This past semester two of our sisters were able to travel to England as part of their studies. Looking back now from the end of the academic year, we wish to give thanks to God for these opportunities.
Although January is not the best time of year of travel to Birmingham (UK) and then go up to Northumbria by train on pilgrimage, we had to take the travel dates as they came to us. M. Joy of Martyrs Kimble, SSVM made her first scheduled residency period at Maryvale Institute as she began her studies to earn a Pontifical Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy. Maryvale offered us a wonderful introduction to the Catholic Church in England—its past and its present. Blessed John Henry Newman lived there in the first years following his conversion to Catholicism, and Blessed Dominic Barberi, the Italian Passionist who received him into the Church, is a local patron for the Diocese of Birmingham’s Year of Faith.
Next we went to Northumbria where the Little Sisters of the Poor graciously hosted us at their St. Joseph’s Home in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This leg of the journey was a pilgrimage and academic adventure specially planned by Sr. Maria Theotókos Adams who is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Church History at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. We went in search of the relics of St. Bede the Venerable and St. Cuthbert as well as the archeological sites related to the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons and the flourishing of monasticism in seventh and eighth century. On a particularly snowy day, the two of us journeyed out to Jarrow, the site of Bede’s monastic community and home to a museum dedicated to the period called “Bede’s World.” The next day, we were able to pray before the relics of St. Cuthbert and St. Bede in Durham Cathedral. The resident archeologist also allowed us to visit the monks’ dormitory which is now a library and museum of Anglo-Saxon carved stone and 19th century replicas of the Ruthwell Cross and Bewcastle Cross (made before the effects of acid rain damaged the stone). We ended our time in Northumbria with a special visit to the chapel at Escomb, one of the earliest Saxon buildings still standing.
We ended with a one-day visit in London beginning at the Tower of London and prayer before the relics of St. Thomas More (1478-1535) and St. John Fisher (1460-1535), followed by a vigorous walking tour of the city including Westminster Abbey where we venerated the relics of St. Edward the Confessor (1003-1066) behind the high altar. We also made a “pop-in” to hear the choir at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, and a quick visit to see the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon housed at the British Museum. A special moment was a visit to Tynburn Abbey, site of execution for so many English martyrs, and an invitation for tea with the Mother Superior. We ended with Mass at Westminster Cathedral where we also could pray before the relics of St. John Southworth, one of the latest of the English martyrs who died for the faith in 1654 at Tynburn. The next day we returned to Washington just in time for the 2013 March for Life!
Shortly after, M. Joy returned to her mission in Guyana, and Sr. Theotókos to her duties teaching and studying at the Juniorate. We ask for the prayers of the Patroness of England, Our Lady of Walsingham, for the Catholic Church in England for the fruits of our studies!
M. Joy of Martyrs and Sr. Theotókos