To all at St Cuthbert’s:
Dear brothers and sisters,
It is the task of all Christians – and in a particular way members of the Order of Preachers – to proclaim the Good News we have received. It is never pleasant for us to have to give or receive bad news.
I am therefore particularly grateful that our Prior Provincial, fr. Martin Ganeri OP, came to Durham last weekend to tell mass-goers at St Cuthbert’s personally of the decision of the Friars’ recent Provincial Chapter to withdraw the community of friars from Durham (as well as Glasgow and Newcastle). The decision was made in order to strengthen the communal life in a Province that has become increasingly stretched in recent years, and there is more information on the Province’s website, www.english.op.org.
Since the announcement, many people have spoken to me or written to express their emotions: sorrow, dismay, distress, surprise, perplexity; even devastation and anger. I understand those emotions and have shared in many of them; this was not the way I had hoped, planned or expected to leave Durham. But I am grateful too for the understanding, sympathy and promises of prayers expressed by so many.
I thank the Diocese and to Bishop Séamus for the generous welcome and the trust placed in us four years ago when St Cuthbert’s Parish and the University Chaplaincy were entrusted to the Order. I am desperately sorry that this charge is being returned after such a short time. The Bishop clearly understands the vital importance of the Church’s ministry in and around Universities, and is appointing a dedicated and experienced Parish Priest and University Chaplain in the person of Fr Andrew Downie. I know he will receive a warm welcome from all here when he comes in the autumn.
There will be opportunities in the coming months for me to express my thanks to all at St Cuthbert’s for their support and welcome, whatever anxieties there might have been about these strange friars, and to ask forgiveness for my faults, failures and shortcomings.
I will be in Oxford on Sunday 10 July for the Ordination of three of our young friars: frs. Matthew Jarvis and Oliver Keenan to the priesthood and fr. Jean-Baptiste Régis to the diaconate. These occasions are signs of hope for the future of the Church; please keep these brothers in your prayers. At the request of the Master of the Order, I will then be in Bologna 15 July – 5 August providing canonical support to our General Chapter. I expect to be back in Durham for the Sundays of August.
Whatever bad news, disappointments or farewells may come our way, we must never forget our Christian mission to preach the Good News: that Christ is the first-born from the dead, and that everything in heaven and everything on earth is reconciled through him and in him when he made peace by his death on the cross (cf. Col 1:18, 20). Let us pray for each other at this time, that our dedication to proclaiming that joyful truth may be renewed.
fr. Benjamin Earl OP
Vicar, Parish Priest and Chaplain