Monday 22 November 2010

Barney Life No.22

Saturday, November 20th, was an important day for Latin Mass aficionados, with the first Mass in St Mary's Cathedral, Newcastle, for many years.  But I had to take a rain-check on attending for two reasons: one which I need not bother you with, and the other purely parochial. Saturday, November 20th, was the day of the parish Christmas Fayre.
The parish has no hall of its own, so we hold our Fayres in the Witham Hall, an old building in great need of some renovation, but right in the middle of the main street of Barnard Castle.  Originally built about 1850 by a benevolent member of the Witham family as a reading room and meeting place for the ordinary folk of Barney and much extended over the next 150 years, it now has dances, concerts and film-shows, art displays for local artists and meeting rooms for many societies.
As is usual in most parishes, a willing cadre of volunteers works very hard to prepare goods for the stalls.  Each Sunday in the run-up to the Fayre we have various Sundays, named Bottle Sunday, Grocery Sunday, Pound Sunday - each Sunday brings a welcome load of 'stuff' for our stalls.
At the same time we have our Christmas Raffle - all prizes are donated and I think that, thanks to the generosity of parishioners, we have the best prize raffle in Teesdale! First prize and second prize were both  £100, plus £50 and £20, with another twenty odd prizes as well.  The draw for the raffle took place at the end of the Fayre.
We had a great morning; crowds of people seemed to come in droves followed by lulls before another drove came in.  Financially too it was a great success, with a total income of about £2000.. Here below are a few photos of the event.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Mass in Newcastle's Cathedral

Yesterday, Saturday, November 20th, Mass in the Extraordinary Form was celebrated in our diocese's most important church, St Mary's Cathedral, for the first time in many, many years.   David O'Neill, the LMS representative, who arranged to have the Mass celebrated, has posted this report on the LMS local blog.  Unfortunately, I was unable to be present, and my first excuse for not being there will follow shortly in my next post (the second excuse I may share in a few weeks).
Photographs of the Mass can be found at the following location:

by David O'Neill
Despite a terribly wet day in Newcastle and despite the usual parking problems a congregation of some 150 attended today at St Mary's Cathedral for only the second EF Solemn High Mass since Vatican II.

The celebrant was Fr Shaun Swales of Coxhoe, deacon Fr David Phillips from Stella and sub deacon Fr Michael Brown from Forest Hall who is also the Northern Chaplain for the LMS. The serving team was myself as MC, Aidan McGregor as thurifer, Martin McGregor and Frank Walker as acolytes and Keith McAllister as crucifer. Fr Chris Warren from the cathedral was in choir on the sanctuary. We had expected Fr Wilfrid Elkin from Barnard Castle and Fr Gary Dickson from Thornley to join him but illness prevented it. We wish them both improved health quickly.

The newly named Schola Sancti Baedae from Jarrow sang the plainchant Proper for the feast of St Felix de Valois under the direction of Dr Michael Dunn and the choir of St George's Anglican Church in Cullercoats under their director Shaun Turnbull sang Victoria's Missa 'O Quam Gloriosum' with Agnus Dei I & II taken from 'Missa de Angelis'. Their motets were Viadana's 'Exultate Justi in Domino' at the Offertory and Franck's 'Panis Angelicus' at Communion. The organ played Muffat's 'Toccata' at the Offertory and J S Bach's 'Piece d'Orgue' as a

As is usual at celebrations of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form Holy Communion was received kneeling and on the tongue by everyone communicating.

Thanks are due in no small measure to Cathedral Dean, Fr Peter Leighton, who so readily granted permission for the use of the church, Fr Chris Warren of the Cathedral, who has liaised tirelessly during the preparations, and we must not forget the Cathedral Sacristan, Eileen Mitchell & her staff, who made vestments etc available to us with great generosity of their time.

Lastly those attending must be thanked for coming out on such an awful morning in such numbers thus showing our detractors that the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite with it's prayerfulness does mean so much to us.

Friday 19 November 2010

Letter to the Universe, Catholic Times and Catholic Herald

I have sent the following letter to these Catholic weekly newspapers, The Universe, the Catholic Times and the Catholic Herald;  I hope that the letter is published by one and all.

Dear Editor,
I am sure that you and your readers will have heard that there is a proposal to close Ushaw College, Durham, at the end of this scholastic year.  Ushaw College has a wonderful two-hundred year history of training priests, mainly for the Northern Province of England but with students from all over the British Isles; it was founded in 1808 by refugee students and priests from Douai College in the Low Countries, which trained many young men to be priests to keep the Faith alive in England during the persecutions of the 16th and 17th centuries and to become martyrs for their faith.  In my time at Ushaw, some of the traditions of Douai College were still in use at Ushaw. Ushaw College is a magnificent building with beautiful chapels, a famous Big Library and extensive grounds.
It would be a great tragedy for the English Church, not only in the north of England but for the whole country, if Ushaw were allowed to close.  I cannot believe that closure is inevitable.  The College is looking for business partners to promote it and to keep it in being.  I pray that they may be found, and I invite your readers to join with me in prayer to that end.
 Yours sincerely,
 Father Wilfrid Elkin

Sunday 14 November 2010

The Closing of Ushaw College

On the 8th of October 2010 this press release was sent out by the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle: 
 Trustees announce proposal to close Ushaw College
 The trustees of Ushaw College have announced a proposal today that pending consultation with College employees and the Charity Commission that Ushaw College will be closed.
The 200-year old Roman Catholic college is home to St Cuthbert’s Seminary which has been forming young men for the priesthood since its foundation more than 400 years ago.  Ushaw also provides a range of conferencing, events, and accommodation facilities to groups, organisations and businesses from throughout the UK. The proposal means that if implemented the College will cease operating at the end of the current academic year in June 2011.
The seminary serves the seven dioceses of the Northern Province of England and the Diocese of Shrewsbury and the wider church.
In recent years, Ushaw College has developed to blend heritage with advancement while maintaining its core function of the formation of priests to help renew and continue the work of the Roman Catholic Church in the region. Currently, there are 26 seminarians in formation at St Cuthbert’s Seminary and once they have completed this year’s studies, it is proposed that they will transfer to another seminary.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Chair of Trustees said: “This is one of the most difficult proposals that we as Trustees have had to make, not least because of the excellence of the formation our students are receiving.”
Monsignor John Marsland, President of the College, expressed his sorrow at the proposal: “Ushaw has a long history within the Roman Catholic Church and words cannot express how sad we are that we are considering such a drastic step.
“We have long tried to find a development partner and it would be nice to believe that a partner will still come forward with a viable business plan but unfortunately time is running out and we have to face the reality of the situation we are in.”
 Ushaw College can trace its roots back to Douai College, which was founded in 1568 in the Spanish Netherlands (now northern France) to provide priests for the English mission and to educate Catholic laymen when Catholicism suffered persecution in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Much later, students and staff from Douai relocated to County Durham and eventually settled at Ushaw in 1808.
For a time in the 19th century, Ushaw’s educational facilities made it the premier Catholic college in England and right into the 1950s 400 students were in attendance. Since Vatican Council II, the College has had important ecumenical links with Durham University’s Department of Theology and Religion and, in the past three decades, increasingly close cooperation with Cranmer Hall, the Wesley Study Centre and, most recently, Lindisfarne Regional Training Partnership. The decline in priestly vocations provided the college with an opportunity to diversify, resulting in innovative educational outreach programmes, a new biomass enterprise – complete with a willow crop -- and the three-star English Tourist Board accreditation for its accommodation and its sought-after unique setting for conferences and events. The college has also become the home of the North East regional office of CAFOD, and the Churches’ Regional Commission.
Whatever the future may hold for the Ushaw community with its historic buildings and long tradition of education, formation and outreach, the College remains grateful to God for all the thousands of friends and benefactors who have supported it over the years. (Here ends the statement)
In some ways this is not a surprise - for years we on the outside have known that the numbers of students at Ushaw College has dropped drastically from the glory days of the 1950's and 60's - and we have been asking ourselves how long this could go on for.
Even so, the proposal to close the College is a shock. Considering the history and achievements of the College, as outlined in the press release, it smacks of despair and perhaps a loss of faith.  As far as I know, there has been no consultation, even amongst the clergy, about Ushaw's future - there has been no analysis of how matters have reached this stage - we are not told why this decision has been reached - we do not know how widespread the search for 'development partners' has been.
According to a report from Australia, when George Pell was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne, he already knew that his seminary was failing (he had been Auxiliary in the diocese); he made a few simple changes: he ordered that Mass, Lauds, Vespers and Compline be compulsory for all students each day, insisted the seminary life be more regulated and that the official teachings of the Church be passed on to students in their formation. When all the professors walked out in disgust at this backward step, he appointed others who would bring order to the seminary. And so they did - the seminary never looked back. The teaching of Latin, the official language of the Church, was introduced by the new president of the College and the students began to learn about the tradition which had built up the Church from the beginning.

I know nothing about the present curriculum at Ushaw College, but I would not be surprised if a more traditional form of teaching would not bring more vocations to the College, including the teaching of Latin and training students in both Forms of Mass.

In the meantime, whilst looking for 'development partners', surely there is something which everyone can do about Ushaw - and that is, we can PRAY.  The Trustees do not mention prayer, but if we pray hard for Ushaw to continue, surely the Lord, whose priests (and people) we are, will grant our prayers for the greater benefit of His Church.  Let us say the Rosary as often as we can that this seed-bed of vocations to the Catholic priesthood may continue to be a beacon for the Catholic Faith for the future.  We must not lose Ushaw College!

I am writing a note to my Bishop along these lines - perhaps others could do the same.


Monday 8 November 2010

News from the Latin Mass Society

Westminster Bishop celebrates the Latin Mass Society’s Annual Requiem Mass in Westminster Cathedral

The Rt Rev. John Arnold, auxiliary bishop in Westminster, celebrated a Pontifical High Mass of Requiem in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 6 November for the repose of the souls of all deceased members and supporters of the LMS. Father Nicholas Schofield was Assistant Priest, Fr Andrew Southwell, LMS National Chaplain, was Deacon and the Sub-deacon was Fr David Irwin. Gordon Dimon of the LMS was MC.
   A congregation of some hundreds heard the men of the Cathedral Choir sing the plainsong Requiem Mass.
   The Mass was followed by a homily by Bishop Arnold and then the traditional ceremonies of Absolutions at the Catafalque. The coffin for the occasion was supplied by the Fairways Partnership, Funeral Directors.
   Before Mass, a wreath was laid by Dr Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the LMS, and other LMS Committee members on the grave of Cardinal Heenan in the cathedral nave in thanksgiving for the Cardinal’s efforts to preserve the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Father Patrick Hayward read prayers for the occasion.
   Doctor Shaw said afterwards: “This was the second time that Bishop Arnold has celebrated the LMS’s annual Requiem Mass and we are most grateful to him. We also thank Canon Christopher Tuckwell, the Cathedral Administrator, and Fr Alexander Master, the Cathedral Precentor, for their help”.
   Note: The Extraordinary Form has now returned to many of our cathedrals throughout England and Wales and the LMS is actively seeking to introduce further Masses.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Barney Life No.21

This is the organ which has stood in St Mary's Church for a very long time.  I do not know its full history, except that I have learnt that it was a gift to the church from one of the early parish priests of the church.  Since I arrived at this parish, the machine had had an annual servicing.  There is no doubt that it has been a very fine organ.  However, two years ago, the organ man suggested that the time had come for a complete overhaul - stops were sticking, slides were not sliding, all the gubbins behind the facade needed sorting out; an overhaul would mean dismantling everything, taking everything away, making the keyboard electronic, and so on and so forth.  The cost, plus VAT, would be £35,000.
When the Trustees of the church were informed of this choice, they were understandably horrified, and the  matter was dropped.  The organ continued to deteriorate, and for some months now I have been intoning the Sunday hymns (with varying success - sometimes too high, sometimes too low).
In the summer this year I was told about Ahlborn Organs by the son of one of the Trustees; the man who imports and builds them, Peter Lord, came to see me and he gave me a very attractive price for a Praeludium II - two manual, stops everywhere, foot pedals, the lot - £7,500 everything included (delivery, installation, VAT).
We agreed that it would not be necessary to touch the old organ, which would remain in situ, and the new organ would fit in the loft just by moving a bench out of the way.
The Trustees were suitably astounded at this news, but rather anxious on hearing that the sound came out of speakers, not pipes!  They asked me to arrange a visit to someone who had an Ahlborn Organ.
Yesterday (Monday), a group of Trustees and I visited Matthew Atherton, choirmaster at Barnard Castle School and a first-rate organist, in a nearby town, who kept a top of the range Ahlborn Organ in his living room.  For an hour or so, he kept us entertained by demonstrating the abilities of the Ahlborn Organ.  One feature which particularly amused us was the ability to make recordings of hymns and then to play them back when zapped by a hand-held zapper: no organist needed at the time of the service!
The Trustees were so impressed with the Ahlborn that they agreed it was the right and proper thing to do to order one for the church.
I did so straight away - before anyone had second thoughts.  Progress will be reported.