Sunday, October 24, 2010

Archbishop Peter Smith at Donhead

Strangely after posting yesterday that last week had not inspired any thoughts  to blog post as main events the unexpectedly inspiring visit of Archbishop Peter Smith to Donhead  on Wednesday morning came to mind. As reported on the diocesan website:  
Archbishop Peter opened a new building at Donhead School, Wimbledon, a Jesuit School founded in 1933. The new building is dedicated to St John Berchmans, a Jesuit seminarian who died at the age of 22 in 1621 and was canonised in 1888
The occasion was largely informal as befits a new building for prep school age pupils and the Archbishop struck just the right note in his words to the boys.  The opening of the new classrooms in the brilliant sunshine was excellently accomplished (well done headmaster) although I could see the architects and building team representatives looking slightly nervous as if some snagging defect might manifest itself at so public a time.

 The Archbishop's conversation  and manner and that of his secretary  whilst chatting  to adult visitors and staff  afterwards over cups of tea were warm and interesting without some of the unneccessary  loftiness that I recall from some of his predecessors  many years ago and thankfully no Bishop's ring  was proffered to kiss.

The Archbishop   said that he had taken a law degree and we joked about whether his decision to eschew law for the cloth was for the best. He had always wanted to remain a parish priest - down town Thornton Heath was mentioned - but obedience does not always depend on formal vows so the (arch)bishoprics of East Anglia,  Cardiff and now Southwark, beckoned.  If this visit is any yardstick  my view is that he will become one of Southwark's great Catholic Archbishops

Although I recall the late Bishop Guazzelli of East London  visiting Donhead, Bishop Victor was an old boy of the school so there might have been   some sentimental aspects for his coming,  no one can recall any Archbishop ever visiting Donhead or indeed Wimbleon College before.

4 comments:

  1. I was surprised about this, not that I have anything against St John Berchmans, but given that he is already the patron saint of a Jesuit school, perhaps they should have spread the honours a bit. St Stanislaus Kostka comes to mind. Since his previous patronage was so rudely interrupted, it would seem only polite.

    As an interesting aside, I googled Jesuit saints when I saw your post, and if the list is to be believed, all of them bar one were between 1552 and 1628. The anomaly was a St. Modeste Andlauer in 1900. Given their number and activity, this seems extraordinary.

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  2. Just to add that nothing in the above should imply any criticism of Archbishop Smith, who seems to be one of our more savvy prelates, with a commendable facility for dealing with the press.

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  3. (EDITed to remove my errors)
    Thank you for your thought provoking comments Anonymous. I will consult the Headmaster and post again. Meanwhile my preference would have been for the classrooms' naming to have the commemorated the more modern Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador murdered in November 1989 along with their cook. The kitchen plays a large part in Donhead life so including the names of the murdered cook and her daughter along with the 6 Jesuits would have been quite fitting. Some of the Jesuits were I think seminarians and attended the Central American University so would be relevant as Donhead role models

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  4. I hadn't thought of that, but you're absolutely right - theirs would be a heroic example.

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