The Newman Society has witnessed a busy year, the highlight of which was the visit of its Principal Patron, Cardinal George Pell. The Cardinal spent a week in Oxford as the guest of the society, during which time he inaugurated the Thomas More Lectures and launched the society’s ‘Faith in Oxford’ appeal.
Thanks are due to the Chaplains, for their continued encouragement and support. A further note of thanks should be addressed to Patrick Milner and Emeric Monfront, both of whom have served as President over the past year and have worked tirelessly for the society.
Tuesday evening speaker meetings continue as the society’s staple event at the Chaplaincy. There is always a dinner with the speaker before the talk, to which all are welcome. Following most talks there have been drinks and then Compline in the Chapel. The average has been between twenty and thirty five. The following talks were given over the past year:
• Rev. Dr. Alcuin Reid (Liturgical Scholar), ‘Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum: One year on’
• Rev. Dr. Ian Ker (Oxford University), ‘Newman, Vatican II and the English Church today’
• Lord Alton of Liverpool, ‘A Culture of Life vs a Culture of Death’
• Rt. Rev. Patrick O’Donohue (Bishop of Lancaster), ‘Fit for Mission: Church’
• Baroness Julia Cumberlege (Chairman of the Cumberlege Commission), ‘Safeguarding with Confidence’
• Rev. Jonathan Baker (Principal of Pusey House), ‘A Benedictine theology’
• Rev. Edward Clare (Vocations Director, Archdiocese of Birmingham), ‘Is there a vocations crisis’
• Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali (Anglican Bishop of Rochester), ‘The nature and future of the Anglican Communion’
• Sr. Judith Lancaster, SHCJ, (Cherwell Centre), ‘Cornelia Connelly and the role of women in the Church’
• Rev. Andrew Wadsworth (Chaplain of Harrow & designate Executive Secretary of ICEL), ‘The challenge of contemporary youth culture for anyone serious about being a Catholic’
Thomas More Lectures
The Thomas More Lectures have been inaugurated as a means of promoting the society’s academic apostolate and expanding the society’s presence within the University. The lectures revive the Thomas More Lectures, which were organised at the Chaplaincy in former years. Each year there will be a series of three major lectures focusing on a specific theme. The theme for the 2009 series is ‘Religion in the public square’. Cardinal George Pell, an alumnus of Oxford, launched the lectures in Hilary Term with a lecture titled ‘Varieties of intolerance: religious and secular’. The Cardinal delivered his lecture in the dramatic setting of the mediaeval Divinity School to an audience of two hundred, which included a good mix of senior and junior members.
In Trinity Term Francis Campbell, HM Ambassador to the Holy See, delivered the second lecture in the series to an audience of one hundred at Blackfriars. The Ambassador spoke on ‘Faith and Foreign Policy: A perspective from the Vatican’. The event was held jointly with Blackfriar’s Las Casas Institute, which is enthusiastic about future collaboration.
A third lecture in the 2009 series will take place in Michaelmas Term and the name of the lecturer will be announced shortly. The 2010 lectures will focus on the theme of ‘Religion and science’ and speakers are currently being invited. The society is looking forward to Cardinal Newman’s widely anticipated beatification, which it is expected will take place in Rome. Plans to hold a special Thomas More Lecture in Rome marking the occasion are being developed.
The Mass and black-tie dinner continues to provide a highlight in each term. In Michaelmas Term Rt. Rev. Hugh Allen O.Praem. (Past-President) celebrated Mass in Oriel College and spoke at the dinner.
In Hilary Term Cardinal Pell celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Mass in intercession for Newman’s beatification at the Oxford Oratory and Solemn Vespers in Merton College. He also spoke after the termly dinner in Keble College. In addition to the above events, the inaugural Thomas More Lecture, and the launch reception for the ‘Faith in Oxford’ appeal, the Cardinal’s programme included further engagements facilitated by the society at the Chaplaincy, Blackfriars, Campion Hall, St. Benet’s Hall, Merton College, Exeter College, the Oxford Oratory, the Birmingham Oratory, and Newman’s ‘College’ in Littlemore, as well as various private meetings and a press conference.
In Trinity Term Abbot Cuthbert Brogan OSB celebrated Pontifical Mass ‘from the faldstool’ in Merton College and Fr. Daniel Seward (Past-President) preached. The after dinner speaker was Archbishop Angelos, the bishop responsible of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Britain.
Two of the above services took place according to the ‘ordinary form’ of the Roman Rite and two according to the ‘extraordinary form’. All were were accompanied with polyphony and plain chant. The Trinity Term Mass was a particular musical highlight with Mozart’s ‘Coronation Mass’ being performed with orchestral accompaniment.
On several Sundays the society has organised a secondhand book stall at the Chaplaincy in order to raise funds for the Aid to the Church in Need. Prices were set at just £1 or £2 per book and in addition to raising funds for charity the book stall has proven a useful means of disseminating religious literature.
Other events have included a termly drinks party, an ‘Advent Happening’, and a party to mark the Feast of Bl. Agnellus of Pisa (who is buried in Oxford). In Michaelmas Term there was a discussion evening focusing on Bishop O’Donohue’s document ‘Fit for mission: Church’. In Trinity Term there was a pilgrimage to St. Birinus’ Church in Dorchester, which was held as a joint event with the Society of St. Catherine of Siena. Two Officers represented the society at the Mass for the translation of Newman’s remains held at the Birmingham Oratory.
The Newman Society Foundation
This new body has been created to advance the society’s academic apostolate. It is run by a committee comprised primarily of postgraduates and is responsible for the organisation of the Thomas More Lectures. It also has responsibility for the society’s ‘Faith in Oxford’ appeal. The Foundation has convened an Academic Advisory Board to give direction on the Thomas More Lectures and its other activities. The Board is comprised of the Senior Chaplain and six Catholic academics and has so far met twice.
The ‘Faith in Oxford’ appeal
The decision to open events up to non-members has led to a decline in subscriptions and the society’s finances have been precarious. To remedy this the society has launched the ‘Faith in Oxford’ appeal, though which it intends to raise an endowment fund which will be used to support the Thomas More Lectures and the society’s ongoing activities. The society is working in collaboration with the University of Oxford Development Trust and the appeal benefits from the University’s charitable status (allowing tax on donations to be retrieved through the 'Gift Aid' scheme).
The initial phase of the appeal has involved soliciting donations from alumni through sending them promotional material (copies enclosed). In the second phase of the appeal approaches will be made to potential major donors and to funding bodies. The society is being advised (free of charge) by a professional fundraiser and has also received advice from the University’s Development Office.
In addition to donations from private individuals funding has been forthcoming from the Chaplaincy, The Catholic Herald, the Las Casas Institute, and Oxford University Clubs Committee.
The society has worked hard to promote itself in the national media. There have been news items reporting events in The Times (Cardinal Pell/Dr. Nazir-Ali), The Catholic Herald (Cardinal Pell/Launch of Appeal/Francis Campbell), The Tablet (Bishop O’Donohue/Cardinal Pell/Francis Campbell), and The Church Times (Dr. Nazir-Ali). Internet news sites and Catholic blogs have also provided extensive coverage of the society’s events. The society’s history on wikipedia has been updated and work is underway on expanding its web-site. See http://users.ox.ac.uk/~newman/ (which will soon be accessible through the http://www.newmansociety.org.uk/ address).
Cardinal George Pell, Bishop Arthur Roche, Bishop Peter Elliott, and Fr. Paul Chavasse (Provost of the Birmingham Oratory and Postulator of Newman’s Cause) have become Patrons of the society. Their involvement has been an enormous help in supporting the appeal. Both Cardinal Pell and the Chancellor, Lord Patten, have written letters of endorsement for the appeal.
In the Chancellor’s words - ‘May Newman’s legacy continue to flourish for years to come!’