present buildings have been a good deal more conducive to
life in small teams than the old fire trap that existed before.
It had been one of Cardinal Manning's
great institutions for the poor children of London, but the
big dormitories had been converted to individual rooms. By
the 1970s these were grouped into teams according to the parishes
where students did their pastoral work : Bushey, Radlett,
Manor House, etc. These came together for the Divine Office,
coffee breaks at which students from other groups or
societies were often welcomed and the occasional intimate
Mass around the coffee table, prepared by group members.
Divine Word Society students
were at first scattered among the groups, but later formed
a group of their own, living in one of the other buildings
in the grounds.
As the Missionary Institute (MIL)
took shape elsewhere the lecture rooms were no longer needed,
other students were less in evidence, and the present building
could be more community-friendly. The front door the
doors taken from the old chapel draws you into the
building. And here is the very informal welcome to that last
The quality of the new building
was perhaps especially noticeable in the chapel. Joe
Cummins remarked to me a few years ago that he'd
noticed the students spent far more time praying than ever
we had done. While this may well have been true, the difference
in the two chapels was palpable. The old one was not a place
to sit and 'look at God', because well, because it
was not that sort of place, at least for me. A shift of position
seemed to orchestrate creaks and groans in the bench and across
the floor, the stained glass was just weird . . . perhaps
it was just me, but cutting the grass provided a capsule where
I could pray, and the chapel did not. The later one is a room
for liturgy and for silence. Memorably, the mower's meditations
were once dissipated when wet grass meant a loss of steering,
and the fish pond beckoned.
It was good to be on that (dry)
grass again for the final Mass with friends of the community!
The rain held off though it did get cold. I make no apologies
for this photo being so long-distant and not showing the principal
celebrants clearly ; nor for not showing different moments
in the Mass ; I detest taking pictures during Mass : here
is a record of the celebration which I trust will suffice.
As has long been the custom at
St Edward's, the music was drawn from many traditions around
the world, especially Africa. We asked about learning some
of the African chants when the students visited Canterbury
a few years ago: it's not written down, they told us, we learn
it by ear. Which was a bit of a puzzler for musicians used
to following a score. (See below
for a copy of the service)
There was a good congregation
of WFs, former students, members of other societies, and friends
from the parishes and the London African community. Fr
Dominique Arnauld and Fr
Richard Baawobr from the Generalate, both former students,
were there. Fr Richard spoke about saying goodbye, saying
thanks, and planting seeds; the planting of seeds seems to
be prophetic, as Abidjan, Kinshasha and Jerusalem, where new
formation houses will be, are hardly places of rural retreat
and quiet these days, and Nairobi could well be a torrid place
to live in the future. So, though many of us may regret the
closure of Totteridge and the opportunity it has provided
for people of many cultures to mix, the new places will be
right at the heart of things.
cake made for the occasion
Peter Smith, UK Provincial
presided and spoke of the many friendships Totteridge had
created; he hoped that these would persist in the future,
despite the closure of the seminary and the Missionary Institute.
Three or four students, who are
pursuing the SDB, will be in the Oak Lodge community for another
year. I don't know what plans there are for Oak Lodge after
that. It is a bit far from Central London but it would be
difficult to find such a good spot for welcoming visitors,
as long as some of the garden remains, of course!
Fr Patrick Shanahan and Joe Cummins
Among old Priorians or St Edwardites
present were Frs Patrick Shanahan,
Denis Starkey, now an
administrator at MIL, and Joe Cummins,
back from Burkina and Ghana, as well as
John Strain and myself. Peter Smith told us
that a number of ex-students from the first cohort were
present, but I did not get to meet them.
Maurice Billingsley and Dominique Arnauld,
i/c formation at the Generalate
and sometime student and lecturer at St Edward's and the
was not there as a jounalist, even for the Pelicans! I
had to slip away and pedal like fury to catch the train
back to Blackfriars, and Canterbury, having spenty much
of the evening chatting to Dominique.
To be continued whenever I get to see him.
I had a feeling of 'I may never
walk this way or see some of these people again', but
I am glad I was there!