Saturday 17 January was a day of celebration at Allen Hall, the diocesan seminary, as three new deacons in formation were ordained by Bishop Nicholas. William Bowder and Daniel Humphreys were ordained for service in the Diocese and Lawrence Mduduzi Ndlovu was ordained for the Diocese of Johannesburg.
Concelebrating were several priests from Westminster Diocese, as well as Fr Thabo Motshegoa, the Vocations Director for the Diocese of Johannesburg.
At the start of the Rite of Ordination, Bishop Nicholas addressed the words of his homily to the three men, reassuring them that, ‘none of us feels worthy of ordination. The many priests and deacons here present will testify to that, I guarantee. And yet we trust; trust that He will give us the graces we lack.’
L-R: Fr Roger Taylor, Rector of the Seminary, Rev William, Bishop Nicholas, Rev Laurence, Rev Daniel and Fr Thabo
Reminding them of St Paul’s advice to the Ephesians, he encouraged the men ‘to rely on the Lord to make us strong. “You must rely on God’s armour,” he says, “or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens.” He reminds us that the key is prayer: “Pray all the time,” he tells us. “Never get tired of staying awake praying.” (6: 18-19)’
He enjoined them to follow the example of Pope St John Paul II of praying constantly: ‘We need, each of us, especially those who present ourselves for the Sacred Ministry, to pray deep and hard for many graces, not least the grace to persevere in our commitment.’
Addressing the men directly, Bishop Nicholas said, ‘Dear William, Daniel and Lawrence, I would urge you to remember this. Remember, when the going is rough, to return to the Lord in prayer; recall the still small voice which spoke all those years ago to your heart, saying, “I want you to be a priest”; renew in your heart the promises you make this day.’
Referring to the day’s Gospel reading about the rich young man who asks Jesus what more he must do, Bishop Nicholas encouraged the men to ‘stay with that question and the Lord will reveal to you where you should go to find the graces he waits to bestow upon you, not least the grace to persevere. Go there and he will surprise you with joy.’
Rev William Bowder is ministering in Highbury and Rev Daniel Humphreys is ministering in Poplar. They join the other deacons in formation; Rev David Burke continues formation at the Beda College in Rome, Rev Cyril Chiaha is at Allen Hall and is ministering in Hounslow and Rev David Lucuy is ministering at Pimlico.
Please keep all the men in your prayers.
The full text of Bishop Nicholas' homily can be found below:
Dear William, Daniel and Lawrence, I want, in the name of the Church, to thank you for offering yourselves for service as Deacons. I thank your families and friends for all they’ve contributed to make you the person you are and so helped you reach this day. I want, in a special way, to thank Caroline for all she has been and will continue to be for Bill and for supporting him in his taking of this solemn new step.
None of us feels worthy of ordination. The many priests and deacons here present will testify to that, I guarantee. And yet we trust; trust that he will give us the graces we lack. Let those words of St Paul resonate within you today and every day of the rest of your life: ‘I know who it is that I have put my trust in.’ (2 Tim 1, 12) Paul urges us in his Letter to the Ephesians to rely on the Lord to make us strong. ‘You must rely on God’s armour,’ he says, ‘or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens.’ He reminds us that the key is prayer: ‘Pray all the time,’ he tells us. ‘Never get tired of staying awake praying.’ (6, 18-19)
Archbishop Kabongo told the story of how, when he was secretary to Pope John Paul II, he needed, in an emergency, to bring a message to the Pope in the middle of the night. He was surprised not to find the Pope in bed. He went up onto the roof of the papal apartments to see if he was there; then to the kitchen. But it was in the chapel that he found Pope John Paul prostrate in prayer before the altar. He wondered how many other nights the Pope must have passed in this way.
We need, each of us, especially those who present ourselves for the Sacred Ministry, to pray deep and hard for many graces, not least the grace to persevere in our commitment, grace to persevere. When we feel inadequate, we might recall another saying of Paul’s, which surely serves to encourage all of us: ‘Glory be to him whose power, working is us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.’ (Eph 3, 20) ‘Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.’
Our prayer this day for our deacons-to-be is that the Lord will indeed give you all you need to play your part in his mission: strengthen you; armour you; endow you with all the graces you shall need. Know that the promise he made to Paul he makes to you too; ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ (2 Cor 12, 9)
You know it won’t always be easy.
I remember talking to someone who joined one of the new ecclesial movements in the 1960s. It was in the first year of its foundation.
I said to her, I hear it was difficult. ‘Of course it was difficult!’ she said, ‘That was why we stayed.’
When the going is hard, remember, that’s the time, in your prayer, to recommit; hear the call to go deeper.
Cardinal Hume put this well. He said, ‘When I’m struggling spiritually, I sometimes wish I had an emergency number to call – like 999 or something.’
‘Well, actually’ he went on, ‘I do have an emergency number which I use when I’m in trouble: it’s not 999 but Matthew 9.9: “Come, follow me”’ – exactly the same phrase as we find Jesus use in today’s Gospel as well.
Dear William, Daniel and Lawrence, I would urge you to remember this. Remember, when the going is rough, to return to the Lord in prayer; recall the still small voice which spoke all those years ago to your heart, saying, ‘I want you to be a priest’; renew in your heart the promises you make this day. We would do well, all of us, to heed what St Catherine of Siena has to say about perseverance: ‘You know well,’ she says, ‘that when you accepted the holy Church as your bride you agreed also to work hard for her. You expected all these contrary winds of pain and difficulty to confront you in battle over her.
So confront these dangerous winds like a brave man, with strength and patience and enduring perseverance. Never turn back because of pain or discouragement or slavish fear, but persevere, and rejoice in the storms and struggles. Let your heart rejoice, for in the many contrary things that have happened or will yet happen the deeds of God are surely being done, nor have they ever been done in any other way.’
The Gospel we’re given today is the Gospel I have been suggesting to groups in the Diocese as a pointer as to how we might respond to Pope Francis’s call to be missionary disciples. The rich young man asks, ‘What more must I do?’
This is a question every disciple needs to ask of the Lord at certain stages of his or her life.
In the ordained ministry, it’s often the times of struggle that bear hidden within them the call to make this Gospel our own; to ask the Lord, ‘what more’ he may be asking of us. Stay with that question and the Lord will reveal to you where you should go to find the graces he waits to bestow upon you, not least the grace to persevere. Go there and he will surprise you with joy.
Faithfulness, fidelity, to the promises you are about to make today will edify, build up God’s holy people, as they edify and encourage us here and now.
The ‘Yes’ you make to the Lord makes us want to deepen our commitment to him too.
So we pray for you; pray that you will indeed be given grace to persevere in this commitment you make. And that it will be for each of you that, at the end of your lives, when it’s your turn to go and meet the Lord, you will indeed hear him say to you, deservedly, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of the Lord.’