The Society of St Augustine of Canterbury exists to promote and advance the Roman Catholic Religion in England and Wales with its key aim to help with the maintenance of a fund whose capital is used to assist with the expenditure and upkeep of Archbishop’s House, the official residence of the Archbishop of Westminster.
80 members and their guests enjoyed a very convivial evening at Archbishop’s House in September attending the Society’s Autumn Reception. Although the event was postponed by one week and consequently clashed with school half-term, this did mean that the reception could be hosted by Cardinal Vincent himself, hot foot from his participation in the Synod on the Family in Rome. This provided us with an opportunity to receive an immediate first-hand account of the Synod activities and Cardinal Vincent’s personal impressions of the achievements of the process. The Cardinal spoke after we had heard from Council member Robert Rigby about his own personal travels, this time to stand as a candidate in the recent general election for the Northern Ireland constituency of Newry and Armagh. Robert explained the rationale for standing as one of the first Conservative candidates for a seat in Northern Ireland in modern times and gave us an intimate view of politics in the province – an intriguing insight for the majority of us who are probably totally perplexed by how Northern Ireland politics work!
It was pleasing to see new faces at the event (including the youngest-ever participant in the Chairman’s 18 month-old granddaughter who made a brief appearance when baby-sitting arrangements went slightly awry) and the subsequent arrival of new membership applications is testament to how much they enjoyed the evening.
On a blustery 2 June twenty-seven pilgrim members visited Canterbury Cathedral and attended Mass in The Eastern Chapel of the Crypt; where St Thomas’s remains were originally kept before they were moved to the Trinity Chapel above in 1220 – eventually being destroyed by Henry VIII.
Father Richard Hearn, Dean of St George’s Cathedral, Southwark and Canon Anthony Charlton, parish priest in Canterbury celebrated the Mass. In his sermon, Father Richard repeated the words of the Gospel, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” reminding us that St Thomas A’Becket had to choose between God and his king; ending in his murder in the Cathedral in 1170; and we too have to make similar choices in our lives.
Following a pleasant lunch at nearby Canterbury Lodge, we had a private tour of the Cathedral, which is dedicated to Christ. The present Cathedral was originally built in the Norman style, typified by rounded arches but having been damaged over the years by fire etc. Most of it is now in the Gothic style characterised by pointed arches, allowing for greater height to be attained. It is 512ft long making it one of the longest cathedrals and unusually, the choir is longer than the nave. It houses some stunning stained glass windows, one of which is the oldest known in the world. Originally a Benedictine foundation, housing, at its height, 150 monks, who lived and worked in beautiful cloisters surrounding the Cathedral.
It was a most interesting and spiritual day, enhanced by sharing it with friends.
The Society’s 91st Annual General Meeting and reception were held on Thursday 14th May 2015 in The Throne Room at Archbishop’s House preceded by Mass in the Cathedral for members of the Society, present and past, their family and friends.
The business of the AGM was routine and the report of the Treasurer demonstrated that the Society’s finances are in good shape and, for the time being, capable of delivering the target of real terms increases in the annual contributions to Archbishop’s House that the Chairman had set. This was reflected in the ability to hand over to Cardinal Vincent a couple of cheques which were substantial and will help toward a number of projects within Archbishop’s House.
The formal meeting was followed by a very enjoyable reception at which the Cardinal spoke about a number of interesting topics. He touched upon his recent meeting with the Home Secretary around the subjects of people trafficking and slavery and spoke of common ground to help tackle this most dreadful of trades. He moved on to speak about a recent gathering of key representatives of faith groups here in the UK held at Archbishop’s House and the desire and common ground of promoting good in today’s society.
Finally, Cardinal Vincent recounted his experiences during a visit to Northern Iraq in April when he visited the capital of Kurdistan to see and meet with refugees who had been displaced by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. He mentioned how he had been moved by the account of two elderly women who had been held hostage and threatened with death. Their unswerving faith in adversity was an example of pure and simple love of our Lord, and their faith, a lesson for us all.
The Society of St Augustine of Canterbury held its now regular autumn reception in the Throne Room of Archbishop’s House on Tuesday 21st October as guests of Cardinal Vincent who had just returned from the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Rome. His Eminence spoke of the humbling experience of being part of this gathering which focused on the pastoral challenges facing the family today. He recommended everyone read Pope Francis’ speech at the conclusion of the Synod which offers a clear and concise reflection on the journey and temptations we face, and the need to find concrete solutions to the many difficult challenges faced by families today.
For the first time we also had a guest speaker from among our members. Although Sir Neil Butterfield QC has recently retired as a High Court judge, he maintains a significant role in public life as Vice-Chairman of the Parole Board and as a member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. He provided an informed, enlightening and lively speech in which he questioned why the judicial system in this country resulted in such a high prison population compared with most other European nations, and whether it was time to consider a radical review of the law relating to drug supply and use. As an illustration he described how a drug user might resort to petty theft to finance his habit and, on third conviction, be automatically committed to prison for nine months at huge cost to the taxpayer, only to find himself in a place where drugs were plentiful and he was surrounded by serious criminals ready to inculcate him with tendencies far more injurious to our society. Food for thought!
Below are a selection of photographs taken at the Reception.
The Societys 90th Annual General Meeting and reception were held on Wednesday 21st May 2014 in The Throne Room at Archbishops House preceded by Mass in the Cathedral for members of the Society both present and past, their family and friends.
There were nearly 100 members and their guests with The Cardinal attending as the principal guest.
This was the first Society of St Augustine reception to which The Cardinal attended since his ordination to the rank of Cardinal. He once again provided an eloquent speech with this year’s theme touching on his ordination and the inspiration Pope Francis is providing to Catholics around the world. He also asked for our prayers on the forthcoming visit of the Pope to the Holy Land.
The Society was able to hand over to the Cardinal a cheque for £42,000 which will be used to help upkeep Archbishop’s House.
In recognition of his outstanding service to the Society which numbers some 30 + years, Mr John Barrie (ex-Chairman) was appointed a Vice-President.
Below are a selection of photographs taken at the AGM and Reception.
The Society held its Autumn Reception on Tuesday 15th October 2013 in the splendid surroundings of the Throne Room courtesy of His Grace Archbishop Vincent.
This year we had just over 80 members and their friends in attendance. The Autumn Reception has become a regular fixture in the Society of St Augustine of Canterburys calendar and offers a marvellous opportunity for members to catch up with what the Society is doing and to meet old friends again.
Our new Chairman, Michael Milbourn, gave a stirring speech outlining his hopes for the Society under his tenure. He thanked members for their continued support of the Society. His Grace spoke of his gratitude for the work the Society does and he shared with us some thoughts on Pope Franciss papacy and His Holiness’s desire to reach out to those most in need.
The Societys 89th Annual General Meeting and reception were held on Thursday 23rd May 2013 in The Throne Room at Archbishops House preceded by Mass in the Cathedral for members of the Society both present and past, their family and friends.
There were nearly 100 members and their guests with The Archbishop attending as the principal guest together with his private Secretary.
The event was marked by the retirement of John Barrie as both Chairman and member of Council. John has served for 25 years as a Council member with the last 10 years as Chairman. He was thanked not only by His Grace but also by the new Chairman Michael Milbourn.
The new Chairman also welcomed His Grace and other guests before handing over cheques amounting to £40,000 which will go towards the upkeep of Archbishops House.
His Grace responded by thanking the new Chairman and members of the Society for their continued support with last years financial contribution going towards a number of projects within Archbishops House including the renovation of the lift. In addition His Grace paid particular thanks to John Barrie for his tremendous work and support he had shown over many years and he wished him well in his retirement.
His Grace also went on to talk in some detail about the day of the election of Pope Francis and the impact that had and will have on the Church not only in this country but also across the world.
After the speeches everyone enjoyed the opportunity to mingle and socialise with snacks and a glass or two of wine. As was the case in 2012 a small group of members with the consent of His Grace the Archbishop were led on a tour of the House by Sister Carmel.
Below are a selection of photographs taken of the AGM and Reception.
The Societys Autumn Reception took place on 31st October the eve of All Saints. Mass at 5.30pm in Westminster Cathedral was offered for the Society and its members, by the Cathedral Administrator, Canon Christopher Tuckwell. In his opening words of welcome, Canon Tuckwell paid tribute to the work of the Society in assisting with the upkeep of Archbishops House and thereby assisting the Archbishop. Like all such work, it is often unseen and unsung, but no less important for that.
The Reception itself followed in the Throne Room of Archbishops House and was graced with the presence of around 75 members and friends. The President, His Grace the Duke of Norfolk, together with His Grace Archbishop Nichols, were present. In his speech of welcome and thanks, the Archbishop drew the audiences attention to the fact that there are presently several 50th anniversaries the opening of the 2nd Vatican Council and the 50th anniversary of the first James Bond film both have impacted the world in their own ways. He also spoke about the Holy Fathers reminiscences at the recent synod of Bishops in Rome about the 2nd Vatican Council the highly charged emotions at the sense of anticipation of what was taking place . The Archbishop also talked about the Year of Faith that we have just embarked upon the real desire of people to learn and give witness to their faith evidenced by a meeting in the Cathedral Hall he had led on the Year of Faith. I was thrilled he said. I had hand outs for 60 people; in the end 260 turned up and there was standing room only. He concluded by thanking the Society for its support which plays so pivotal a role in the life of Archbishops House. Other distinguished guests included Field Marshal the Lord Guthrie of Cragiebank, former Chief of the Defence Staff and himself a parishioner, as well as Mr and Mrs Peter Hutley of Wintershall. As is now customary there was a tour of the House, led by Sister Carmel for a group drawn from a random ballot. This is a chance to see the physical fruits of the Societys work and is always much appreciated.
It was a relaxed evening, filled with happiness and good cheer a time to catch up, meet new people and encourage each other. The food and drink were excellent and thanks are due to both John Barrie and Mary Maxwell who each time produce a wonderful party with apparently the minimum of effort. It was good too to see a wide spread of ages and interests in that sense a truly Catholic event. Thanks are also due to the staff at Archbishops House who made us so welcome and we look forward to the next visit.
Below are a selection of photographs taken at the reception.
The Societys 88th Annual General Meeting and reception were held on Thursday 24th May 2012 in The Throne Room at Archbishops House preceded by Mass in the Cathedral for members of the Society both present and past, their family and friends.
It was a hot and humid evening as summer arrived without warning, but that did not deter a good attendance and a pleasurable reception. We had over 80 members and their guests. The Archbishop attended as the principal guest together with his private Secretary.
The Chairman John Barrie welcomed His Grace and the other guests and presented a cheque for £40,000 which was gratefully received and will go towards the upkeep of Archbishops House. His Grace responded by thanking the Chairman and members of the Society for their continued support and went on to describe how he had only just come from a briefing from LOCOG about the Olympic Games. The period of the Games will be challenging for London not only for deliveries but also getting around with advice to add a minimum of one hour onto any journey.
After the speeches everyone enjoyed socialising with snacks and a glass or two of fine wine with the choice being Sancerre Baud 2011 and Vina Eguia Gran Reserva 2003.
And for the first time, with the consent of His Grace the Archbishop, Sister Carmel kindly led a tour of the House for a small group who were able to see behind the scenes including the wonderful Chapel, dining room and newly restored living quarters and reception room where His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI was greeted on his visit to the UK in 2010. It is intended to repeat such tours of the House for members and their guests at future receptions.
Below are a selection of photographs taken of the AGM and Reception.
About 100 members and guests assembled at Archbishops House for the Societys autumn reception on 13th October 2011. The occasion was honoured by the presence of the Societys President, the Duke of Norfolk, who found time amidst his busy life to join us. In addition, His Excellency the Apostolic Nuncio Antonio Mennini likewise found the time to join us.
Amongst the members who also attended were Lord Mark and Lady Jacynth, Fitzalan-Howard and the Lady Mary Mumford.
A substantial legal presence was evident as among those attending were the Rt Hon Sir Swinton Thomas and his wife Lady Angela, The Interceptor of Communications Commissioner Sir Paul Kennedy and Mr Justice Neil Butterfield.
The evening was informal with a few brief words of welcome, the Chairman John Barrie invited the company to relax and enjoy themselves. He indicated that the Societys contribution next year would be in line with this year and moreover there would be an additional sum arising from further generous contributions to the Special Appeal of two years ago. He thanked those responsible for these generous contributions as they were present. His Grace the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols responded.