by Fr Stephen Wang, Senior Chaplain Newman House
With Easter coming early in the year and falling at the end of term, is always a positive event, as it means a vibrant congregation of about 150 for the Easter Vigil at the University Chaplaincy. This year, seven young adults from the University Chaplaincy were baptised at Newman House: Amanda, Andrew, Azamati, Belinda, Joanne, Lila and Ziren; joined by three other Catholic students: Alex, Julia and Vincent, who together received the Sacrament of Confirmation. Having been part of the RCIA group for the last six months, these students have been involved at Newman House and in their universities Catholic Societies for longer.
Coming from five continents, they represented the diversity of life in London, especially in our student communities. They have heard Christ’s call to follow him, each with their individual story, with the University as a place of spiritual exploration helping deepen faith.
Bishop John Sherrington pitched his tent at Newman House, celebrating Maundy Thursday, Good Friday as well as the Easter Vigil. After the Thursday procession to the altar of repose, a big group of students went on a pilgrimage discovering some of the other altars of Catholic churches in central London, including Ogle Street, Warwick Street, finishing at St Patrick’s, Soho Square.
Braving torrential rain on Good Friday, some students watched the live performance of the Passion in Trafalgar Square. On Holy Saturday the community spent the day preparing the chapel for the Vigil Mass – polishing, decorating and also helping with the installation of our new baptismal pool.
For many years now we have baptised our catechumens by nearly full immersion: they kneel fully clothed in the baptismal pool and the bishop pours water over them three times, head to toe. The symbolism is so powerful: the grace of baptism touching every part of their being, literally. Their joy, with that of the congregation, was palpable, as they reentered the church, newly- clothed and carrying their baptismal candles. The celebrations continued with Easter nibbles and Prosecco.