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How Ordinariate can "help shine the light on Walsingham" - new Rector
Friday 9th January 2015

In the run-up to taking up his new role as Rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk, Mgr John Armitage has spoken of the great contribution that the Ordinariate has to make in raising awareness of and fostering devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham amongst all Catholics.

In an interview for this website, Mgr Armitage, who begins as Rector of the shrine on Ash Wednesday (18 February), praised the Ordinariate as a "great blessing" and said : "I am very grateful, as the new Rector, for the deep devotion of the members of the Ordinariate to this great pilgrim site in honour of the Mother of God".

Mgr Armitage said the history of the Church in this country was divided into three very distinct periods – the pre-Reformation period, the penal times and the re-building of the Church after the Reformation.

Inevitably, he said, today's Catholics were influenced by the fact that they lived in that third period of rebuilding, so that the time of the recusants and the martyrs and the Catholic Church as a persecuted Church was a very strong part of the consciousness of their history. "But equally, part of our strong history is the Church pre-Reformation, and Walsingham sits at the centre of that history. I think that, over the years, that period of our Catholic story has not been as strong in the conscience of Catholics in England as the other two periods.... Obviously, among Catholics of the Ordinariate, devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham has been very much a part of their history and this devotion can make a big contribution to increasing the general understanding".

Mgr Armitage's appointment comes as various developments take place which will deepen the bonds between the Ordinariate and Walsingham. A new Ordinariate group – still in embryonic form – is being set up there. In addition, the Coventry Mission last month established Coventry's first branch of the Walsingham Association and another Ordinariate group has plans to do the same. In February the Ordinary, Mgr Keith Newton, is to host a visit by the US and Australian Ordinaries, which will include a pilgrimage by all three to Walsingham. Meanwhile, two sisters of the Ordinariate, Sister Jane Louise and Sister Wendy Renate, who were formerly Anglican sisters in Walsingham, are resident there again and help at the Catholic shrine.

Asked in what further practical ways the Ordinariate might help to foster devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham, Mgr Armitage said that, later in the year, as part of the Church's move towards encouraging people to think about what it means to evangelise and spread the Good News, he was planning to take one of the two Our Lady of Walsingham statues at the Catholic Shrine on a tour of the country. He said he knew that evangelisation lay at the heart of the Ordinariate's thinking and mission and that it would be wonderful if Ordinariate groups could be involved in the tour, support it and help with the logistics.

"In so many ways, Our Lady shines our light on us and I think that the role of the Ordinariate can be of great significance in helping to shine this light on Walsingham" Mgr Armitage said.

Speaking in more general terms about the Ordinariate, he said that, thanks to it, some of the things which strengthened the pre-Reformation Catholic Church were now coming back, being celebrated and strengthening the Church as it is in England today. " I welcome the Ordinariate and look forward to it really finding a home in the place that belongs to its title" he said. 

The full text of the interview can be read HERE

More on the new Ordinariate group being set up in Walsingham can be read in the current issue of the Ordinariate's free, monthly online magazine, The Portal. The magazine can be accessed HERE

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