 2011 and there are now a number of groups around Britain and some 80 clergy. A group of nuns from the Anglican convent of St Mary’s, Wantage, joined at the New Year. They are forming a new religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Welcoming them at their reception ceremony at the Oxford Oratory, Fr Daniel Seward said: “This is not a betrayal of what has come before, but it is the fulfilment of those vows you have already made and the fruition of the love and service of those generations of sisters who have gone before you.”
The Wantage convent was founded in the 19th century as part of the Oxford Movement, and the sisters who are now joining the Ordinariate are a young team. Mother Winsome, the Superior of the Community told the media: “We believe the Holy Father’s offer is a prophetic gesture which brings to a happy conclusion the prayers of generations of Anglicans and Catholics who have sought a way forward for Christian unity.”