Monday, December 17, 2007

Retreat on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight—a perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of London life. Only a few weeks ago, I had the privilege to spend some time with a mix of retreat-goers from the University of Notre Dame and the Newman House.

Amid the flurry of deadlines, papers, and progress exams to partake in, the retreat wasn’t exactly situated at the most opportune time. It seemed ludicrous to take a break at this point in the term, especially when you’re being shoved around by London time, otherwise known as super-duper fast time. Before you know it, tomorrow is upon you. It’s like traveling on the Eurostar at the new St. Pancras station—before you know it, you’re in the heart of Paris. However, even with all the important tasks in my personal ‘To Do…’ list, I am grateful that I took the time out of my schedule to spend a weekend with some very beautiful people at the Verbum Dei Retreat Centre.

Our days at the retreat centre were filled with an eclectic blend of fun games and spiritual activities. There were times to bond with others and times to reflect upon our personal life. We even had the chance to view The Needles, located on the western coast of the Isle of Wight. Although the entire time at the Isle of Wight was memorable, I do have a number of personal favorites. They include: Saturday morning Mass, in which we were greeted with radiant sunshine allowing us a glimpse of the beauty and tranquility of the Isle’s countryside; saying the rosary in multiple tongues, which included Arabic, French, Spanish, Tagalog, Polish, and English; playing ‘Mafia’ and this ridiculously fun game called ‘Family’; and participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation led by Father Peter on Saturday evening.

However, the true beauty of the retreat lay in the idea that it prepared us for the Advent season. The retreat made you stop for a second to reexamine your life and to realize that the new Liturgical Year was imminent. Where am I in life? What will I do during this new year? Where is God present in my life now? These were just some of the questions that stemmed from the retreat. What began as a series of questions became an ongoing dialogue with the conscience.

In summary, the retreat was a true blessing that came at an opportune time. I cannot thank the Sisters of Verbum Dei enough for all that they did for our group. Not only did they welcome us with open hearts but really set the tone and the stage for the spiritual portion of the retreat. I must also send my love to the students of the University of Notre Dame. They were a great bunch. I will never forget their company, their insights, and of course, the fun games I learned from them. As I proceed in taking my seat in the high-speed train called ‘Life,’ I’ll be sure never to forget my first retreat at the Isle of Wight. I surely can’t wait until this train stops there again.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

At the beginning of Advent, from Cardinal Newman

What may be the destiny of other orders of beings we know not;—but this we know to be our own fearful lot, that before us lies a time when we must have the sight of our Maker and Lord face to face. We know not what is reserved for other beings; there may be some, which, knowing nothing of their Maker, are never to be brought before Him. For what we can tell, this may be the case with the brute creation. It may be the law of their nature that they should live and die, or live on an indefinite period, upon the very outskirts of His government, sustained by Him, but never permitted to know or approach Him. But this is not our case. We are destined to come before Him; nay, and to come before Him in judgment; and that on our first meeting; and that suddenly. We are not merely to be rewarded or {4} punished, we are to be judged. Recompense is to come upon our actions, not by a mere general provision or course of nature, as it does at present, but from the Lawgiver Himself in person. We have to stand before His righteous Presence, and that one by one. One by one we shall have to endure His holy and searching eye. At present we are in a world of shadows. What we see is not substantial. Suddenly it will be rent in twain and vanish away, and our Maker will appear. And then, I say, that first appearance will be nothing less than a personal intercourse between the Creator and every creature. He will look on us, while we look on Him.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Meditation from Cardinal Newman: Jesus, the Eternal King

On the Solemnity of Christ the King
OUR Lord was called Jesus, when He took flesh of the Blessed Virgin. The Angel Gabriel said to her, "Behold, thou shalt bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His Name Jesus." But, though He then gained a new name, He had existed from eternity; He never was not—He never had a beginning—and His true name, therefore, is the Eternal King. He ever reigned with His Father and the Holy Ghost, three Persons, one God. And hence, shortly before His crucifixion, He said, "Glorify Thou Me, O Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with Thee" (John xvii. 5). He Who was the Eternal King in heaven, came to be King, and Lord, and Lawgiver, and Judge upon earth. Hence the prophet Isaias says, foretelling His coming, A child is born to us, and a Son is given to us, and the government is upon His shoulder; and His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace" (Isaias ix. 6). And when He left the world, He left His power behind Him, and divided it among His followers. He gave one portion of His power to one, another to another. He gave the fulness of His power to St. Peter, and to his successors, who, in consequence, are His vicars and representatives—so that, as the Father sent the {191} Son, so the Son has sent St. Peter. But not only St. Peter and the other Apostles, but all bishops and prelates in Holy Church, all pastors of souls, all Christian kings have power from Him, and stand to us in His place.

Who is my religious neighbour? Islamic Cultural Centre Part I

At the end of October, a group of students, accompanied by Sister Mary and Sister Margarida, had paid a visit to a Shi’a Islamic Centre in Kilburn, North London.

Housed in a converted, grade II listed bingo hall, the Centre is a place of study and active worship serving the local Islamic community. Whilst the main hall serves as a mosque, there is also a library, seminar rooms, baths and dining area. In front of the building, one finds a fountain, symbolical of cleanliness and life. The idea of purity is a reoccurring theme in Islam, hence it was asked of us to take off our shoes. The interior of the praying area was lavishly decorated, with oriental carpets covering the floor, contrasting geometrical designs, tiles and woodwork. Simultaneously, there had been clear signs of the past uses of this venue. At the centre, there had been the pulpit, which in the past hosted served as the stage. Above which hung a turquoise title mosaic, verses from the Quran and the names of seven most prominent prophets.
The word ‘Islam’ derives from the verb to ‘submit, accept’ in Arabic; it literally means compliance to the volition of God. The Muslim faith puts a stronger emphasis on the unitary figure of God, a just protector, whose greatness reaches beyond human comprehension. The complete devotion to God is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, the foundations on which Muslims rest their beliefs in righteous worship.
Greeted by the Imam, we were given a talk on the principles of Islam - some excerpts from which will appear over the next week or so.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Community Life: An Alumnus Reflects

My name is Jerome Santamaria. I lived at Newman House during the 2004/5 academic year, while studying for a Masters of Law at UCL. I have many fond memories of my time there and, more importantly, many dear friends from that time. What I want to write about are a few things I learned about community and about oneself in community. I experienced these things at Newman House in various ways and I hope that, in sharing them, I can contribute to them continuing through others. The ideas are pretty basic; however, the challenge is not in understanding them, but in consistently applying them.

First: make others feel at home. When I came to London, I was in the fortunate position of having relatives who lived there. One cousin, in particular, made sure always to include me in activities. And since I did not desperately need to make other friends, I ended up making heaps more. This sense of security – the fact that I already had a friend – allowed me to be myself at Newman house and so the friendships I formed were lasting ones because they were based on the real me. So, give people the space and attention to be themselves and you will be rewarded with rich friendships.

Second, and related to the first: if you have something nice to say, say it. Everyone has heard their mother say: if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Well, the opposite is true, too. If something good about someone else occurs to you, make sure you tell them, even if…especially if you normally cannot stand them. Too many times, people keep such thoughts to themselves, afraid that in complimenting someone else, they make themselves look less cool. Forget it – you will make their day. Moreover, in many cases, you will open that person’s eyes to something about themselves that they never guessed. It is amazing how we can often see things in others that they cannot see in themselves. For example, on my first day at Newman House, in my interview, Fr Peter asked me if I had ever thought about becoming a priest. It had not occurred to me. I am now in my second year at the seminary. Of course, it does not need to be this drastic – a simple congratulations after a presentation, or an interested question following a comment in the tv room can brighten someone’s day. That person then realises that someone else thinks they have something to offer. Their world will grow a little more.

Third, and again related to the previous two: use your struggles as information about others. The first time I went overseas as a student, my dad gave me a great piece of advice. He said, “You will feel homesick at some stage. The best thing you can do is to let it remind you that the person next to you is probably feeling the same. So, look after them.” If you follow this advice and turn to help others when you are in need of help yourself, then you will find many times that your vulnerabilities in fact become strengths. You will know how to help people because you know what it feels like. Of course, it is hard to do this, but it is amazing how it helps in all sorts of ways – in making friends, in realising more about yourself and in deepening existing friendships. Also, never assume someone does not need help. If you think they might or you are not sure, volunteer yourself: the worst that can happen is that they will realise you care about them and that’s not a bad result.

Finally, I wanted to say something about why I found Newman House such a great community. Not only were people supportive in the ways described above, but there were so many different ways to learn about yourself through others. There are any number of different cultures to explore, interests to share, discussion groups to join, parties to attend, extended lunches (and their accompanying conversations – I recommend SOAS coffee and pasties) to enjoy and dance-offs to win (game over, Liz!). Most importantly, there were countless people to get to know.

And don’t underestimate the Catholic culture – the vigils, the Mass, morning and evening prayer, coffee after Mass, societies – behind this atmosphere. You may think that it can happen anywhere and theoretically it should be possible anywhere. But it does not seem to be that way.

If you allow it to do so, Newman House can teach you what a community should feel like. And for that, I will always be grateful.

The Houses Compete!

A week before mutiny broke out amongst the residents of Newman House, there arrived in our pigeon holes a Newman House scroll (Hogwart's style) dropped off by our house elf, Dave. We had all been invited to a party where Bourne, Manning, Wiseman and Heenan Houses were to go head to head in a battle of wits, physical stamina and.... musical chairs. It was a retro party taking students back to their pre-school years, however the immature nature of the games certainly didn't affect our competitive streak (especially among the boys)! We all had a great time. A big thanks to all the organisers!

The Old Masters Revisited

Keith treated us all to some classical pieces of art work that he and his father had produced. The evening kicked off at 8:30pm, and with the kind help of students from Manning House, wine tasting and dilectable nibbles were on offer. Both Newman House residents and others gathered in the dining room where Keith had hung the paintings and sketches on the walls for everyone to enjoy. There was a strong turnout and we all had a very cultured evening, especially the wine tasting!

The Last Supper followed by the Good News

Senior students on wednesday spent hours toiling over hot stoves to prepare a three course meal for the students of Newman House. The students took their seats and were waited on throughout the evening. After the starters, Fr peter gave us all some good news. We were all delighted to hear that the kitchens would not be completly closed down as had been originally feared. After the main course we had the opportunity to take part in adoration and benediction in the chapel before continuing our meal. We regrouped in the dining room for our deserts and enjoyed a lively evening of fun, feasting and frolics!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Thought for the week from Cardinal Newman

All Saints
And such a host was also seen by the favoured Apostle, as described in the chapter from which the Epistle of the day is taken. "I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands ... These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." [Rev. vii. 9, 14.]

This great multitude, which no man could number, is gathered into this one day's commemoration, the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, the noble army of Martyrs, the Children of the Holy Church Universal, who have rested from their labours.

Busy week ahead!

There is lots going on in and around Newman House during this coming week or so. Here goes:

CathSoc - Rabbi Burden: Shabat, 7.30pm


Interfaith: Visit to the Islamic Centre of England. Sign up opposite reception, or contact Sr Mary.


All Saints’ Day: Holyday of Obligation
Mass 12.30, 5.30 (sung) & 9pm


All Souls’ Day
Mass 12.30, 5.30 (sung) & 9pm


All Night Vigil
9pm – 7.30am

Sunday 4th Nov
Br Paul from the Taizé Community, 12noon

Weds 7th Nov
Interfaith: Synagogue Visit, St John’s Wood. For more details please contact Sr Mary.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pope's Representative Visits Newman House

His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Faustino Sainz Muñoz, presided over a celebration of Vespers at Newman House Chaplaincy (111 Gower Street) on Wednesday 24th October. Bishops Alan Hopes and Bernard Longley were also in attendance.

After Vespers there was an opportunity for a number of the students to meet with the Nuncio. This was followed by a very festive dinner attended by most of the former Senior Chaplains since the House was bought by Cardinal Heenan in 1966.

This event marks the end of a series of celebrations to mark the 40th Anniversary Year. The Celebrations began in November 2006 with the visit of Cardinal Francis Arinze to celebrate the Academic Mass

A wonderful time was had by all, and we were delighted to welcome the Nuncio, the Bishops and the former Senior Chaplains to be with us.

(from left to right: Canon Patrick Davies,
Fr David Barnes, Bishop Alan Hopes, Mgr James Overton, H.E. The Papal Nuncio, Bishop Bernard Longley, Fr Peter Wilson, and Mr Bruce Kent).

Since 1966 the Senior Chaplains have been:

Bruce Kent 1966-74
Francis Hegarty 1974 - 1980 (deceased)
Patrick Davies 1980-87
David Barnes 1987-92
James Overton 1992-1998
Jeremy Fairhead 1998-2002
Peter Wilson 2002 -

Friday, October 19, 2007

CathSoc Seeks 'The Heart Of The Church'.

Monday Night's CathSoc featured a talk on 'The Heart of the Church'. Sister Kathy was our guest and talked about the importance of the Virgin Mary in the history and current period in the Roman Catholic Church. She illustrated the role she has played and still plays in uniting different 'opinions' and 'outlooks', and thus helping to hold Roman Catholics together. Sister Kathy then invited questions.... a brave move in CathSoc! There was a real sense of students asking questions thoughtfully and honestly, with well considered queries that had arisen as a result of the talk. Sister Kathy made sure all those who had their hands up were heard and then gave other students the opportunity to respond to one another, as well as answering them herself. After the discussion, Gideon gave a vote of thanks and Ellie presented Sister Kathy with a small gift on behalf of CathSoc to show our appreciation. We then had coffee and a chat, made all the more enjoyable by another strong turnout for the event. Students then finished their time together with Evening Prayer in the chapel. A great way to end another sucessful Monday at Cathsoc! You are all welcome to join us in Newman House for CathSoc on Monday's at 7.30pm, so do come along!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Images From Fresher's Mass

A Full House For Fresher's Mass.

On Sunday morning a packed chapel eagerly awaited the arrival Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor for Fresher's Mass. Only early arrivals found a seat and as Mass began a queue had formed spilling out into the corridor. The Cardinal invited those standing outside to come in and sit on the floor, and a long stream of students came through the chapel door and found some floor space. The Cardinal spoke about the importance of our student lives and focussed on how we should take time to be with God throughout the academic year to grow deeper in ourselves. In response to the question he had heard posed by the BBC series 'Who Do You Think You Are?', he reminded us that we must remember we are people known and loved by God. He then commissioned our chaplains for their work over the coming year. After Mass he congratulated the choir and all students for their singing and enthusiasm in worship. He then joined with Newman House residents and visitors to talk with them over a coffee. There was also pizza being handed around to everyone, although, I didn't see the Cardinal with a slice!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Thought for the week from Cardinal Newman

Break a ray of light into its constituent colours, each is beautiful, each may be enjoyed; attempt to unite them, and perhaps you produce only a dirty white. The pure and indivisible Light is seen only by the blessed inhabitants of heaven; here we have but such faint reflections of it as its diffraction supplies; but they are sufficient for faith and devotion.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

United Nations...International Night.

From top: Karen serves up, Father Peter pours out and Erica and Laure look likely to tuck in!
The flags of the world, the people of the world and perhaps most importantly the food of the world! If you'd walked along Gower Street on Friday evening you'd be forgiven for mistaking the basement of Newman House as a conference centre for the latest talks on resolution 441 to help combat climate change.
As it happened, it was in fact the Newman House residents enjoying food and friendship for 'International Night'. Nearly the whole house turned up to enjoy the event. There was food for all, as each resident cooked their own cultural and national dishes for eachother to enjoy. As well as displaying culinary delights, the evening also gave the opportunity for everyone to wear their national dress, and many residents were only to willing to display their traditional costumes. From kilts to stillettos and tweed to pearls. There was a truly international flavour to the whole night. And best of all was the opportunity everyone had to meet new people and make new friends. Another successful night provided by everyone and for everyone!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Cath Soc Meet Again.

After a brilliant first week 'meet and greet' for CathSoc, many students returned for a 'pub quiz' on Monday night, hosted by Ellie Kirby (president). The theme was of a religious nature and everyone appeared to enjoy the evening. Particularly 'Team St Marcel' who emerged victorious! Sister Mary also spoke to us all after the quiz and then we finished the event with Evening Prayer in the chapel. There's lots going on at CathSoc throughout the term and you're all welcome, so do come along and make friends.

Our House Performers.

The talented trio, from left to right; Monika (piano), Erika (vocals) and Keith (violin).

A big 'Congratulations' to Erika, Keith and Monika, who took to the stage on Wednesday evening to display their musical talents. All three performed to a large crowd in the heart of Covent Garden at the Club for Acts and Actors. Many Newman House residents went along to support them and certainly did not leave disappointed! We arrived for drinks at the bar and then went downstairs to take our seats for the performance. To kick off, Erika sang Ave Maria and Handel's O had I Jubal's Lyre. These were followed by Keith on violin, with Serenade, Cantabile and Estrellita. Finally Monika treated us all to some Chopin and Brahms, and even the classic English Country Garden. Erika and Monika closed the concert with Lloyd Webber's Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera. They performed so professionally and confidently, each giving so much expression to the pieces they played and sang. The end of the concert was met with huge applause and cheers, a sign of how well they all did. A great evening!

The 'New'-Newman House blogger.

Dear all visitors,

I am Christopher Stringer and will be responsible for updating this website with the latest news and events taking place in Newman House. If you would like to contribute something or have any suggestions please let me know (Room 215).
I hope you find this blog a useful source to help you know what's been going on. It would be nice to see the blog working as an opportunity for all those interested to make a contribution. So, please add your posts.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Spring 1974

A little more nostalgia before we move into the new Year.

This picture shows residents of the Chaplaincy in January 1974. Do you recognise any of these faces? If you do, add a comment, or send us an email to

Friday, June 29, 2007

‘When in Rome…’ Eyes and Ears in the Eternal City

The first in an occasional series from one of our Alumni who is in formation at the English College in Rome.
It has now been nearly a year since starting seminary formation at the Venerable English College, Rome, and now is perhaps a good time to pause a bit and reflect on it all. It is said that John Paul II encouraged seminarians to ‘learn Rome’, during their time here. Indeed, to take him at his word, the past year has opened my eyes and ears to a city which cradles a profound and remarkable amalgamation of faith and culture, something not apparent during previous, more or less fleeting visits, and which has some rather interesting consequences.

What is there to learn, then? Lived prayer, primarily: prayer not simply as an action, but also as an attitude towards daily life. The growth of these two branches of prayer has led to some interesting implications, namely, due to the nuanced blend of faith and culture in Rome, one can be walking down the street, see a wonderful sculpture or piece of architecture, or hear some startling music, and somehow, it becomes substance for prayer. I don’t mean this in a literal sense; I don’t find myself praying for Michelangelo or the Trevi Fountain for instance! I mean that seeing or hearing something beautiful on a human level may act as a sort of skylight onto the Triune God, if, indeed, one has the eyes to see it and ears to hear it. At prayer, the memory of these little aesthetic signs enables prayer to be somehow more incarnational as all those material things of daily life, both the beautiful and the ugly, are not simply put to one side in order to make way for something more pure and spiritual, but are caught up in the dramatic process of offering up everything to the mystery of God, which at heart, I suppose, is what priestly vocation is all about. For me, this has been an experience specific to Roman life, although, of course, this need not be the case at all; inspiration being more or less readily available wherever one cares to look. However, I wonder if this captures something of what John Paul II meant when he encouraged seminarians to ‘learn Rome’.
David Wingfield was a member of the community at Newman House during the Academic Year 2004-5.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Summertime...and some memories

The summer months are an odd time at Newman House. Many of our friends who have been here for the Academic Year have moved on, and we are preparing for the new batch in September. It's probably wise to point out that posting to the blog has dropped off a little, and between now and September there will still be occasional postings, but they will be less regular for the moment.
If you're an alumnus and would like to contribute some memories, please get in touch with us at
However, here's a piece by Sue Lyons, who lived here during the year 1967-8. Our thanks to her for putting these memories together.
Any memories I have of the Chaplaincy must start in the library, a dozen people studying quietly in the pools of light coast by the table lamps, Pete in one of the comfy chairs in the middle, just “resting his eyes”, book on the floor beside him, until the murmur goes round, “drinks in the bar?”, “coffee’s brewing in room ….” And the library is deserted.

My overwhelming feeling when I think of my time at 111 is the sense of community and support. As a non-catholic I was slightly taken aback in the first week, when Max appeared at my room to recruit me as a member of Cathsoc. I think he was more embarrassed than I was at trying to recruit the ‘heathens’ and beat a hasty retreat. I nevertheless participated in most parts of life at 111, drinks in the bar, the Sunday night dances, folk singing, talks, and even including the occasional attendance at Mass. I will always the have warmest admiration and affection for the wonderful team of priests and nuns who were always available to support and encourage those in need, especially the bottle of whisky that came out of the Bruce’s office drawer. That of course was only for a real crisis!

I do recall other occasions when staff rose magnificently to the occasion, Bruce Kent appearing clad in pyjamas to rescue a group of revellers, stuck in the lift, desperate after a couple of hours spent consuming beer in the bar. My time at the Chaplaincy also seems to include some distinctly watery episodes: an unexpected shower, whilst trying to revise quietly on the roof on the annexe – may you be forgiven, you perpetrators of the dastardly deed; an even wetter occasion, an unexpected bath inflicted upon me by my “friends” – well, what if I had woken one of them brutally at around 6 am with a glass of water splashed gently over his face, in response to a dare; Sister Reggie, queen of the kitchen sweetly requesting that the culprits mop up the bathroom and hall floor.

I end where I started, creeping in late at night past the library, peeping in at the night owls completing last-minute assignments in the pools of light from the table lamps on my way to bed……

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chaplaincy History part II: Reflections on the Early Years.

A second excerpt from the writings of E.A. Weldon on some of the life of the Chaplaincy in its first years:

Members of L.S.E..whom I have succeeded in contacting. must have been a lively group in the thirties: they speak with deep affection of Fr. Day, chaplain also to a convent whither he invited them to escape from the hurly-burly (so we then thought it!) of London. Dr. Mathew greatly valued this priest and was grateful for his continuance as chaplain till his death.

Evening meetings and lectures from a galaxy of distinguished lecturers. Catholic and Anglican, were eagerly attended: Chesterton, Belloc, Lord Russell of Killowen, Christopher Dawson, Prof. Edmund Gardner, Frs. G. Vann, Vincent McNabb and Hugh Pope. Mgr. Barnes, Maisie Ward. Dr. Laetitia Fairfield, Ernest Oldmeadow (of the Tablet), Douglas Woodruff (later its Editor also), Richard O’Sullivan (later Q.C.), Dr. Walter Seton (Secretary of U.C.L. and Anglo-Catholic authority on St. Francis) and Dr. R. W. Chambers are but a few.

These small societies rallied to Dr. F. A. Aveling, Reader in Psychology to the University and chaplain 1923-25. They had already experienced the encouragement of Fr. C. C. Martindale, SI. who had been working since the early twenties for the federation of such groups from all British universities. With increase in numbers graduate groups with different hours and more precise aims than the students, had been springing up—the London one (U.L. Graduate Section) in 1931. Miss A. Christich. B.A.Lond, claimed not only the distinction of being the first member of the Grad. Section, but also that of being the first woman journalist to report by plane!

Canon Tynan, Rector of St. John’s, Duncan Terrace, succeeded Dr. Aveling (as “locum tenens”) and an annual dinner established before the 1914-18 war fostered good relations with the university authorities, of which many distinguished members attended. In London, as elsewhere, it became more clearly apparent that our aims must be, not only to foster knowledge of the Faith in our own ranks, but to establish the value and quality of Catholic learning and scholarship in the academic world. This had obviously to be largely the work of the graduate laity in their professional fields, and the success achieved can be gauged by present-day interest in what Catholics have to say. The U.L. Grad. Section, to whom the Aquinas Society gave invaluable help, made the organisation of a series of annual Public University lectures from speakers of British or Continental reputation, one of their particular duties, and maintained it till after the second war.
Relations with Anglican Chaplains
Cordial clerical relations and mutual support in a common aim [were] strong in 1968, but must have existed long before, since the Rev. Leslie Simmons, M.A. (of 6 Margaret St., W.l) was interested in this branch of the Ministry as early as 1908. In “The Church in a secular university” (report of the Anglican Chaplaincy 1949-66) the work of the Rev. Cecil Clarke (Vicar of Christ Church. Woburn Square) is recorded, especially in the matter of establishing a centre. “His inspiration was undoubtedly the R.C. Chaplaincy which had begun in a house in Woburn Square before the war, under the leadership of Dr. Mathew and Fr. Vernon Johnson. It is odd to reflect that much friendly advice about how to set about the task of a Chaplaincy in a University like London, was received from Dr. Mathew, and was based on Roman Catholics’ experience in the University”.

By the late 1960's the Anglican Chaplain was a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission for R.C. relations, and there were joint conferences and discussions between London graduate groups and the William Temple Association. The Chaplains’ work was by then centred at the Church of Christ the King. Gordon Square, leased from the Catholic Apostolic Church. The happy relations between the two chaplaincies were developed and enhanced by Prebendary Gordon Phillips. the Senior Anglican Chaplain, who now in 1968 after thirteen years leaves London on his promotion to be Dean of Llandaff Cathedral
Coming soon...the War years.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Being a University Chaplain

What is a Chaplain? And what do they do? You may well ask: I once had a very confused Norwegian girl, with her English-Norwegian Dictionary in hand, convinced that I couldn’t be Catholic as her dictionary assured her that ‘Chaplain’ means ‘Priest’…another identity issue comes up when the caretaker at one of the London Campuses always spells it as ‘Chaplin’!

A bit of background: Catholic University Chaplains are pretty much always employed by the Diocese to work in the Universities, so we are not actually University employees, which confuses people. The University authorities seem to sometimes welcome, sometimes tolerate our presence, sometimes just not notice at all that we are around! Although recently as the issues of religious belief are becoming more centre stage they seem to value having some ‘experts’ around.

I am employed by Diocese of Westminster under the umbrella of the Catholic Chaplaincy to the Universities of London. I have been assigned as Catholic Chaplain to 4 specific institutions: the University of Westminster and 3 smaller specialist institutions within the University of London, the Institute of Education, the London School of Pharmacy and the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Also I form part of the pastoral team of Newman House which is a Catholic Student residence which houses about sixty students.

As you might imagine what I actually do is incredibly varied. At the beginning of the year there’s a lot of welcoming of new students, speaking at inductions and sitting at stalls at fresher’s fairs, helping to connect especially overseas students with church life in England (recently a Ugandan student told me that she’d been assured that there were no Catholic Churches in England!). Then everything from meeting students who seek me out to talk about some particular issue, organising some ecumenical or even interfaith activities with the other Chaplains, running a sharing-discussion group with students at Newman House, drinking quite a few cups of tea…and sending lots of emails. One of my favourite things has been to organise Mass at some of the campuses: to transform a classroom for an hour into a place of prayer where Jesus is actually present, is really quite special and I think very meaningful for the staff and students to see that God is really interested and part of their life at University. Recently we had Mass at the Institute of Education, in a room which had huge windows and as it was evening the priest in his vestments was very visible and we could see people in the hotel over the road staring at us!

One way of describing what I do, is trying to be God’s opportunity in places where people are not necessarily expecting to find him… trying to bring people together to express and explore their faith. And as a Verbum Dei Missionary, trying to be God’s opportunity to speak a word of hope and encouragement, where people are often feeling stressed and also a bit lost in a big institution.

Thanks very much for reading this and please pray for me in this work!

Sr Catherine Cruz fmvd is the Catholic Chaplaincy to the University of Westminster, Institute of Education, School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and the School of Pharmacy. She also works in close collaboration with Fr Joseph Evans to gather the 'Bloomsbury Catholic Students' for Mass once a month (this includes many of the smaller institutions of the University of London, other than UCL and SOAS).

Friday, May 18, 2007

UCL CathSoc: A Year in Review

When I began my tenure as the Cath Soc president in the summer of 2006, I must admit, I didn’t quite know what was I letting myself in for. The previous president had taken a fairly relaxed approach to things and many of the meetings had taken the form of informal discussion. While this approach had been successful for those already acquainted with the society, it hadn’t really attracted many new members and the size of the group remained much as it had been the year before, if not a little smaller. Ed Bennett (last year’s treasurer) and I decided between us, therefore, that some changes ought to be made.

We’d spent the summer chasing various eminent Catholic figures, emailing them and badgering their personal assistants until they were quite sick of us in an attempt to garner some interesting speakers for the upcoming year. Without high expectations or much hope of success, we’d reckoned on maybe having a speaker to come in every two or three weeks, filling the rest of the time with debate and discussion on topics relevant to Catholics students today. But to our surprise and delight, almost all of the people we contacted replied with confirmation that they would be able to come.

The next step was to set dates for all of them – a tricky business as many of the speakers couldn’t confirm until later in the year and as Ed and I accidentally double booked on more than one occasion. Once that was settled, and all the bureaucratic mess had been untangled, we began the new academic year at the Freshers’ Fayre, proclaiming our superiority to the Christian Union (who were only a couple of stalls away and looked more than a little disgruntled – but hey, no one said the truth was easy), our pride in being “papist scum” and attracting many a slightly scared looking first year with promises of insightful discussion, excellent speakers and cheap booze.

On the 9th of October, we welcomed our first speaker, Ian Linden, a professor in the department of religion at SOAS, who spoke to us on “Mission and Daw’a.” For a few tense minutes, as the official start time of the meeting came and went, Ed and I worried that no one would come. But, at around 7.40pm, we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by around fifty people, some of whom were forced to sit on the floor and even in the corridor in order to participate in the meeting. By 9.30pm, after the first night prayer of the term, when everyone had gathered downstairs in the bar, it was settled – the first meeting was a success.

The rest of the term included such luminaries as Clare Asquith who spoke to us on Shakespeare and Catholicism, and the Rt Rev. Dom Aidan Bellenger, abbot of Downside Abbey, who spoke on Catholicism and History. The highlight, however, was perhaps securing Ann Widdecombe MP to come and speak to us in late November on her life as a Catholic in politics, which attracted nearly a hundred people to the chaplaincy that night. The discussion was heated to say the least and I doubt I’ll ever meet such an intimidating individual again – an undeniably memorable evening!

The spring term saw us continuing in affiliation to the union with over fifty people forking over their £2 to become official members of the society. Attendance, however, tailed off a bit, but the society, though reduced in numbers, soon became a core group of friends and peers, providing plenty of interesting discussion and none too few differences in opinion. With speakers ranging from Fr. Aidan Nichols OP, renowned theologian and papal scholar, to Anthony Ozimic, a pro-life activist from the SPUC, to Crossbeam, an evangelical Catholic rock band, we certainly weren’t short of diversity and the second term proved, in its own way, to be just as successful as the first.

At the AGM in February, (which, for reasons many of you are probably already aware of, Ed and I scrupulously documented) we welcomed in Ellie Kirby as the new president, Charles Gallaher as the new treasurer, Liz O’Nions as the new social secretary and Chris Morillon as committee member in charge of five-a-side football – perhaps the largest committee the society has seen in quite some time. We then ended the evening with a social gathering at Nando’s in Bloomsbury, followed by a visit to the Renoir cinema to see the documentary film on life at a Carthusian monastery, Into Great Silence, rendering it both spiritually and gastronomically fulfilling.

This year has certainly been interesting and I’ve had some experiences I won’t forget in a hurry. It’s also proved to be a real bolster to my faith and to Ed’s, as he was received into the Catholic church at Easter, marking perhaps the year’s greatest success story. I won’t deny that it’s been difficult at times and that there’ve been a fair few headaches along the way, but I can sincerely say that it’s been one of the most gratifying experiences I’ve ever had and I can only hope that this year’s committee will find it as fun and rewarding as I have – good luck and God bless, guys!

Claire (right) deep in meaningful discussion with her successor, Ellie Kirby.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A resident reflects...

Well, we've had lots of reminiscences from Alumni, but here is a reflection from one of our current residents on life in Newman House.
"I Think I’ve Just Seen Jesus in My Morning Muesli"
That Saturday Morning the sun seemed ridiculously bright and obnoxious. Perhaps the fact that it had proved impossible to sleep on the plane and that I was hideously jetlagged had something to do with it. That, or maybe because I was lugging my life behind me in the form of three impossibly-heavy, incredibly bulk pieces of matching, moss-green luggage. As I struggled along the pavement blinking futilely against the incessant sunshine, I carefully repeated the address that would be my home for a year: 111 Gower Street.

Eight months later, that day seems like a lifetime ago. The initial apprehension that I harboured that Newman House would be a religious mental institution melted away as soon as I met my fellow residents. Here I found fellow Catholics (and a few non-Catholics, too!) who were just as normal as I. Only they were unique in two respects: everyone was all uncommonly kind and friendly and all held a desire to develop a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God. In the words of one visitor to the House, I had stumbled upon, “a Catholic oasis in the middle of London.”

After slathering black current jam onto countless lightly-toasted slices of bread in the breakfast room, praying during adoration in the chapel, or extinguishing the flames of “well done” steaks in the kitchen, an amazing camaraderie developed. Oftentimes such situations have borne intellectually provoking religious discussions. The fruit of such conversations and the unassuming examples given by fellow students to one another has encouraged all residents to seek closer communion with the Lord. This phenomenon has proven to be one of the most precious aspects of life in Newman House.

While I may not have witnessed any religious apparitions while staying at Newman House, living across the street from Charles Darwin’s former residence, has been an amazing experience for me. Not only have I grown in my faith, but I have made friends with incredible people and have shared extraordinary experiences that I will look back on fondly for years to come. When that day arrives when I will once again be seen trudging along the London pavement unsuccessfully dragging my now heavier moss-green suitcases behind me on my way to my next adventure, I predict that my vision will once again be blurred; but, it will not be due to the sun shining in my eyes.
Claire Popovich

Monday, May 14, 2007

A CPI’er in Newman House

Hi, my name is Kevin Regan. I am on the 2006-07 Catholic Parliamentary Internship programme. The internship involves working for an MP in Westminster, studying Christian Social Ethics at Heythrop College and living at Newman House. This year I have been working for Nigel Waterson who is MP for Eastbourne. Nigel is also Shadow Pensions Minister and Shadow Minister for Older People.

In terms of work, in the morning I run my MP’s office, opening his post, checking his emails, organising his dairy, and keeping on top of what the newspapers are saying. In the afternoon I then get stuck into more detailed research.

Just a few of the highlights have been meeting the Prime Minister on my second day, seeing the weird and wonderful aspects of the Conservatives at the Party Conference, having tea with Des Browne, working on the Conservative Pensions Bill 2006 team, writing speeches and articles, and representing Nigel at events and engagements in his absence.

Every Monday has been our MA Class in Ethics at Heythrop College, in our first term we looked ‘Principles in Christian Ethics’, in our second term we studied ‘Ethical Issues Today’. It made Mondays really long days but it’s been worth the effort.

At Newman House, it’s been a fantastic year, there has been at least one big party each term, International Night (My contribution was glasses of Guinness), the Christmas meal and party, the Casino Night. There have also been other things going on such as the Academic Mass as Westminster Cathedral and talks by Ann Widdecombe and Baroness Cox.

My house duty was looking after Eucharist Adoration Vigil. This included twisting peoples arm to sign up for watching, getting other students to play music, and cooking a fry up for everyone when it had finished. I did set fire to the sausages and set the fire alarm off at 7 in the morning, but other than that it all went well!

There has also been a gang of us who’d go out for a drink, watch films, sport or TV together and there has also been time to show other Newman’iites around Parliament.

I’ve loved living at Newman House, it’s been great to come home to a relaxed and happy environment after long (sometimes stressful) days in Parliament. I’ve made loads of friends and know I’ll be seeing more of them next year.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Alumni: The Accidental House Guest

As we continue our stroll down memory lane, here is the story of a young man who found himself quite unexpectedly being housed at 111 Gower Street back in the fall of 1988.

I arrived on my first trip abroad to attend an exchange program at the City University. Upon my arrival I was informed the student housing at my University was full and I would be staying at another place. A bit upset at being told this news only after I had flown overseas I took the address, crumpled it into my pocket, grabbed my meagre belongings and headed out to find my home for the semester. The address: 111 Gower Street.

I was more than a little shocked and (I’m sad to say now) put off when I arrived and found the house was actually the Catholic Chaplaincy. As my feet landed on the steps I thought my semester of fun and partying overseas was shot right there. And faith? I hadn’t attended the Episcopal Church (or any for that matter) in a long time and was not too comfortable being here.

The building itself was covered from roof to basement in scaffolding, completely under renovation. I would soon find out how true this was as I was often awakened in the early morning to the sound of work crews hauling buckets up to the roof. I had little option but to take showers in bathrooms where the electricity had been cut and I was forced to bathe in almost complete darkness. Not every day, but often enough for a flashlight and batteries to become a regular shower companion for some time.

Of course, now looking back, I think someone above had a plan for me. But isn’t that how every journey is? We often cannot see the journey we are taking forward until we look in our rear view mirror and see where we have been.

I discovered 111 Gower Street was actually a place full of lively personalities from all over the world, wonderful people and the seeds of memories and faith which make me part of who I am today. I never felt forced to participate in anything. I did however engage in lively chats and in depth conversations with as many people in the house as possible and discovered an amazing chain of connection between all who wandered through the front doors.

I could not have found a better place to spend my time in London and thus started truly opening my heart to experiences in the world to let anything different be a moment to be savoured and taken as part of this big adventure we are all on.

I now know I was on only a part of my faith journey at that time. A part which slowly allowed me to realize what everything in my life was pointing to all the time. My belief in God was strong and always with me, I just didn’t know who to share it with. Two years ago I became Catholic after attending the RCIA program in Woodbridge, Virginia. My faith journey will continue.

I share this because the other day I was thinking of all the people I met at Newman House and often wish I could thank them in person for the good times and warm hospitality which was a part of bringing me to where my life is today.

Brad Engborg, Resident 1988-9

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Prayer before exams

This prayer by St Thomas Aquinas may be especially helpful round about this time, ;)

Ante Studium

Creator of all things, True source of light and wisdom, Origin of all beings, Graciously let a ray of your light Penetrate into the darkness Of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness In which I have been born, An obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding, A retentive memory, And the ability to grasp things Correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent Of being exact in my explanations And the ability to express myself With thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning, Direct the progress, And help the completion. I ask this through Christ, Our Lord.


Chaplaincy History: Part I - 1908-1934

Several people have attempted to write histories of the Chaplaincy over the years. Two editions made it into print, and cover aspects of the life early life of the Chaplaincy community, and of what is now known as Newman House, during the first twenty years of its existence as a chaplaincy centre. For those attempting to piece together a picture of life here in those years, we are aided by a wealth of scrapbook material, with photographs, articles, copies of termcards and programmes, and even a substantial report on ‘opinions of Catholic students’. Over the coming months, we will post some of this information, and invite our readers to contribute their own materials.

To begin with, here is the opening of the first of the two booklets published, by E.A. Weldon in October 1968. This looks back to the beginnings of Chaplaincy work with students and staff

University Chaplaincy from 1908-1934
The University of London Catholic Society was founded in 1908 by Canon Driscoll and Miss Forsater of King’s College. For many years Hilaire Belloc was president, following in 1933 by Douglas Woodruff. Catholic Societies, linked to the ULCS, existed at a number of individual colleges.

The London Catholic Chaplaincy began its existence in 1934 when the Cardinal Bourne (Archbishop of Westminster) announced his appointment of Dr David Mathew (later Archbishop of Apamea) as the first full-time resident chaplain to the Catholics in the University of London: staff and students. This robbed the Cathedral of St. David in Cardiff of a curate, and the University College in that city of a chaplain to its Catholics. Dr. Mathew took up residence at No 1 Woburn Square, WC1.

It was something of a coming-of-age for the groups scattered in colleges, to be gathered, as Catholic academics, round a central chaplaincy. Dr. Mathew found the University of London Catholic Association (ULCA) “in full activity in all the Central London Colleges”. It had been founded in 1908 by Miss E. L. B. Forster leading the group at King’s College, and supported by the late Canon Driscoll, then Headmaster of the Cardinal Vaughan School. A succession of “Cat. Socs.” had joined. Mr. Francis O’Brien Donaghy and Miss Monica Grobel recall an active Society (founded in 1919-23) at University College. East London College (which became Queen Mary College on receiving its charter in 1935) did not lack a spirited Catholic Society. Sister Mary Bernardine, O.S.U. recalls a “popular group of men” from the Cardinal Vaughan School, active in debates; but the group dated from the First War years and may have drawn from Franciscan and Ursuline sources in that area, for Fr. Alphonsus Bonnar, O.F.M. records (May 30th. 1931) a request from it that he should act as Director. His acceptance was approved by all higher authorities, and he carried on under Dr. Mathew till reasons of health necessitated his withdrawal. In 1934 the then Monsignor Montini, on a visit to London. “had a long conversation with me” he writes, “about work among university students”

Memories: Alumni

Over the past 40 years Newman House has been home to a large number of students from around the world. Today, it is usual to have residents from over 20 countries resident for a full year at a time.

We are always very happy to welcome former residents when they pop by for a visit, sometimes just for a quick look around, at other times joining us for Mass. We always try to invite visitors to put together a few short memories that we can share with those who are interested; some do, and here are a few nuggets we have received recently:

The Chaplaincy was opened by Bruce Kent in 1966, and was not initially welcomed
by the CathSoc members. I was chair at that time, and we, the committee, arrived back in the Autumn term to find we had moved from St Patrick’s in Soho Square to this new premises, and had acquired a new chaplain. We were cross that we had neither been informed nor consulted, but quickly settled down to life in a more purpose-built premises (student hostel with lots of social rooms and, importantly, a bar! Since the previous centre had been a regular parish, and our social rooms had been in the parish school across Soho Square, this was clearly better.

The Gower Street chaplaincy was, for me, a significant place in my journey to the present time, since I am still in the justice and peace line of things. There were important events and encounters at St Patrick’s, Soho Square, prior to that, but 111 Gower Street remains a significant place for me.

Barbara Kentish, Resident 1966-7
And another:

I would like to thank you for the incredible year which I spent living at Newman House 1999-2000. It was a deeply formative and unique time in my life. Living as part of a lively and intelligent faith community was awesome in helping me to understand my relationship with God, and other Newman House denizens and friends. I often think fondly of my time at Newman House. It was a precious time in my life.

Melanie Cournay-Holt (nee Rigg), Resident 1999-2000

If you have reminiscences you would like to share, please send
them to – we would love to hear from you.

Monday, April 30, 2007

(Famous) Thought for the week from Cardinal Newman

Yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday, and the annual "Vocations Sunday". This is an oft-quoted thought about vocation from Cardinal Newman

God has created me to do him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another. I have my mission; I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

An annual event at Newman House

Russell could no longer stand Chris looking like this

So he took matters into his own hands.

Like a lamb to the slaughter!

While the crowds bayed for a more thorough job!
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Confirmation Mass with Bishop John Arnold

(Russell has posted Vito's photos of the Confirmation Mass on Flicker. To see all of them go to

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Confirmation 2007 Part 2

Prayer for the Gifts of the Spirit

"Be sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit"

Be strong and faithful!

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Confirmation 2007 Part 1

Bishop John enjoying the Rite of Sprinkling

The Homily: Do something significant for Christ

The confirmands renewing their baptismal promises

The Laying on of hands
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Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Easter Vigil Part 4

John incensing Fr Brian, Fr Peter and Fr Casimir

Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us: therefore let us celebrate the Feast!

Tom: received into full communion

The candle by the Tabernacle is lit: Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
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The Easter Vigil Part 3

Ingrid is clothed in the white garment: You have put on Christ!
Four other young people were also received into full communion with the Catholic Church:

Edward is received

Kristian is confirmed

Alice: Peace be with you!
Picture of Tom in the next post
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