Saturday, 31 May 2008

Ad multos annos

We are deeply blessed in the Adur Valley to have, in addition to my own feeble ministrations, the help of two now-retired priests, Canon Brian O'Sullivan and Father Anthony Lovegrove. They were ordained on the same day, 31st May 1958, and so today they celebrated their Golden Jubilee together with a Mass at Steyning, in the Adur Valley. None of our own churches were big enough for the crowd that gathered, and so the Rev. Paul Rampton, vicar of Steyning's large Norman Anglican Church, built on the site where Saint Cuthman built that first church so long ago, generously permitted us to celebrate the Mass there (the second since the Reformation—the first being Canon Brian's 40th). Our bishop, Kieran Conry, presided, and said in his homily some words that touched me very much—I won't tell you what they were, but I found them very supportive in a rather difficult situation we have to handle in the Valley right now. Many parishioners will know what I mean. Another bishop, Bernard Longley (formerly a priest of this diocese, and now an auxiliary in Westminster) also concelebrated, and, to my surprise, even sang the psalm—a liturgical practice not, perhaps, foreseen by Fortescue and O'Connell. Another priest of the diocese, Canon John Stapleton also was present, celebrating today 61 years in the priesthood.
Many parishioners, especially from the Steyning end of the parish, pulled together to make a splendid celebration: a great deal of work went into it all (all arranged by the jubilarians themselves as they wanted) and the result was prayerful and joyful.
It did, however, fall to me, as Parish Priest, to offer congratulations, and toast the jubilarians, ad multos annos, and I said that I, at 19 years in the priesthood, already felt long in the tooth, and was awed to silence at the contribution of two sets of 50 years. On the day they were ordained, my own parents' wedding still lay eleven days away. And yet, considering their joint hundred years of priesthood—well, you only need twenty of these periods to be back in the time of our Lord. We presented each jubilarian with a new set of breviaries: Canon Brian's Great Dane having taken too literally the advice to 'read, mark and inwardly digest' his former set, and Father Tony still being on his original 1975 set.
Please remember them both in your prayers.

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