By Ann Marie Foley - 24 September, 2020
For the first time in more than 20 years, priests and deacons, five in all, were ordained together at one celebration in Westminster Cathedral, London.
Because of restrictions imposed by the pandemic, five candidates including two to the diaconate and three to the priesthood were ordained at the same ceremony by Cardinal Vincent Nichols last weekend (Saturday 19 September).
The Cardinal stated that the Sacrament of Holy Order is based, not on a command structure, but on humble service.
“Service is the permanent and underlying foundation of all that is done by deacon, priest and bishop,” he said in his homily.
He added that: “in an age of self-definition and self-entitlement where rights are to be ‘demanded and defended’ and ‘entitlements pursued,” this is a temptation that everyone faces and cautioned that a “culture of entitlement has no place among us”.
The Cardinal ordained William Johnstone and Tim Mangatal to the diaconate, and Alexander Balzanella, David Knight and Axcel Soriano to the priesthood. Each of the newly ordained priests was given with an individual chalice and paten for their use during the Mass, with each set having a particular historical significance.
Fr Alexander Balzanella, who studied in the Venerable English College in Rome, was presented with a late fifteenth century English silver gilt chalice, given by the Swaything family. The stem is engraved with a trellis, and the knob set with the letters MARIA, and a rose. It honours the memory of the many martyrs of the English College.
Alexander Balzanella was ordained deacon in July 2019 at the Church of Our Lady of Snows Chapel in Villa Palazolla, just outside Rome, by Bishop Alan Hopes of East Anglia. He then spent a month on parish placement in Rickmansworth before completing his studies. Now that he is ordained Fr Alexander Balzanella returns to Rome for continuing studies.
Fr David Knight was presented with an English silver gilt chalice, dating from 1529. The cup is engraved with part of one of the prayers before Communion in the Sarum Missal. It has a hexagonal stem with twisted ropework. This chalice was used for many years prior to the liturgical reforms of Holy Week in the 1950s and 1960s in the procession to the Altar of Repose on Maundy Thursday. It was presented to the Cathedral by Baron Antonio French and his sisters.
Fr Axcel Soriano was presented with an English recusant silver gilt chalice, made around 1680, and engraved with leaves and the Crucifixion. Faces of cherubs adorn the knob. The two were ordained to the diaconate for the Diocese in June 2019 by Bishop John Wilson, in one of his last functions as Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster. Axcel Soriano and David Knight continued their formation for the priesthood in Allen Hall Seminary.
Fr David Knight will serve as Assistant Priest at The Annunciation in Burnt Oak; Fr Axcel Soriano will serve as Assistant Priest at St John Fisher, Harrow North. Deacon William Johnstone will serve at Our Lady, St John’s Wood, and Deacon Tim Mangatal will serve at St Mary, Cadogan Street in Chelsea.
Some of the ordination celebration was modified due to COVID-19 restrictions. Only the Cardinal, Bishops John Sherrington and Nicholas Hudson, and a handful of con-celebrating priests laid hands over the heads of the candidates.
The sign of peace was given by the Cardinal to the newly-ordained priests and deacons on behalf of all the clergy and people. During the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the paten and chalice used by the Cardinal were those presented by Pope Benedict XVI on his visit to the Cathedral 10 years ago.
The National office for Vocation of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has stated that the total number of new entrants for the priesthood was 27 in 2018; 41 in 2017; 25 in 2016 and in 2015 there were 42.