Four men have been ordained as Catholic priests at Westminster Cathedral by Archbishop Vincent Nichols. The ordinations took place on Saturday 2 July 2011, the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Photos of the ordination can be downloaded here
The four new priests are
Paulo Bagini originally from Brazil, who prepared for the priesthood for 12 years and most recently has been based at Our Lady and St Joseph’s parish in Hanwell, west London.
Andrew Connick, who first thought of becoming a priest as a young altar server in his home parish of St Edward the Confessor in Golders Green and then studied Computer Science before training to be a priest.
Andrew Gallagher, who grew up in the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Harpenden and spent time as an intern at Westminster Cathedral which helped him to understand that God was calling him to the priesthood
Graham Stokes, whose vocation was nurtured outside a traditional parish background through the University Chaplaincy at Nottingham and then later through friendships he built up in London through the Youth 2000 movement.
Homily by Archbishop Nichols
In his homily, Archbishop Nichols said that each day, the newly ordained priests 'will gaze on Christ, our wounded Saviour, in prayer and contemplation, knowing that he alone is the source and power of their ministry. Each day at Mass they will hold him before us as, at the consecration, they raise his Body for our adoration. And each day they will attend to the pierced Christ in the pain, dismay and brokenness of so many of his people.'
Archbishop Nichols continued: 'This, then, is the business of the priest: to be a companion in brokenness, in, through and with Christ who himself was broken for our sake. We may not be very good. We are ordinary people trying to fulfil an extraordinary vocation. And so we, more than all, must set ourselves close to Christ each day. For he alone is our hope and our salvation. To him alone is all glory and power. He alone is our priest, bringing us home to our Father through the trials and failures of life. It is the greatest gift of all, our highest dignity, to share in this priesthood, and for these men, two Andrews, Graham and Paolo, to do so through ordination this morning. We pray for them today and always, with all the angels and saints, that their ministry may be blest and our Church enriched. '
(The full text of the homily can be downloaded in related files on the right.)
Mgr Mark O'Toole. Rector of Allen Hall, the Diocese of Westminster's seminary said:
'I’m delighted that these four men have been ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese. They are already well known and loved by many of the priests and people in Westminster and I am sure this will deepen in the years ahead. They bring into priesthood an enthusiasm for the Gospel and desire to be of service.'
The four new priests bring to 417 the total of Diocese of Westminster priests. With 214 parishes and an estimated Catholic population of 422,830, the Diocese of Westminster boundaries include the London Boroughs north of the River Thames, between the River Lea to the East, the Borough of Hillingdon to the West, and including the County of Hertfordshire to the North.
Journey to priesthood
Each of the four new priests-to-be has travelled a very different journey to bring him to this moment of life-long commitment. They described their journey to priesthood and thoughts on the eve of ordination:
Paulo Bagini said:
'I come from Brazil. My family is part of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and so I was brought up a practising Catholic, wanting to be a priest from an early age. I can even remember baptising my cat! Yet I turned out to be quite a rebellious teenager, and turned my back on the Church. But I soon found my life to be very empty and one day picked up the courage to go back to Mass. On that day I heard the words, 'God loves you as you are' in a totally new way. God was speaking directly to me!'
'Since that day God has led me on an incredible journey which brought me to England at the age of 18 to begin my training for the priesthood at the Redemptoris Mater House of Formation and later at Allen Hall seminary. I have been helped by the prayers, wisdom and love of so many people over the last twelve years in the parishes and different communities to which God has sent me. I would particularly like to thank my Neo-Catechumenal communities in both Brazil and London and everyone at Our Lady and St Joseph’s parish in Hanwell, where I have been for the last two years. I would also like to thank my family who have had the faith and love to let me go and give my life to the Church in a country far away from them.'
'As ordination approaches, my first feeling is of total unworthiness; that God should call me to announce his Good News! But it consoles me that God chooses what is imperfect to reveal His glory. Thanks be to God!'
Andrew Connick said:
2I was brought up in a loving family of deep faith and commitment to the Church. I first thought of becoming a priest as a young altar server in my home parish of St Edward the Confessor in Golders Green where I was inspired by the parish priest, Fr John Helm. However, as a teenager the priesthood was definitely not on the agenda! I studied Computer Science at university, and it was there that I came to realise that my relationship with God was the most important thing in my life. I began to suspect that He was telling me, gently, that it was in Him that I would find real fulfilment. When I plucked up the courage to really think about priesthood, it brought me a great sense of peace. It felt right.'
'Now, as ordination approaches, I am filled with different emotions – excitement, nervousness, anxiety about the responsibilities of priestly office. Most of all I feel a profound gratitude for my vocation. Preparing for this gift of the priesthood has been a personal journey with the Lord, but it has never been solitary. I have been inspired and supported by so many. I am especially grateful to the people of Kingsland parish, where I have served as a deacon this last year, and for the friendship and encouragement of the community of Allen Hall. God has blessed me so much.'
Andrew Gallagher said:
'I grew up in the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Harpenden. At the age of 7. I began altar serving and by the age of 14, I was the parish MC. This gave me the chance to gain a greater understanding about the Mass and brought me into contact with the priests in my parish, whose lives inspired me from an early age. In the years that followed, time spent as an intern at Westminster Cathedral, contact with the Faith Movement and working with parish pilgrimages for Pax Travel helped me to understand that God was calling me to put myself forward for formation to the priesthood.'
'In today’s society it can be hard to hear the Lord’s call, but people’s frequent prompts that I may be suited to the priesthood have been a strong sign for me to listen to God further. This last year serving as a deacon at Our Lady’s in St John’s Wood has also been a very affirming experience. I can definitely say that without the support and guidance of so many parishioners, priests, friends and family over the years I would not be in the place where I am now. I would like to express my deep thanks to everyone who has offered me a helping hand and words of wisdom, their prayers and friendship on the journey thus far – I will need this support more now than ever as I begin my priestly ministry.'
Graham Stokes said:
'My vocation was nurtured outside a traditional parish background through the University Chaplaincy at Nottingham and then later through friendships I built up in London through the Youth 2000 movement. These both gave me an environment where having a life of faith and discerning a vocation as a young adult was not something extraordinary. But then God led me to become more involved in parish life here in the diocese, such as when I joined the core group of the 'At Your Word Lord' programme at St Peter and St Paul’s in Northfields. This has of course continued through my seminary formation, including this last year when I have been privileged to serve as a deacon at Westminster Cathedral. Never a dull moment!'
'As I approach ordination, I am both excited and daunted. The commitments I will make are life-long and counter-cultural. Yet I believe that this is the life to which God is calling me and I have reached that point in my life where, with the help, support and guidance of so many others, I am ready to say 'Yes!'