I’m *almost* to a point where I can get regular WIFI access at our hotel in the evening, and the last few days have been on trains, busses, and wasting time during layovers. SO! I have had time to write and I have WIFI to post!
Yesterday I had the blessing of stopping in New Brighton, England to visit the Institute Apostolate there! We had to walk there from our hotel, but thankfully we didn’t need any directions as the church was set on the highest hill in the city (that we also had the pleasure of walking up…) and you could see the infamous copper green dome for miles! Although the Church is named the Shrine of Saints Peter, Paul, and Philomena, it’s sometimes referred to as “That Dome” by the non-Catholics living in the village.
I’m not 100% sure why, but the church reminded me very much of the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago not necessarily by its structure, but more by its character, condition, and overall appearance. Like the Shrine, the main area of the church was rather plain and was quite in need of repairs; the ceiling and plain white walls were shedding huge layers of peeling paint and many places on the roof were completely falling apart. There was only a bit of modest decoration on the ceiling, but not much else to the main area of church except for some small statues on the side of St. Anthony of Padua and St. Thérése of Liseiux. However, also like the Shrine and despite the plain appearance of the church, the main (and side) altar was absolutely stunning. There were several different types of marble on different parts of the altar, columns, and wall behind. The blues, browns, and gold decorations all in different patterns and shapes somehow blended together very nicely. The community was also rather small and close knit, which is much more like the Shrine than St. Francis de Sales.
Although Mass was at 11:30, we got there at 11 for confession. Unfortunately, poor Canon Montjean has to say Mass elsewhere and then rush over here for Mass here. After inquiring with another lady, we also learned he almost never makes it with time for confession, and is usually late for Mass. Which was the case today.
As we were kneeling in the pews waiting, an old lady came up to us and asked each one of us in a loud whisper and a broad yorkshire accent
“Are you last??” and moving on to ask the next person too quickly for us to even reply.
We told her that she could go first if Canon ever made it and explained to her that it didn’t look like he would. She said:
“Oh… I know he never makes it, but I’m here every week! Did’ya know I haven’t been since EASTER!? I’ve got quite a lot of mess to sort out!” quite loud enough for the whole church to hear.
I could barely keep myself from laughing out loud. My Aunt then informed her that we were planning on going after Mass if Canon had time and she could go then, but the lady insisted that she couldn’t go because she had a “lift to catch”. At this point I turned around to face the other way because I couldn’t keep my laughter in anymore, and I saw another middle-aged lady laughing as well. She came over and told the older lady that she would be more than willing to stay a few extra minutes for her to go to confession if she needed too (so this was apparently her “lift”). Still in her loud whisper she said back:
“Oh no, I’d not be a bother! Besides I got six months of confessin’ to do, so I think it’ll take me a lot longer than just a few minutes! I’d best talk to Canon to see if he can set aside an hour or two…”
She certainly had a lot of character. I wonder if she went through this conversation every week?
Unfortunately, there were just a very small handful of people at the church this week, no choir, and only 2 servers for a Low Mass instead of a High Mass because (as we found out later) most of the parishioners were on a 50 mile pilgrimage, but we did manage to meet a few people. My Aunt talked to Canon for a few minutes while I was still inside the Church, but he had to leave right away for the annual chapter in Italy, so I was not able to say hello. However, one lady was so kind to make us feel very welcome (part of her Irish upbringing she said, although she also admitted she loves our accents too) and gave me a lot of information on surviving as a Catholic in the UK. She gave me her contact information and told me she would reach out to her Catholic friends in Edinburgh and Aberdeen (the two cities surrounding Dundee) who might be able to help! I was so grateful! We even exchanged stories about Canon Meney, who helped get the church up and running when the Institute took over in 2011.
I so enjoyed being there and I think I will have to see if I can stop by again on my journey back to The States for Christmas. Hopefully I will be able to post pictures soon (I only took a few), but if you want to see more there is a wonderfully done short video/documentary on the church (not sure what to call it, since “The Shrine” is Chicago for me and the entire name is quite a mouthful…) on the Institute’s International website. I would very much recommend checking it out! You can find the link HERE!!!
I’m now heading up to Glasgow for a few days to check out Scotland, but to be honest, visiting the Institute was the only thing I was really interested in. With the church reminding me so much of The Shrine in Chicago, leaving the Institute and good Catholics again left me a bit more homesick. I will just be very glad when I can settle into Dundee on Wednesday and try to adjust to “normal” life as I will know it for the next year.
Saint’s Peter, Paul, and Philomena, oráte pro nobis!
St. Margaret of Scotland, ora pro nobis!