Exciting Developments in the Diocese of Brentwood

Our Bishop, the Right Reverend Alan Williams, has been slowly discerning the best way to re-organise and govern certain areas of Diocesan life and administration. 

Some people have expressed concern over the amount of time this has taken, but as the Managing Director of a not inconsiderable organisation myself, it seems very sensible to me that anyone coming into such an important role would need to take a great deal of time to discern the issues facing the Diocese and get to know the people within the organisation.

Inevitably, this process of discernment has resulted in some changes at the Diocesan Offices in Brentwood including a rationalisation of staffing. This caused some disquiet, after many years of stagnation, some of the people there had been around for a long while. Some unscrupulous journalists tried to portray this in Machiavellian tones in the dreadful Tablet. But the reality was nothing more than what one might logically expect for any new pair of hands taking over a key role in a large organisation.

This week, the process has taken a big step forward with the announcement that in addition to the four Episcopal Vicars the Bishop has appointed  to oversee areas of Administration, Pastoral Formation, Education and Evangelisation and, Mgr Kevin Hale's appointment as Vicar General, he has revived the Chapter of Canons.

To assist the Bishop in his role as Shepherd in the Diocese, there exists the Council of Priests and a College of Consultors; this body can be the Chapter of Canons.  Traditionally it was the function of the Canons of a Diocese to  pray the liturgy in the Cathedral and act as the close advisers and collaborators of the Bishop.  For over three decades there have not been any new Canons appointed in Brentwood but this week our Bishop has decided to revive the Chapter of Canons so that their important work can function again.  

There are nine new Chapter Canons: Canons Patrick Sammon, Paul Bruxby, Peter Connor, John McGrath, Anthony McKentey, Martin O’Connor, Brian O’Shea, William Young & Kevin Hale. 

The first meeting of the Chapter will be in the New Year with the ceremony of Installation in the Cathedral at Brentwood. Please pray for these priests and there new responsibilities that, the Canons may assist the Bishop with prayer and loyalty, in his grave task of leading and guiding the People of God.  

This is great news; it is an extra layer of support for the Bishop and presents an excellent cross-section of the priests of the Diocese. Any leader needs good back up. Success in management revolves around the ability to listen to the voices of those who can contribute information you would otherwise not be party to. I am particularly pleased to see my old family friends, Fr. Pat Sammon and Fr. Anthony McKentey named, as well as the excellent Fr. William Young.

Fr. Graham in the Holy Land, 2010.
In another bit of excellent news, a new Vocations Director has been appointed: Fr Graham Smith. Father Graham is a great friend of mine. He is an excellent priest, and very orthodox, with great energy, wit and intelligence and I would ask that you pray for him in his new role, as this area has been rather stagnant in our Diocese over the last few years and desperately needs a shake up.

As the forthcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy which begins in Advent, our Bishop will celebrate a Mass signalling the start of the Jubilee Year in the Cathedral on Tuesday, 8th December at 7.30pm.


  1. The resurrection of the Cathedral Chapter may be, just maybe, of great importance by the time the new bishop, Dr Williams, becomes the former bishop (hopefully by moving on to greater things or retiring). Some time ago, I argued in the pages of the Scottish Catholic Observer for a better, more open and quicker way to appoint bishops. My thoughts on the matter had developed in consequence of something I had noticed when doing a wee bit of research for an article about Pope Emeritus Benedict. I looked at the history of the Archdiocese of Munich and was surprised to notice that whereas Joseph Ratzinger had been “appointed” Archbishop of Munich, as had his two immediate predecessors, previously Archbishops of that great Metropolitan See were elected, with scant exception, the last elected one being Michael Cardinal Faulhaber. It then became clear that many archdioceses and dioceses in both Germany and Austria had “elected” ordinaries. And basically the process is the same in most of them (most variations are only slight, for example time scales, but in some the input from outside the See varies).

    In general, firstly, within 8 days of the See becoming vacant a diocesan administrator is elected by the College of Consultors, the group of senior priests, numbering between 6 and 8, freely chosen by the former diocesan ordinary to serve for a five year term. (This is how it is supposed to be done but recently in Scotland in two it was and in two it wasn’t. The situations existing in the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh and in my own Diocese of Motherwell were such that Rome imposed an administrator, Archbishop Tartaglia of Glasgow and Bishop Toal then of Argyll and the Isles respectively; Bihop Toal is now Bishop of Motherwell.) The administrator’s first responsibility is to prepare a report, in the form used for the ad limina, on the See to be delivered to the Apostolic Nuncio for onward transmission to Rome. He has three months maximum to do this. (Until the administrator is chosen, the Auxiliary Bishop, if there is one, the senior Auxiliary, by appointment, if there is more than one, is in charge. Only usual business may be transacted.)

    Secondly, the Cathedral Chapter must within three months present to the Holy See a list of suitable candidates. The Nuncio, the remaining bishops of the Province and the Bishops’ Conference would all be entitled to present candidates. The Pope (with the assistance of the Congregation for Bishops, advised by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which issues the nulla osta) will then draft a list of three names from all of these proposals and from amongst these the cathedral chapter must choose by election a new archbishop or bishop.
    The whole process should take no more than 8 months. And the beauty of all this is that since everything that is most important is being done locally — subsidiarity, anyone? — it is both more easy for the people to make their voices heard and more likely that it will be listened to. Even if, in charity, the Cathedral Chapter do not go with the vox populi. But at least they will have the opportunity, if they so wish, to let their parishioners know why they didn’t. On the QT, of course.

  2. Great news - a spurned tradition of antiquity and use revived


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