From Our Own Correspondent in the Cathedral

On Tuesday, Brentwood Diocese' new shepherd, Alan Williams, was consecrated as bishop, and received the fullness of Holy Orders. After 34 years, Brentwood has a new bishop and this can only be a momentous event in the life of every Catholic who lives in Brentwood. Sadly, I could not attend, despite attempted bribery, repeated begging and even threats of physical violence. I was fortunate enough to have an inside track on events however, in the form of the pulchritudinous and erudite head girl from Brentwood Ursuline Catholic High School, Miss Amy Gander. She has written a brief summary of her experience on Tuesday exclusively for readers of De Omnibus Dubitandem Est:

Our intrepid reporter selfied with retired Bishop Christopher Budd & Fr. John McGrath
In his homily, Cardinal Vincent Nichols talked about aspects of being a Bishop, the roles one must fulfil to honour their appointment, and for me these perfectly summarised the day.
First was commitment to prayer. Entering the Cathedral at 11 am, an entire hour before mass was due to begin it was incredible to see not only the number of people milling, chatting, and being ushered into the designated seats, but also to note how many sat with their heads bowed in prayer.
Second was to 'stay close to the people'. When my younger sister met Bishop Alan before the ordination in Walsingham, she talked about his humility and about how much of a 'people person' he was. He entertained the young people and they enjoyed spending time with him. Yesterday it was clear to see why. As other would bask in the glory of such a special moment, Bishop Alan's mannerisms were that of a servant someone ready to get to know the people and someone ready to learn. Both the second reading and Gospel made references to being a servant, of God, but also of the people and this was reiterated by the Consecrator, as the third aspect.
As my first experience of an ordination, yesterday was incredible, it was a real honour to bring up the offertory. Throughout the celebration I found myself in awe of not only the sense of God's presence at moments such as the handing over of the staff from the old Bishop to the new, but also the togetherness of people from all regions of the country and of differing faiths, and representatives from other groups in society such as the judicial system, and I found this very reassuring. For me, yesterday was a joyful day, but also one of reflection and reverence as it should be. It helped me to see that those who say that religion is dying are wrong, and I only wish more young people would have been able to witness the ordination with me, especially if the next is another 34 years away!

Our new bishop addressed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor
It must be a very strange experience for Bishop McMahon, in post for 34 years, to hand his role on to a relative stranger, along with his cathedra, his people, and the cathedral he built. We must remember to keep him in our prayers as he takes a well earned rest.

I think it is immediately evident that there will be a huge initial change in style. Bishop Williams' style appears to be much more approachable and with the people. As Pope Francis interestingly articulated it recently, he certainly smells of his flock.

One example of this is the Bishop's decision to live with the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham, in the cottage at Abbotswick House of prayer.

Bishop Alan Williams outside his new home.
I think this is a beautiful and valuable decision. Bishop William's will be able to benefit from community life and will hopefully not feel isolated. It's just a guess, but I should imagine it can be very lonely being a bishop. It can't be easy to fraternise with the priests you are responsible for, and everyone is looking to you for leadership and answers. If you are not grounded, with people around you who you can trust and who can treat you "normally", I should imagine it would be easy to become narcissistic and rather self-absorbed. Almost over-confident with your own power. Of course, perspective would mean one could move away from such an insular perspective and take a view on the real job of mission. The first duty of the bishop is the spiritual welfare of those who reside in his diocese. That includes preaching the Gospel not only to the converted but, even more importantly, to the unconverted. In the day-to-day matters of life, the bishop guides his flock, to help them better understand the Christian faith and concretely translate it into action. He ordains priests and deacons to assist him in preaching the Gospel and celebrating the sacraments.

Bishop Alan Williams at the Cathedral with the wonderful Community of Our Lady of Walsingham & the statue from the national Shrine of Our Lady.
Just as each of the Apostles went forth from Jerusalem to spread the Word of God by founding local churches, of which they became the head, so, too, the bishop today is the visible source of unity in his diocese, his local church. is our Apostle, a successor to the Apostles. Ordained by fellow bishops, who were themselves ordained by fellow bishops, each of whom can trace a direct, unbroken line of ordination back to the Apostles, a condition known as "apostolic succession."

The bishop can, in a most profound way, cause his diocese; his local church, to flourish, confident and vibrant in the faith, or whither and die in disarray and confusion, overcome by Pope Francis' three "half-hearted" groups: the "uniformists," "alternativists" and "businessists." I know from the little bit of work I have done for the diocese how everyone looks to the bishop for pretty much everything! He must find a way to love the people (agape) and most importantly, his priests. He must inspire us, keep us from error, lead us to God.

I am praying hard for our new bishop every day as he begins this huge task in the diocese in which I have always lived. I am invigorated by the change and excited for the future. But most of all I want our new bishop to know how much we love and are praying for him; willing him on; supporting him and willing to do whatever he directs to build the kingdom. Go for it Bishop Alan!

You can download a PDF of Cardinal Nichols' homily by clicking here.

You can hear hilights of the Consecration by clicking on the various links here.

You can look through a really beautiful set of pictures of the day here.


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