Before Bishop Alan comes to Brentwood—Brentwood goes to Bishop Alan!

On Saturday our diocese of Brentwood went on pilgrimage to Walsingham. I would have loved to have joined them, but having just returned from a very busy pilgrimage to Lourdes I was, frankly, rather exhausted!

I was represented by the best possible ambassador however, in my son Michael. He met our Bishop-elect Fr. Alan Williams SM, MA, PH.D, and shook his hand, telling him we were all praying for him. He also walked the last mile in from the Slipper Chapel carrying the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham bare-foot!

Here is his take on his first pilgrimage to Walsingham—England's Nazareth:
On Saturday, May 24th I travelled to Norfolk with the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service to visit the Shrine of Walsingham. Upon arriving we entered the Catholic Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham which was overflowing with pilgrims; we gathered for holy Mass together, which was concelebrated by our Bishop-elect Father Alan Williams SM. After Mass we were greeted by our Bishop-elect and had the chance to take a photograph with him. Father Alan said it was lovely to meet us all and thanked us for coming. We were all so excited to meet him, myself especially seeing as I met him before my Dad! I shook his hand and told him we were all praying for him and he thanked me for it. 
During our lunch break we visited the Slipper Chapel where we had the opportunity to pray, we were informed by Sister Teresa that the nuns of the 'Community of Our Lady of Walsingham' were founded in that chapel. We also visited the Chapel of the Holy Ghost where I lit a candle and prayed for the intentions of my family. 
After lunch we proceeded to where the stations of the cross are and prepared for the last mile walk into Walsingham. Myself, Roisin, Aishling, Caterina, Joe and Jordan all decided to walk barefoot and were honoured to be asked to carry the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. 
At 3:00 we had Vespers in the Catholic church in the village. I have to say I found the architectural layout was more conducive to an airport waiting room than a place of worship. Sister Teresa led us to the priory gates unfortunately we didn't have time to enter but were allowed a cheeky peak through at the old priory.

We also visited the Anglican Shrine and the replica of the Holy House. The Anglican Church was beautifully traditional with many icons of Saints like Saint John Vianney and the Stabat Mater and we paused in front of John Vianney for a picture.

Several of the young people even genuflected in front of the altar & I felt this was strange because we were not in fact in a Catholic church but it seemed so Catholic; if we hadn't been told we were going into the Anglican shrine we would have just assumed it was Catholic. Shortly after this we departed, overall I felt that the Walsingham Pilgrimage was amazing and the memory of the barefoot last mile will stay in my mind forever. It was my first time visiting the Shrine of Walsingham and I was very moved by the general atmosphere of the Shrine and I cannot wait to visit again. Pope Leo XIII once said "When England return to Walsingham, Mary will return to England" The fact that our new Bishop is from Walsingham and our youth service is dedicated to Our Lady of Walsingham along with the religious order who help lead our youth service makes Pope Leo's words resonate with power for me and I look forward to the day that England returns to this beautiful place of Marian devotion. 

Mike was so animated when he came back, and so excited to have met our new bishop! I found this very pleasing. At almost 16, he is really developing and deepening his own faith, really independently of Louise and I, and the experiences he takes part in are things that he really enjoys and gets a lot out of. Not only is a pilgrimage like this an opportunity for socialising with young people his own age, but also experiencing the living history of our country, the beautiful British countryside, and deepening his devotional and prayer life. How rewarding for a parent to see him so engaged with his faith.

Of course, regular readers will know I only visited Walsingham for the first time myself this year (you can read all about it in two parts; here and here). Perhaps this is due to a lack of promotion, my own ignorance, or, as Louise says, because we fell in love with Lourdes as teenagers. Whatever the case, as Michael has pointed out about, at the moment for Brentwood, all roads seem to lead to Walsingham and England's Nazareth!

Today, The Sixth Sunday of Easter, Father Kevin's message in the newsletter also reflected these sentiments perfectly:

Dear friends in Christ, 
The month of May is traditionally a time of pilgrimage to the Shrines of our Blessed Mother, Mary. Indeed, during this last week forty members of the Parish Family have been in Lourdes. It was a grace-filled few days and the presence of fifteen of our Primary School children enhanced the experience for us. Through all of the daily devotions at the Shrine: Holy Mass, Confession, the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament, the Marian-Torchlight Procession….we engage in acts of piety which draw us into the life of God, assisted by Our Lady. Devotion to Mary is the litmus test of true Christian Faith.
The sentiments of Saint Bernard in the Memorare are ever-so encouraging because, It is a thing unheard of that, anyone who ever had recourse to her protection and sought her intercession, was left unaided. Devotion to Mary is the key to the Incarnation and Redemption. God has desired that His mother be an intimate part of His plan for our salvation.

It is a great comfort to us all, and to me personally, that our new Bishop Alan Williams - has been not only the Director of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, but his own devotion to her is central to his spirituality. With this knowledge we can be confident that, from the beginning, the Diocese will be under her special protection and patronage. Our Lady of Lourdes is not only our own Patroness but that of our Diocese too. Continue to pray for our Bishop-elect that, under Mary’s powerful intercession, all of us, Clergy and Faithful, may be drawn into a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit whose outpouring we anticipate at Pentecost.

God bless you all!

Fr Kevin Hale


  1. Delighted that our young people have 'discovered' England's Nazareth! Will be there for a couple of days midweek with Benfleet Ordinariate. We continue to pray at Our Lady's feet for the conversion of England!!


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