Former Church of England Bishop Ordained a Catholic

Ordination Mass in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, March 12

Former Church of England Bishop
Photo - Bishops' Conference of England and Wales

His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols has ordained the former Church of England Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Jonathan Goodall to the Catholic priesthood.

The ordination Mass took place in Westminster Cathedral on Saturday, March 12.

Concelebrating were Archbishops George Stack, Leo Cushley, and Kevin McDonald alongside Bishops Marcus Stock, John Sherrington, and over 20 priests.

Also concelebrating was the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Eparchial Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, who was present as the war in Ukraine continues to rage. We pray for peace and an end to hostilities causing this humanitarian crisis.

Ecumenical guests in choir included the Bishop of Richborough Norman Banks, Bishop of Fulham Jonathan Baker and retired Church of England Bishops Nicholas Reade and John Hind.

Following his ordination, Fr Jonathan Goodall will serve as Parish Priest of St William of York, Stanmore.

Full Homily

My dear sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ, it is our belief and joy that every celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, this included, opens for us a glimpse of heaven. This glimpse can be sensed, sometimes in the splendor of the liturgical actions and music, sometimes in its noble simplicity. It can be focussed on the sacrificial action of the Eucharist, or on the proclamation of the living word of God in the Liturgy of the Word. Such is the gift of the Liturgy that it lifts us out of daily selves, pointing to the great mystery of God, which lies both within our deepest being and beyond all telling. Liturgy can touch us with the very presence and power of that mystery.

For me, the words of today’s Gospel do precisely that. Not only do these words of Jesus fulfill the ‘laws and customs… you must keep and observe with all your heart and all your soul’, as the Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy presented, but they throw open a horizon of love beyond our understanding.

‘You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ Yes, indeed, we hear it almost every day, magnified in a culture that has no space even for dialogue that can seek to bridge the gap between love and hatred.

‘But I say to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way, you will be sons of your Father in heaven.’

These words offer a glimpse of heaven, a shaft of light coming from the Father and breaking through the clouded skies of our human nature. Only God can offer this love. We can offer it only in union with God, in union with Christ Jesus, who in his sacrifice makes visible this love towards enemy and persecutor.

What is this love? The word used to name it is ‘agape’, indicating ‘invincible goodwill’. It means that ‘no matter what they do to us, no matter how they treat us, no matter if they insult us or injure us or grieve us, we will never allow any bitterness against them to invade our hearts, but will regard them with that unconquerable benevolence and goodwill which will seek nothing but their higher good.’ (William Barclay). This is the love towards which a follower of Christ strives. It can be achieved only through the grace and power of God. Such love is made visible in Christ Jesus. It is for us a glimpse of heaven.

We have these words before us because we come to this ordination at the end of the first week of Lent, seeking ‘the one thing necessary’, to do the will of God. Lent is the season of the promise of heaven, in which we prepare our hearts to receive afresh the gift of our redemption.

Lent, as we know, lasts forty days. This has many echoes, one of which takes us back to the Book of Numbers and the forty-day mission of the spies sent by Moses to explore the Promised Land. Remember, they came back telling of a land flowing with milk and honey and carrying with them a huge bunch of grapes, pomegranates, and figs, saying, ‘This is its produce’ (Numbers 13:27). They had been given a glimpse of the kingdom, the promised future. They were its heralds. Here, surely, we see a forerunner of the promise of heaven. We see the fruit as a glimpse of the richness of that heavenly promise.

As we come to this ordination, I suggest that there are two sets of words and images with which to understand the priesthood that we ask of God and affirm in our actions today. It is the priest who is to bear these promises of heaven. It is in his sacred ministry that these disclosures are made.

He is to break open the Word of God, diffusing its light into everyday circumstances. His ministry of the Word is more sacred than scholarly, more for the spirit than the mind. Then, it is the priest who sets before his people the first and best fruits of the heavenly kingdom, the sacred Body and Blood of Christ, a foretaste of the heavenly banquet itself.

In these ways, we see the priest ‘in persona Christi capitis’ (in the person of Christ the Head), as the one who lays bare the gifts of heaven, leading the pilgrimage on its heavenly journey, nurturing the assembled people, disclosing the joy and promise of what lies ahead. The priest is to be the effective sign and standard-bearer of those glimpses of heaven. He is to constantly hold before us the promise of the fullness for which we are created, the perfection to which we are summoned, by the words of Jesus himself, to seek above all else. We thank God for the gift of such a priesthood.

Every man approaching Catholic priesthood does so in his own particular circumstances. Today we recognize, and rejoice in, this next defining step being made by Jonathan and, indeed, by his family. It’s quite a journey, yet I know that it is driven by one sole quest, the desire for that one necessary thing: to live in conformity to the will of God.

I know, too, that so many have played a part in this journey, many of you here, many who would have liked to be here but were unable to come, many who have gone before us into the promised kingdom, of whom I name but one: Cardinal Basil Hume, OSB.

Perspectives on the nature of this journey and the step being taken today are spelt out for us in the special prayer, inserted into the Rite of Ordination. This prayer helps us to see clearly the nature of this moment. It states that we, present as the Catholic Church, recognize the fruitfulness of Jonathan’s ministry in the Anglican Communion as ‘truly engendering a life of grace.’ We give thanks to God for that ministry, and, therefore, for the continuing ministry of his former friends and colleagues, so many of whom hold him in their love and prayers even in this moment of leaving and receiving. Our prayer is fervent and sincere.

We pray that Jonathan’s ministry is now incorporated into the fullness of the priesthood as understood and lived in the Catholic Church. For us, this is a gift and a moment in which we give thanks to all who have fashioned and enriched Jonathan’s life and ministry over so many years. I know that you will continue to pray for him as he now seeks to immerse himself into our life, serving in the Parish of St William of York, in Stanmore, where he will be received and supported with the remarkable love in which Catholic people consistently and faithfully hold their priest.

Yet today we are also so intensely aware and dismayed by the warfare and violence being suffered by so many. Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Ukraine, and especially to their bishop here in England, Bishop Kenneth. Thank you for your presence. Yet this conflict touches also the entire Orthodox world, our oldest brothers and sisters in Christ, now torn not only by our historic differences but also by the divisions caused by this appalling invasion and the callous destruction that comes in its wake.

Today we pray for peace, for an end to hostilities, for the restoration of order, both temporary and permanent, in which the destitute may be helped and stability achieved.

Today we pray for unity among all the followers of Jesus Christ, a unity which can only be achieved in as much as we are purified by the Lord himself. As Cardinal Hume often said, our unity will only be achieved when we are on our knees.

Indeed, shortly we shall all fall to our knees – some, perhaps, figuratively – while Jonathan lies prostrate in prayer, imploring the prayers of the saints and the action of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, that he may pour out the gifts of heaven on this servant of his, Jonathan, whom he has chosen – many years ago and now afresh – to be a priest.

Lord, in your mercy, hear these our humble prayers. Amen.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster