Friday, December 08, 2006

Our Blessed Lady

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, celebrating God's marvellous love for us when he prepared a worthy dwelling place in whom his Son could become incarnate. Many people have asked whether we will be having the usual Holy Day Masses - well, no, because the Immaculate Conception is not a Holy Day of Obligation in England. Each Bishop's Conference has to select one Feast of our Lady as a HDO - in the USA it is the Immaculate Conception, in South Africa it is Mary Mother of God (1 January) and in England it is the Assumption (15 August). We will have a sung Mass tonight. Just because it's not a Day of Obligation does not make it less important. So we shall sweetly sing the praises of Mary as we offer the sacrifice of her Son.

The special title of our Lady for Universities and students is our Lady, Sedes Sapientiae, or "Seat of Wisdom". Jesus is the Word of God, the Eternal Wisdom, and it is through Mary that the Word, the Wisdom of God, is made flesh. Jesus seated on the lap of Mary, Mary the seat of Wisdom.

Pope John Paul II received a gift of a mosaic icon of our Lady, Sedes Sapientiae, from Slovenian artist Ivan Rupnik. The Holy Father gave this mosaic to the universities of the world during the Great Jubilee Year 2000. The image has been travelling around the world ever since, and was with us here at Newman House for the Feast of the Imacculate Conception in 2004. A group of about 20 students then accompanied the icon to Rome, where it was presented to Pope John Paul at what in the event was his last major public appearance, the Academic Mass in St Peter's Basilica on 14 December 2004. We were part of a united choir of students which sang the Mass. It was a spine-tingling moment when the choir burst into Tu es Petrus - You are Peter: and indeed there with us was Peter, Vicar of Christ.

Our happy band in the Piazza of St Peter's Basilica, before the Academic Mass.

Inspired by the pilgrim icon, a group of residents then began work on a mosaic based on the original. Led by Ian Mannion and Russell Hearn months of work ensued. It is not an exact copy, nor is it professional, but it is our very own! It is still awaiting framing (everything takes a long time at Newman House!!!!!) but it will be hung in our Chapel in due course. The mosaic was blessed by Cardinal Arinze when he visited Newman House following the Academic Mass.

We hope, in the new year, to start regular devotions to our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, to inspire us as students as we pursue knowledge in seeking truth as we follow the Wisdom of God, Jesus Christ.
Sedes sapientiae, Ora pro nobis

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Photos of our lads in training

Jerome Santamaria - Corpus Christi College, Melbourne

David Wingfield - Venerable English College , Rome

Daniel Jeffries - Dominicans, Cambridge

Ian Mannion - Ampleforth Abbey

Robert Colquhoun - Allen Hall, Chelsea

Here I am Lord, send me

There are currently five young men in formation for the priesthood or religious life who have had a connection with Newman House in the past few years. Each of them were a significant presence while they were with us. It's the way of things here that each year we have a completely new set of residents and community members, so those from even one year ago are easily forgotten! Alan Paton wrote a little poem about his (and my) old school, Maritzburg College, which had these lines:

Old walls that echoed to our cries,
our tears, our voices,
our laughter,
and echo now
to those who follow after.

There may be new voices now, but these lads certainly made our walls echo while they were here! We are immensely proud of each of them!

So here are our five:

Jerome Santamaria
Resident at Newman House 2004/2005

Jerome must have been the tallest resident of Newman House ever! He had some pretty neat dance moves, and a dry, sardonic humour which could at times be unnerving, and a natty line in hats! He certainly was a presence in the House. A lawyer by training and profession (he was in London for further studies) Jerome discerned his vocation and made his response while he was at Newman House.

Jerome is now studying for the priesthood at Corpus Christi College, Carlton, for the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Robert Colquhoun
Member of King's College Cathsoc until 2004; Received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church at Newman House, 2004

Robert is the odd man out here, because he was not resident at NH. He nevertheless has a connection with us because it was here he was received
into full communion with the Church. Robert had been an active member of the KCL Cathsoc, and under the guidance of Fr Tim Calvert OP, the then chaplain, he joined the Catholic Church. After a spell in the city, Robert joined the World Youth Alliance and was then sent for a "pre-seminary" year to the Royal English College, Valladolid.

Robert is now studying for the priesthood at Allen Hall, Chelsea, for the Archdiocese of Westminster.

Daniel Jeffries
Resident at Newman House 2002-2004

What can we say about Daniel? A person with a great sense of fun and deeply committed to his faith, he also had a fashion sense that made the rest of us gasp, heehee. There are lots of witty sayings from Daniel that continue to echo around the walls of NH - like the time he described the image of our Lady veiled for Holy Week: "She looks like our Lady of Afghanistan now!" Daniel arrived at NH with a clear sense of his vocation, which is now being actualised. He was President of KCL Cathsoc, and after NH moved to More House. He spent a year as a Dominican Volunteer in the Philippines before joining the noviciate of the Dominicans.

Daniel is now in formation with the Order of Preachers in Cambridge

David Wingfield
Resident at Newman House 2004/2005

David was received into the Catholic Church shortly before coming to NH. Very early on he was given the nickname "The Brigadier", which he relished! This reflected his very English sense of style and his general demeanour. Yes, David is a thoroughly English gentleman. After leaving NH David taught for a year, before being selected for training for the priesthood. A few posts below are some photos of David in Rome.

David is now studying for the priesthood at the Venerable English College, Rome, for the Archdiocese of Westminster

Ian Mannion
Resident at Newman House 2003-2006; Received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church at Newman House in 2004

Ian arrived at NH as an Anglican and left as a Benedictine postulant! Another renowned wit who had a great sense of fun alongside his deep commitment to his faith, Ian was an invaluable member of the community because he seemed to be at the heart of so much of what went on here. He certainly kept the Senior Chaplain on his toes! My famous early remark to Ian was: "I have three things planned for you: first, we are going to make you a Catholic, next we will get you ordained and then we will find you a job with the CDF!" This is because Ian is immensely intelligent with a razor sharp ability to analyse. His training is in biochemsitry, but he also has a great interest in languages (let's see, he speaks Italian, French, Danish, Icelandic, Greek, Hebrew, Latin ... did I miss any?) and is a very fine musician.

Ian is now a postulant at Ampleforth Abbey, Yorkshire

Please pray for our alumni in formation. And pray that there will be many who come after them.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ann Widdecombe speaks to UCL Cathsoc

Tory MP Ann Widdecombe visited Newman House on Thursday 23 November to address the UCL Cathsoc on "Faith and Politics". A large number of students gathered for the talk, which was a real tour de force by the veteran politician and famous convert to Catholicism. Miss Widdecombe spoke for about 20 minutes and then took questions from the floor. In all the meeting lasted about an hour and a half. Her engagement with us was very well received, being both humorous and serious.

See how far Newman House residents go......

While we were entertaining Cardinal Arinze in London, our former resident David Wingfield (2004/5) was mixing with even MORE prominent people! David is now a seminarian at the Venerable English College, Rome, and sent us the following pictures of a momentous day - when the Archbishop of Canterbury visited the Holy Father. Students from the VEC joined the Office of Midday Prayer in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace.

Spiffing, Brigadier!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Some Photos of the Academic Mass - Westminster Cathedral 19 November 2006

The Cardinal was very gracious in giving time to meeting people at the reception after the Mass. In the background, Fr Peter Wilson (Senior Chaplain); Sr Mary Kenifick (Chaplain at London Met); Stefan Grabowski (President of QM Cathsoc); Claire Hack (President of UCL Cathsoc); Sr Catherine Cruz (Chaplain at Westminster Uni) smiling behind Claire!
Seated for the Liturgy of the Word. The vimpa bearer (server) is Joe Matlak, past-President of KCL Cathsoc.
The Home Secretary, Mr John Reid, was at the Mass. Here he and the Cardinal exchange greetings
The student crowds throng the hall for the reception after the Mass
Bishop Alan Hopes and the priests are clearly enjoying the homily!
And a very good homily it was too! Go to our website ( for a copy. There's a link to it on the "Bulletin" page. Unfortunately, none of the really delightful stories and asides are in the text. That's really sad because many of them were hugely funny!
Chaplains and other priests concelebrating the Mass with His Eminence
Offering the Sacrifice.

"Ecce Sacerdos Magnus"

Monday, November 20, 2006

Academic Mass with Cardinal Arinze

A cardinal, a bishop, countless priests and hundreds and hundreds of students - not the image which normally springs to most peoples’ minds when they imagine a university chaplaincy. But London is a big place, with huge numbers of Catholic students from all corners of the globe, a sizeable number of whom filled Westminster Cathedral on Sunday 19th November for the 2006 Academic Mass.
We were honoured to welcome Cardinal Francis Arinze, Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, to celebrate Mass – himself an alumnus of the Institute of Education in London. Cardinal Arinze gave an inspiring homily with the message that by living a life inspired by our faith, we can become holy and fulfil our roles as Catholics in academic life, which he delivered with his customary wit and eloquence.
After Mass, the Cardinal took time to speak to students, and visited Newman House, the Central Catholic Chaplaincy, which celebrates its 40th anniversary since foundation this year. Fr Peter Wilson, Senior University Chaplain in the Diocese of Westminster said ‘It was wonderful that the Cardinal joined us for this celebration today, particularly since he is an alumnus of one of the institutions to which our chaplains minister.’

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Pilgrimage to Walsingham

Father Peter was downstairs by the office with the list of those that were going to Walsingham. Where is Vito? We don’t know. OK, let’s go…

The bus was waiting on the other side of the street. Half the bus was full of students from a place called Notre Dame, a Catholic university in the mid-West of America, a land that became a dream thanks to those immigrants who had the faith and courage to cross the ocean to build a new Christian life. Somehow, their sons were in the bus waiting for us students. We, the ones from Newman House, were different. All of us were from Old Europe. Benedikte and Vito were from the romantic and renaissance land of Italy, always singing even when the music is off; Ian Mannon (the supreme senior of the seniors and the supreme servant of the servants of Father Peter) was from the ex-empire called, Great Britain (I always asked myself why “Great”…) [It may be an ex-empire, but it was still bigger than yours. Ed.]; Stephan, alias “Mustafá”, a walking Russia when you see him; Alister got a new motto at the end of the trip… “Mafia” from Great Britain too (I’ll explain it another time); Simon, a another Briton, got a new shoes for the trip (we were impressed); and myself, another pilgrim looking for water in the middle of the desert. Spain was the country that gave me the opportunity to feel the toasted sand of the Christians, I thought: “I’m lucky to be with this people”.

But, we were not alone in this trip to Walsihgam. Four people touched by Christ were with us. Two amazing Irish souls were protecting our trip, two powerful smiles were there to take care, like mothers, of our necessities during the three days: Sister Brid and Sister Mary. They were the chilli of the trip without any doubt.

Lastly with the Newman House group and the Notre Dame group, two special people were with us, watching our Christian steps and faith. Father Brian and Father Peter. Father Peter was Father Peter but ten times more…we noticed from Newman House group how impressed the students from Notre Dame were. Asking about him…we, proud of him, were saying that he is like our Father in the house. They were silent in awe…

The feeling in the bus was incredible, especially when we saw Vito with seven Tesco bags full of food and saying to all of us: “Guys, Father Peter told me that we have to bring our food, otherwise we won’t eat during the weekend!”

When we got to Walsingham it was night and freezing, and we got to the Anglican hostel where we were staying for the weekend. The place is something similar, perhaps, to those places where the only feeling that comes to our minds is peace. There was a replica of Calvary…and there were many corners to pray and be in silence and in touch with God, especially during the night when the lights of the sacred place were making everything more special.

After a while we got our single rooms. Father Peter prepared our dinner in the main hall. I have never seen something more British then bread, cheese, chicken, chips and tea. Sister Brid and Sister Mary were happy. Vito, shocked, ran away to make his Italian panino. We had a good time eating all together. And after we broke the coffee pot to make sure that Newman House was in the Anglican place and after washing everything up, with Sister Brid watching behind, we went to the church to our first Mass in Walsingham. Father Peter and Father Brian concelebrated the Mass. It was a tiny place where old people were there to meet up our young souls. For the first time we saw the priest of Walsingham. Personally, it touched me when we read the Our Father and the Latin readings…and meanwhile his sick hand was shaking…I thought of John Paul II.

Afterwards we came home and we met the Notre Dame students to introduce ourselves in a big circle. It was an important time to get to meet everyone. However, the pub was waiting for all of us…a better place to know people and have a good laugh.

Next day was the big day. We wake up in the freezing morning, then said some prayers to give thanks to God, especially for the sunny days that we were having over the weekend, and then a big breakfast was waiting for us: beans, eggs, croissants, fruit, coffee, tea…we weren’t missing Newman House breakfast at all!

We were ready to walk and make Pilgrimage from Walsingham to the Shrine. Before we were ready to take the statue of Mary in our shoulders we all met in the main hall of the Anglican hostel, a place where you might even see Ian talking with two sisters.

Later on there was silence in the main hall and personal reflections to understand and feel the message of God.

Later on we walked down to the city to do the pilgrimage. We were all told that it is a tradition to walk the mile to the shrine without shoes. We thought that Simon would be happy about that. Also it was very important to walk the mile in silence. The feelings and thoughts that one can have when you see a landscape so beautiful as this are incredible.

We said some prayers during the mile’s walk and finally we got to the shrine at a small place in the middle of the British countryside

It was so cold and after we got to the place and before Mass we went to have a tea and scone in the bar. Sister Brid and Sister Mary were always laughing and making everybody happy.

After Confessions in the main church close to the shrine we had lunch and some free time. Time for a siesta and to read some books.

Later on we had the Rosary evening in the chapel of the Anglican hostel. After Father Brian’s explanation of what is understood by the Rosary and its significance and importance we prayed the Rosary. Finally for the foreigners it was the opportunity to learn by heart in English “Ave Maria” (Glory Maria?). It was a special moment, with everybody, Notre Dame and Newman House together, mixed. Father Brian reminded us that the prayer of the Rosary can be done anytime and anywhere…it brings peace.

Later on we went to the Pub in the village to have dinner. We waited more then 40 minutes before we had a table, and probably some other 15 minutes for the first bite.

Next day we went to the North Sea. It was freezing but the place was magic and peaceful. Afterwards we had Mass in the same place which is close to the shrine.

Finally we were on our way back to London. Our souls were clean and our faces had a smile of peace. It was Sunday and we were having chocolates and biscuits and sharing everything that we had; perhaps we were so happy to feel that we were from the same family. A Christian family.

Father Peter invited the Notre Dame students to come (watch this space) for a Sunday mass and afterwards a pizza (a speciality of the House).

Thank you!

Denis Criado