Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Brentwood: Habemus Episcopum

The wait is finally over,
"We have a Bishop, Habemus Episcopum".

Fr Alan Williams will be appointed Bishop of Brentwood on 1st July 2014. He arrives from the national RC shrine at Walsingham in East Anglia Diocese.

Brentwood is not the only Catholic Diocese waiting for a bishop, but Bishop Thomas McMahon announced his retirement on reaching the age of 75 in June 2011. It was over a 1000 days until an appointment was made.

The Catholic Church in England & Wales website gave the following information:
The bishop-elect was born in Oldham, Lancashire in 1951. He took final vows in the Society of Mary [Marist Fathers] in 1981 and was ordained priest in St Anne’s Whitechapel in 1983.

Father Alan holds degrees in theology, psychology and religious education [he is an MA and a Ph.D] and has served in a number of pastoral roles. He has worked as a teacher and chaplain in secondary schools. He also served as Catholic Chaplain at Sheffield Hallam University and taught Christian Spirituality at postgraduate level.

He is a former major superior of the Marist Fathers in England and has worked as a parish priest in the Archdiocese of Southwark. At Walsingham he has had overall responsibility for pilgrimage and retreat work.
His words at the press conference announcing his appointment were:

“I am both surprised and humbled to have been appointed by Pope Francis as the new Bishop of Brentwood. There is indeed a God of surprises and in my life as a priest and religious I have learned to trust ever more in the grace of God for whatever task has been assigned to me.

“The Diocese of Brentwood embraces many and diverse communities in city and rural locations. I look forward to getting to know the people and clergy of the Diocese; I am aware that I will have a lot of learning and listening to do.

“Emeritus Pope Benedict encouraged Shrine Directors to have a special regard for those on the margins of the Church, ‘of weak ecclesial affiliation’. Great numbers of those on the margins make their way to England’s National Shrine at Walsingham. I believe that the pilgrim journey is an invitation to everyone; Pope Francis reminds us that those who accept the gospel are set free- ‘With Christ joy is constantly born anew’.

“There are many parishes, educational and other communities in Brentwood Diocese and my previous ministries as parish priest, teacher and school and university chaplain, have made me eager to share Christ’s joy with all whom I meet.

“I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor Bishop Thomas McMahon for his faithful and long service to the Diocese. I have worked in a number of different dioceses in England and I know that I can count on the generous support of the priests and deacons of Brentwood.

“I ask for your continued prayers as I undertake my new ministry. Over the years many pilgrims from Brentwood Diocese have made their way to Walsingham; my own pilgrimage now takes me to Brentwood under the patronage of Mary the mother of Jesus and all the saints of the Diocese.”

The Brentwood Diocese website contains more information here:
Blogger Mark Lambert goes into some detail in his blog post <here>

On a personal note, I have met Bishop Thomas McMahon on many occasions. He was my grandparents' parish priest in Westcliff-on-Sea and through my involvement with the BCYS, I have got to know the Bishop well; I was fortunate enough to be at the celebration of his 25 years as Bishop. He passionately cares about the youth of the Church and has done a huge amount of ecumenical work and ministry to those on the 'fringes' of society. He will be sorely missed. Thank you.

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