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.
The Society’s 2016 Autumn Reception was held in Archbishop’s House on 13 October, by kind invitation of the Archbishop. A somewhat smaller than usual group of members and their guests enjoyed an extremely convivial evening and our host provided us with his usual interesting and candid commentary on church and national events.
The guest speaker was Peter Stanford, known for his extensive contribution to Catholic life in the UK – as a contributor to most of the broadsheets and through frequent appearances on radio and TV, as editor of The Catholic Herald and Tablet columnist, as biographer of Cardinal Basil Hume and Lord Longford (among others), and as director of The Longford Trust. He offered a fascinating snapshot of the work of The Longford Trust in relation to the challenges faced by offenders, particular young people whose attempts to obtain further education, that would reduce their chances of recidivism, were hampered by prejudice and lack of funds. He provided stirring examples of young people who, nevertheless, and with the help of scholarships from the Longford Trust, had attained academic success and provided role models for other young offenders.
Thirty-five members and their guests enjoyed an enjoyable and informative day in beautiful weather. The Outing included a walking tour of the surrounding Hatton Garden area, mass at the church and lunch at the famous Bleeding Heart Tavern.
Of particular interest was one of the remarkable stained glass windows at St Etheldreda’s, built in the 1950s to replace those destroyed in the Second World War. This window, donated by the governments of France, Germany, Italy and Spain, depicts John Houghton, Prior of nearby Charterhouse, and four other religious who were martyred together at Tyburn in 1535.
Especial thanks go to Mary Goodwin for her usual expert organisation of a terrific event.
Fifty-seven members and their guests attended the 92nd Annual General Meeting of the Society in the Throne Room of Archbishop’s House, preceded by mass in the Cathedral. Members were informed about the financial performance of the Society since the previous AGM, resulting in a decision to make a slightly larger donation of £45,300 to Archbishop’s House this year. The Society’s accounts had been submitted to The Charity Commission in England and Wales and copies were available from the Secretary.
At the Reception following the AGM, Cardinal Vincent welcomed members to Archbishop’s House and thanked them for their generous contribution to the expenses of running the house. The building had benefited from much needed repairs to the plumbing, not an obviously exciting use of our funds, but absolutely essential! He spoke about recent meetings with Pope Francis and how keenly aware he was of the immense challenge of integrating people of different cultures into a cohesive and supportive society. As far as future events were concerned, he thought members would be interested to know that, together with other religious leaders, he would be welcoming to England a fragment of bone believed to be from the body of St Thomas Becket, a relic held in the Basilica of Esztergom in Hungary for over 800 years. This event formed the central point of a visit to the UK by Hungarian President Janos Ader and a pilgrimage would be made from the saint’s birthplace in Cheapside in the City of London to the site of his death in Canterbury Cathedral.
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.