Part of the great legacy that Pope Benedict XVI has left the Church is the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. This is in fact the fruit of years of ecumenical discussions, which essentially began when Dr Michael Ramsey met Pope Paul VI back in the 1960s. Dr Ramsey, then Archbishop of Canterbury, cherished this meeting and it opened up new possibilities for dialogue between Anglicans and Catholics. And there was good dialogue, and much ecumenical goodwill, over the next years.
Sadly, however, the 1992 decision of the Church of England to ordain women meant that one set of doors were slammed shut. But Benedict XVI opened a new door, creating the Ordinariate.
Through the Ordinariates – they now exist in the United States, Britain, and Australia – groups of Anglicans can come into full communion with the Catholic Church together, bringing with them their Anglican traditions in liturgy, customs, and general heritage.
In Britain, the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is now flourishing. It has a central London headquarters church in Warwick Street, and has been given charge of a South London parish, the Church of the Precious Blood at London Bridge. This busy London parish was run for several years by the Salvatoreans, but they needed to move elsewhere. Meanwhile, a nearby Anglican vicar and many of his parishioners had made the decision to join the Ordinariate and, following his ordination, were made welcome at Precious Blood. With the departure of the Salvatoreans, the Archbishop of Southwark announced that the parish would be given into the care of the Ordinariate, and so a new chapter opened.
Your London correspondent has become active with the Ordinariate parish at London Bridge and is loving it. I am a cradle Catholic, but have been able to join the Ordinariate because my husband was raised an Anglican (he joined the Catholic church in the late 1970s, a couple of years before we met).
Precious Blood parish has just held its first Holy Week as an Ordinariate parish. Beautiful liturgy, beautiful hymns, a newly-cleaned church, lovely Easter flower arrangements trailing golden ribbons, a newly-established Sunday School…all this has been built on the strong foundations of a good Catholic parish which has thrived at Precious Blood for over a hundred years.<p> </p>
Britain is in deep need of strong new pastoral initiatives, and the Ordinariate has massive opportunities for mission and evangelisation. Anglican traditions – from splendid hymn-singing to beautiful flower-arrangements, from Sunday school to Evensong – can flourish in full communion with the Catholic Church.
There is now a Ladies Ordinariate Group, and it is currently busy running a big project for schools – both Anglican and Catholic – involving children studying the Psalms. The group – it’s called LOGS for short – is also involved with a number of other activities and recently took part, as special guests, at the Centenary Mass for the Westminster diocesan branch of the Union of Catholic Mothers. It is perhaps symbolic that in its centenary year, this major Catholic women’s movement welcomed something new – a women’s group with a specifically Anglican tradition and heritage. LOGS, based at Precious Blood church, looks set to expand and have branches in other Ordinariate groups. A range of summer activities is planned, with guest speakers, pilgrimages etc.
Evensong in the Anglican tradition takes place every Thursday at Precious Blood church, and is followed by Evening Mass and a social time. Palm Sunday saw a splendid Procession through the local streets from the nearby Catholic school. There are plans to mark the church’s patronal festival in style. And the parish will be taking a large group to the big national Ordinariate pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham in June.
As the years go by, and the Ordinariate flourishes, people will look back and see that the goodwill established in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, and two successful papal visits to Britain, and many joint Catholic/Anglican get-togethers, and more, were all aspects of a slow but sure healing following the searing events of the Reformation four hundred years earlier.
The Ordinariate in the 21st century is another chapter of a continuing saga of Christianity in Britain. Its foundation has taken place against the backdrop of massive secularisation, strong anti-Christian prejudices made vocal in officialdom, and a collapse of confidence in a once commonly-held understanding of marriage and family life. All of these mean that evangelisation is urgent and necessary: so the Ordinariate has a task it shares with every other Christian group in Britain, and needs to be soaked in prayer and ready for sacrifices.