The world’s first personal ordinariate has grown dramatically during Holy Week.
New members of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham celebrated their first Easter as Catholics after the new structure expanded from 20 to almost 1,000 members after receptions and confirmations during Holy Week.
Groups of former Anglicans were received and confirmed at celebrations across the country, which began on the Monday of Holy Week.
Most groups entered into full communion with the Catholic Church on Holy Thursday before or during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper though a number of groups were also received at the Easter Vigil.
Mgr Keith Newton, the Ordinary, or head, of the ordinariate, said that it was only now that the ordinariate was coming to life, although the structure was officially established in January.
He said: “This is the start of it. The lay faithful moving into the Catholic Church is really the start of the ordinariate. Until now there have been only about a dozen members, but now it is growing to between 900 and 1,000.
“It is not an enormous number of people in Catholic terms, or even for the Church of England, but it is quite significant that such a number of people are making this step together.”
The Ordinary said that the first wave of groups coming into the Catholic Church only marked the beginning of the ordinariate and that many Anglicans were watching the process carefully.
Ordinariate groups exist across England, Wales and Scotland, including in Greater London, Coventry, Cornwall, and Birmingham.
The south of England was the part of Britain most strongly represented in the first wave of groups joining the ordinariate.
Fr Edwin Barnes, one of the five former Anglican bishops who have become ordinariate priests, celebrated the Easter Vigil for a group from St Barnabas in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, who had been received earlier that week.
During his homily he told the group that joining the ordinariate was a kind of “resurrection moment”.
The little beginnings of the different groups were “a new flowering of the Resurrection”.
“Easter is always the same, but always different,” he said. “For you the differences are very plain: no cavernous spaces of St Barnabas’s to help lift up your hearts. Until now you have been able to rely on the generosity and the prayers of those who preceded you in that place.”
The ordinariate group, Fr Barnes said, needed to “keep in touch with our former Anglican friends, to ensure by our kindness that we don’t put up barriers”.
“We will be looked at by many to see just what sort of a go we can make of being ordinariate Catholics,” he said.
For James Bradley, the former curate of St John’s Sevenoaks, the Easter Triduum marked an important journey for his family. He was confirmed during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with his former vicar, Ivan Aquilina and the Sevenoaks ordinariate group, while his sister was confirmed the day before at the Oxford Oratory. His parents were confirmed during the Easter Vigil.
Mr Bradley, who is due to be ordained as one of the ordinariate’s two transitional deacons, said: “It was wonderful to see my sister and parents received this week. Whilst they have made their own very personal journey into the full communion of the Church, it’s obviously also been something very profound for us to share.”
Archbishop Bernard Longley received three groups on Holy Thursday at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham. Ian O’Hara, who belongs to the Coventry group, said: “Maundy Thursday was a profoundly moving yet joyful and inspiring day. This was the culmination of a journey which for many of us had lasted several years.”
Speaking about the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Mr O’Hara said: “This Mass was especially significant and poignant for us as it marked the end of our Eucharistic Fast which we had all begun on Ash Wednesday. To make our Communion for the first time as Catholics on the very day our Lord instituted the Eucharist will have a deep and lasting affect on us all.”
For Easter the group joined the parish of St Joseph the Worker in Canley where they had received instruction.
Mr O’Hara said: “We were delighted to be able to take a full part in the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night and the Mass of Easter Day where we celebrated our Lord’s Resurrection with even more joy and gusto this year.”