I recently made the experience that reading Ordinariate news sources on a regular basis brings people together and facilitates conversation.
Since we live not too far from the Dutch border I often drive over to the Netherlands to do some shopping, to buy things which are simply not available in Germany, and also because I am learning the lingo and it is fun to practice it.
And so it was on Thursday evening. As I walked into the supermarket (Albert Heijn in Enschede) a couple came over to me and asked me with an adorable Australian accent whether I spoke English. I apologized for not being Australian but merely a Brit, but was confident that we could communicate with each other. They found this amusing, and were both surprised and a little relieved that the first person they had spoken to in Holland was English. They too had just come across from Germany where they were staying in a beautiful lakeside hotel near the border and were now on their way to visit a sister who had married “a mad Dutchman”.
I helped them to understand the description on the packaging of the product they could not identify and asked them where they came from. “Queensland” was the answer. Hoping not to locate the city in the wrong state, I asked them if they were from Brisbane. “No, Cairns”. They were flabbergasted when I told them about Fr. Gordon Barnier of Cairns and the fact that he had been Vicar General of the Church of the Torres Strait. “I worked in the Torres Strait” said the wife.
At that moment the husband’s brother came over. “My brother-in-law is from Rockhampton”. Now was my chance to marvel at the coincidence. I asked him if he knew Our Lady of Walsingham Church which had been Anglican and is now Catholic and mentioned Father Owen Buckton. Indeed he had heard about it and knew St. Theresa’s Church well, where the community now worship (I was surprised myself that I remembered the name of the church!), explaining to his sister-in-law exactly where St. Theresa’s is located.
As the conversation progressed they all three assumed that I had been to Australia and visited these communities. No, I told them, I am a member of the Ordinariate and had read all this information on the internet. Of course, having now met actual people from Cairns, the Torres Strait and Rockhampton, everything seems to me a lot more real. The next thing indeed would be for me to get on a plane and visit Down Under, if only it was a little closer and not quite so expensive. “Helaas!” (Alas), as the Dutch would say.