In November 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, stating: “In recent times the Holy Spirit has moved groups of Anglicans to petition repeatedly and insistently to be received into full Catholic communion individually as well as corporately.  The Apostolic See has responded favourably to such petitions. Indeed, the successor of Peter, mandated by the Lord Jesus to guarantee the unity of the episcopate and to preside over and safeguard the universal communion of all the Churches, could not fail to make available the means necessary to bring this holy desire to realisation.”

As a direct result of this offer, three serving bishops of the Church of England, the Bishops of Fulham, Ebbsfleet and Richborough (Keith Newton) made public their intention to join the Personal Ordinariate when it was established.  On 1 January 2011 these three men, together with two of their wives and three former sisters of the Society of St Margaret in Walsingham, were received into the full communion of the Catholic Church by The Rt. Revd. Alan Hopes (himself a former Anglican priest), Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, in Westminster Cathedral.

On 13 January 2011 the three former Anglican bishops were ordained to the diaconate and to the sacred priesthood on 15 January by Archbishop Vincent Nichols.  The Personal Ordinariate was erected by decree of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the same day, and the then Fr Keith Newton was appointed by the Holy Father as its first ‘Ordinary’ (bishop).

It was on Ash Wednesday 2011 that around 900 laity and clergy of the Church of England ceased public ministry in the Anglican Communion and began a forty-day period of preparation to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church. In March 2011 the Holy Father elevated the former Bishops of Ebbsfleet and Richborough to the rank of Prelate of Honour, and Fr Keith Newton former Bishop of Richborough to the rank of Protonotary Apostolic.

During Holy Week 2011, almost 1000 men and women and young people were received into the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. After Easter the former Anglican clergy were ordained to the diaconate and then, around Pentecost 2011, they were ordained to the sacred priesthood. My wife, Ann, and I, after instruction by Father Martin, were received and confirmed at the Easter Vigil 2011.  I was ordained into the diaconate at Salisbury on 6 June and to the sacred priesthood on 10 June by Bishop Declan in Clifton Cathedral.

This new structure within the Catholic Church is a generous and pioneering attempt to heal the wounds of sin and division between Anglicans and Catholics. The Holy Father, speaking at St Mary’s College, Oscott, at the end of his 2010 state visit to the United Kingdom, said the Ordinariate ’should be seen as a prophetic gesture that can contribute positively to the developing relations between Anglicans and Catholics.  It helps us to set our sight on the ultimate goal of all ecumenical activity: the restoration of full ecclesial communion in the context of which the mutual exchange of gifts from our respective spiritual patrimonies serves as an enrichment to us all.’

There are now over 80 Roman Catholic priests (yes, that is what we are) in the Ordinariate with 57 Groups nationwide from Aberdeen to Worcester. I personally have charge of 25 former Anglicans, including three of us priests.  Eight of the laity come from my last Anglican parish of All Saints with St Saviour, Weston-super-Mare, from where I retired in 2006.  The Group is very disparate with people living in Bristol and surrounding areas, Weston, Minehead, Chard and Yeovil.  

The numbers of Ordinariate clergy continue to grow, and we now have 6 former Anglican bishops as priests together with 13 nuns. We clergy, as part of our ordination vows, are required to undergo two years at least of continuing theological education and formation. Twice termly we all meet at Allan Hall Seminary, London and for the rest of the term at Regional Centres such as Buckfast which I attend. As former Anglican priests we all received theological training; I at Cuddesdon Theological College, Oxford, for three years.  Ordained into the diaconate in 1976 and priesthood, a year later I served God in the C of E for 35 years in rural parishes and, latterly, town centre churches. Many of us also had other responsibilities; mine included membership of the Diocesan Board of Finance, Clergy Housing, Diocesan Advisory Committee for the care and management of all churches, and as a Prebendary (Canon) of Wells Cathedral.

So, two years on what has happened to me?  For nearly two years I have been Visiting Chaplain at Leweston Sherborne, Catholic school for girls, with a Sunday Mass, weekly whole school mass at 8.45am on Wednesday for in excess of 300 girls - prep school to sixth form.  I continue to be responsible for First Communion and Confirmation preparation, and other services such as Carols at Christmas.  In addition I am constantly helping and supplying Masses for churches in Sherborne, Yeovil, Shaftesbury, Bristol, Weston-super-Mare, Bridport, Chideock, to name but a few! During 2012 I have Received and Confirmed three former Anglican men into full Communion with the Catholic Church.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think for one moment that in my 70’s I should be a Catholic priest continuing to do God’s work. None of this was planned when I was ordained; it all just happened and continues to happen. How can I possibly not believe that ‘God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform’?