The oldest Catholic school in the country started its 450th anniversary celebrations with a Mass at Westminster Cathedral on 12 January. St Edmund’s College, based at Ware in Hertfordshire, was founded originally in Douai, France, by Cardinal William Allen in 1568. Pupils past and present, staff, governors and friends gave thanks for the history of the school and for its present success.
The Mass reflected many of the strong ties between St Edmund’s and the diocese. As the original home of Allen Hall seminary, its importance in the history of Westminster Diocese cannot be underestimated: a fact embodied in the Douay Chalice, made about 1700, which was used for the Mass. The school choir performed a magnificent rendition of Vivaldi’s Gloria, while other music included a hymn written by Monsignor Ronald Knox, a former member of staff at the school, and another by Fr Francis Stanford, composed for the school pilgrimage to St Edmund’s shrine in France in 1874.
Fr Peter Lyness, chaplain to the school, reminded us of its rich history, and the headteacher, Mr Paulo Duran, spoke of its present and future achievements. The witness of the past, and the hope for the future, were embodied in a moving gesture at the end of Mass, when wreaths were laid by pupils at the tomb of Bishop Richard Challoner in the Chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine, honouring one of the greatest figures of the College’s history.