Please note that as others parts of this website indicate things have moved on somewhat this provides, we hope, and insight into our formation as a community:
On the 14th January 2015, Fr Richard Peers gave a talk to the Southwark Chapter of the Society of Catholic Priests who were meeting at Trinity School, Lewisham where Father Richard is Head Master. The talk may be found here.
There was immediately a flurry of email and Facebook conversations with very many people telling Fr Richard that the talk spoke to them powerfully. In particular a Facebook conversation between Fr Richard and Fr Clive Hillman encouraged them both to action. Fr Richard met with Fr Andrew Nunn, Dean of Southwark Cathedral and Rector General of SCP about the possibility of starting up some sort of ‘cell’ within SCP that had a more pious/Romeward looking approach. The SCP Provincial Council had some conversation about this and it was clear that such a group needed to form separately, although members of such a group could happily remain members of SCP.
Fr Matthew Catterick, Vicar of St Saviour’s, Pimlico kindly offered the use of his church and halls for the first gathering of a proposed Sodality. The date was set for the feast of Saint Augustine of Canterbury.
On March 27th Father Clive Hillman wrote a prayer for the Sodality which has been accepted as the Sodality Prayer.
At the National Pilgrimage to Walsingham 2015, there was much conversation about the proposed Sodality and many of the initiators met in person for the first time that day.
Fr John-Francis Friendship agreed to preach at the first meeting and his sermon is here.
Twenty-seven people attended the first day which was structured around Prayer During the Day, Rosary, Vespers and Benediction and a noon concelebrated Mass, at which Fr Matthew presided. There were opportunities for discussion in groups and a plenary session. Lunch was in the local Gallery pub and conversation continued there over supper for those not travelling far. It was clear that there was very strong support for a new group of some sort.
Mother Angela Gbebikan presided at Vespers and gave Benediction.
The Rule of the Society of the Holy Cross was one of the texts available on the day for reflection. It was clear however that there was a desire for something a little different to that. Fr John-Francis had been a member of the first order of the Society of Saint Francis for many years and Fr Jonathan Kester, also present on that day, had long been a member of the Company of Mission Priests. A sense of desiring community and the phrase ‘dispersed community of priests’ were elements that came to the forefront. In a spirit close to that of the ‘new monasticism’ the desire was for a community embracing men and women, married and single, partnered and celibate priests.
Canon Johannes Arens proposed that the group adopt the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary as our common prayer which was agreed.
It was also agreed that a group would meet to be known as the Formation Group, the members are:
Mother Imogen Black
Matthew Cashmore (Ripon College, Cuddesdon)
Rebecca Feeney (Saint Stephen’s House)
Father Diego Galanzino
Sebastian Hamilton (College of the Resurrection, Mirfield)
Father Clive Hillman
Father Justin Hutcherson
Father Richard Peers (Chair)
Mother Erica Wooff
In the days following that meeting Fr John-Francis drafted a Rule based on the Principles of the Society of Saint Francis. This text was taken to the Formation Group who made some alterations.
First text of a possible Rule: SUGGESTIONS for a RULE 31 May 15
The Formation Group first met on 29th June at Trinity House, the diocesan offices of the Diocese of Southwark. The meeting included Rosary and Vespers from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, sherry and cake, and ended with a meal at a local pub. the Formation Group members may be found here, Fr Richard was elected as Chair and Mother Imogen as Clerk.
The second draft of the Rule was sent to all those on the email list (just over 60 people at that point) with a detailed survey.
Mother Imogen, Father Clive and Father Richard worked on a new draft of the Rule based on the responses.
The Formation Group met for a second time on September 7th again at Trinity House and using the same format as at the first meeting. It was agreed that a retreat take place in February 2016 when the first admissions would take place and that a Rule needed to be finalised at the December 14th meeting of the Formation Group.
The next full Sodality Day was on October 7th, again at St Saviour’s, Pimlico. Mother Imogen presided at the concelebrated Mass and the Bishop of Liverpool, The Rt.Rev’d. Paul Bayes preached, notes for his sermon are available here.
Three conferences were given by Fr Tim Pike CMP and are available here.
Father Tim’s addresses, his witness to life in a ‘dispersed community of priests’ and his passion for Saint Vincent de Paul and the Company of the Mission impressed everyone.
Copies of the draft Rule were provided.
Further work on the Rule including changing to calling it The SMMS Manual rather than Rule, with some detailed work by Fr John-Francis on the structure, resulted in a draft for final consultation being sent to all aspirants on October 20th with a survey to be returned by December 1st.
It is intended that during the retreat, 15th – 17th February 2016, the first admissions to the Sodality will be made and the first General Chapter held to elect a Council and officers. Further admissions will be made at local Masses for those not able to make the retreat. The December meeting of the Formation Group produced a calendar for the remainder of 2016, including an Oxford event at Lincoln College on Saturday March 12th (2-5pm). The Formation Group is also considering the process of approaching a bishop to act as Visitor to the community. A draft Constitution was put to the FG group ready for approval by the first Chapter in February 2016.