New VG For Brentwood!


Further to the announcement of Mgr John Armitage's forthcoming move to Walsingham, as reported here, the new Vicar General for Brentwood Diocese has been announced as my friend, the Dean of Southend and Parish Priest of Our Lady of Lourdes & St. Joseph, Leigh-on-Sea, Fr. Kevin Hale!

Brentwood's new VG reveals his more tender side as he cradles my new born daughter, Mary-Therese.
This is great news for the Diocese as Fr. Kevin has developed a reputation for orthodoxy, excellent management skills, and gentle pastoral touch. Most importantly for a VG, he loves the priesthood and he loves his fellow clergy. He has achieved a great deal in his twelve years at Leigh-on-Sea, including the building of our magnificent Parish Centre. He has always played an important role in the diocese and is Chair of the Council of Priests.

This is the function of a VG according to the Code of Canon Law:
Can. 475 §1. In each diocese the diocesan bishop must appoint a vicar general who is provided with ordinary power according to the norm of the following canons and who is to assist him in the governance of the whole diocese.
§2. As a general rule, one vicar general is to be appointed unless the size of the diocese, the number of inhabitants, or other pastoral reasons suggest otherwise.
Can. 478 §1. A vicar general and an episcopal vicar are to be priests not less than thirty years old, doctors or licensed in canon law or theology or at least truly expert in these disciplines, and recommended by sound doctrine, integrity, prudence, and experience in handling matters.
Can. 479 §1. By virtue of office, the vicar general has the executive power offer the whole diocese which belongs to the diocesan bishop by law, namely, the power to place all administrative acts except those, however, which the bishop has reserved to himself or which require a special mandate of the bishop by law.
Father Kevin surrounded by his flock
Father Kevin was born and brought up in Wansted, a suburban area in the London Borough of Redbridge, North-East London. His beloved mother Marie was the person who unlocked his vocation, patiently explaining the faith to him, helping him to grow in love of Jesus and His Church. 

He attended Allen Hall seminary in Chelsea and later earned a Masters in Theology from Maryvale in Birmingham. He is very humble about his academic ability, but as someone who has studied Catholic theology at degree level, I have always found him sharp as a blade and aware of the most salient points on every matter of doctrine and theology. He has always known what the subject or essay question was really about and was able to point me in the right direction. That was immeasurably valuable for me when I was studying.

Father Kevin also has a deep love and understanding of liturgy, he says the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite on the first Sunday of every month at our Parish Church of Our Lady and St. Joseph, Leigh-on-Sea and I have been privileged to take part in some very beautiful liturgies with him, like this Mass at the Lady Chapel in our Church early one morning, the Novus Ordo, ad Deum, in Latin.


Father Kevin loves all things Catholic, he loves Italy and speaks fluent Italian. He loves the Baroque and has a deep understanding of Baroque art and architecture. He has a particular fondness for the work of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Rome is like a second home to him and he knows the city as well as he knows London. I have been privileged to accompany him several times where he has arranged wonderful Masses in Chiesa Nuova, in the Crypt at St. Peter's and at the altar of the Salus Populi Romani in The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. He enthuses about the Catholic beauty and art which raises our spirits to heaven and helps us to contemplate the eternal, and he wants to share these wonders.

With Fr. at the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
Father Kevin conveys a deep spirituality, a love of Jesus Christ in the Real Presence of the Eucharist. He transmits this love of Christ in the way he behaves on the altar at Mass, his attitude when he acts as alter Christus in the Sacraments and he never fails to convey this when he is teaching and when he is preaching. He has a deep love of Our Lady and never fails to mention her in his homilies. I really struggled with Mariology before Fr. Kevin helped me to understand how she is the moon to Jesus' Sun. When the sun is too bright to look at, we can look at the moon where we see the sun reflected and can take time to study it. In this way I came to recognise the way in which all the Christological mysteries can be best understood when considered through Mary.


He is always in great demand as a speaker and at functions and Catholic gatherings, so much so, I have often wondered at his stamina. He is tireless in transmitting a message which is unfailingly orthodox, and he is valued by many lay people I know because of that solid, recognisably Catholic message and attracts people to Mass from far and wide because of the beauty of the liturgy and the orthodoxy of his homilies. He has always encouraged and supported me to evangelise in the Parish. He has initiated numerous courses, Lenten talks from excellent speakers, Robert Barron's Catholicism, more recently we have been talking about introducing Chosen for our Confirmation Course:



He also has a brilliant RCIA strategy which always attracts large numbers. He reaches out to men marrying Catholic women in the parish and encourages them to come along. I have sent several people along to the RCIA course, which he gently calls ABC: About Being Catholic, and everyone particularly comments on Father Kevin's own input as valuable and giving convincing reasons to find out more about the faith. It is this personal witness and conviction which is most appealing about Fr. Kevin's ministry.

He also brings that reassurance of the faith to those who are sick and dying. It is then when you really need a priest, and I know at least one occasion when I was contacted by a family whose husband/ father was near death and they did not want him to go without receiving Holy Communion, but did not know how to arrange it. I rang Father Kevin and asked what to do, I said if he was too busy, I would take Holy Communion and say the prayers. But Father Kevin is never too busy for that. He has told me before in no uncertain terms "That is my job". He went to that family and gave the dying man the peace to face his end with dignity and hope in the Resurrection. The family told me later how grateful they were and how wonderful Father was with the dying man, and it was in that moment I think I really started to realise just how important a priest is; just how much they can do, how much they can give.
Fr. addressing Southend Catenians.
Father Kevin is my friend, someone who helped me when I lost my beautiful daughter Ruth in 2009. He was not my Parish Priest at the time, but he acted with incredible tact and compassion and provided a depth of pastoral back-up I have never experienced before, helping Louise, the boys and I to cope with what had happened and arming us spiritually for the future. He enquired after us, visited, invited us to do things and to go places, he kept us active and praying, he deftly manouvered round us when we would have easily sunk into ourselves. he knew exactly what he was doing and it was incredibly helpful at the most difficult time of my life so far. To me he is that epitome of what it means to be a priest articulated by Pope St. John Paul II: "A man for others".

Fr. Kevin with Mgr Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham
If he reads this, he will be cross with me, because he doesn't like me praising him. He doesn't like me writing this blog at all really, but I think as Father Kevin moves on to the next stage of his life as a priest, it is important that I provide my own personal insight into the man and to say how proud I am to know him. And he is a man, a man who loves good food and good wine, old music, he loves a laugh, is quick with a joke and smiles a lot and he loves the sun on his face.

He needs our prayers now and will need them more in the weeks and months to come as he takes up his new responsibilities in the diocese under Bishop Alan Williams. I have no doubt he will do great things and look forward to continuing my friendship with him over the years to come!

Fr. Kevin hearing confession in the Galilee


Comments

  1. He seems to be a wonderful man, you are lucky to have such a friend.

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