Today has been a very busy day in the chaplaincy, both for the Oratorians and I, as we prepare for the end of the academic year, the end of Father Sebastian’s tenure as Catholic chaplain to the University and a period in which Newman Hall has been my base in our parish life in the city.It has been a day of sorting, rediscovering forgotten objects and clearing out – though, for me, this is after only a year and half’s periodic sojourn in Newman Hall, after having to vacate the convent at the beginning of the first lockdown.
Our lives have overlapped with the Catholic Chaplaincy for the past three and a half years, after the parish responded to Father Sebastian’s generous invitation to move the parish to the University Church and Newman Hall – a move which allowed services as often as desired, whether in the church or in the Little Oratory of Newman Hall.
We especially appreciated our early feast-day Liturgies in the Little Oratory, and the festal breakfasts that followed them, before the faithful went to work or lectures. However, the highlight of our use of the Little Oratory was the visit of the wonderworking Kursk-Root icon, when – between household visits till 3 a.m. – we celebrated a moleben with the Romanian young people.
In addition to our many services in the church and the Little Oratory, many wonderful meals and social gatherings have been held in the library and refectory of Newman Hall, where I now sit typing.
With its sunny yellow walls, and the background sound of the chickens, the refectory has been especially valued, especially when it became our de facto chapel as well as trapeza, last summer. On numerous occasions, the different Newman Hall communities have sat around its table, including Vladika Irenei’s visits, when Father Sebastian and his confrères, welcomed Vladika beneath the chaplaincy roof.
We have had a very happy time in Cathays, and it was good to be present at the dulce held to celebrate and recognise Father Sebastian’s time as chaplain. It was a happy surprise to be made an honorary fellow of Newman Hall: a place which has had a central place in parish life, and my personal life, for the last three and a half years.
Commenting on life in Newman, Sister Clare said how wonderful it was hearing the chanting of the Liturgy, seeing the parish children playing in the garden and the community enjoying common meals with such joy.
Many of us would echo her sentiments, and I must say that the chickens – now re-homed – have been an amusement for me, and I think for little Yuriy, whose poultry-enthusiasm rivalled my own.
The future of the parish is uncertain with regards to Nazareth House, but we have so much for which we need to express gratitude not only to Father Sebastian, but also to the Lord, for the many blessings which we have received as an Orthodox community in this chapter of our lives.
Throughout this time, Father Sebastian has been unstinting in his generosity, and a source of constant support, especially during the last difficult year. He threw his doors open to us, and insisted that his home was our home, and at that time Newman was, indeed, the home of the fledgling Oratorian community. We know that our friendship with him and the Oratorian community will continue, and recounting all that Father Sebastian has done for us, we give him our heartfelt thanks.
Reverendissime Pater – gratias maximas tibi agimus!