Guy Fawkes Day last week gave an ideal opportunity for Priory School of Our Lady of Walsingham to explore Catholicism in England and the Canonisation of John Henry Newman earlier on October.
There was the chance to examine the way in which, after the Reformation, Catholics became associated with a perceived threat to England that the Gunpowder plot of 1605 only gave force to. Reduced to a hunted and persecuted minority, the continued patriotism of English Catholics was noted via the picture that hung in a Spanish seminary that showed Our Lady casting arms of protection over English seminarians, with the inscription “Anglia Dos Maria” – England the Dowry of Mary. This has been a repeated theme at Priory School this year as the church prepares for the rededication of England as Our Lady’s Dowry scheduled for next March at Westminster Cathedral. This is interwoven with the required teaching on Fundamental British Values all schools must promote, as the values “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.” are of course derived from our Judaeo-Christian heritage. The life and thought of St John Henry Newman showed the various divisions in Christianity in the 19th Century and how, beginning with Catholic Emancipation in 1829, Catholics began to take a greater part in public English life, enhanced of course by Newman’s own reception into the Catholic church in 1845. A highlight of the assembly was the 12 minute video “An Introduction to Newman” that had the compelling testimony of Melissa Villalobos whose miraculous healing was the second miracle required for canonisation, the steps of which were fully explained as they are not necessarily well known to Catholics never mind in general. This clearly enthralled the senior pupils, especially the girls, and made a deep impact. This led on to the institution in 2009 of the Ordinariate which bridges the separation of the Church of England and the Catholic Church in this country.
Priory School is an independent Christian School with both a Catholic and an Anglican chaplain, and is the only secondary school in England named after Our Lady of Walsingham, its patron. It is based in the old “royal” school at Whippingham on the Osborne estate on the Isle of Wight, built by Queen Victoria in 1864.
Extract from an assembly talk from Edmund Matyjaszek,
Principal of the Priory School of Our Lady of Walsingham