Despite Mgr. Andrew Burnham’s recent suggestion, the newly announced next Rector of the Roman Catholic National Shrine in Walsingham is unfortunately not a member of the Ordinariate. The Bishops of England and Wales were obviously not inclined to make a prophetic gesture of this kind. The priest who has been appointed, Monsignor John Armitage, is, however, a good friend of Walsingham and also of the Ordinariate. The following report is taken from the website of Brentwood diocese:
The parish priest at the Royal Docks and vicar general of the diocese is to leave his beloved East End for the National Shrine of Our Lady.
Monsignor John Armitage has been appointed as the Rector of the National Shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham, Norfolk. He takes up his appointment on Ash Wednesday 18th February 2015. His appointment is for five years.
Mgr. Armitage is currently parish priest of the Royal Docks in London’s East End and has served for the last 11 years as vicar general of the Brentwood Diocese. He was born in Canning Town, and studied for the priesthood at Oscott College, being ordained on 16th June 1979 by Bishop Patrick Casey. He was the first director of the Catholic Children’s Society Brentwood, and then vocations director for 10 years and chairman of the National Vocations Directors’ Conference. He was chairman of governors of St Bonaventure’s Catholic Boys’ School in Forest Gate for 12 years. He has served as a trustee of the Apostleship of the Sea, and is currently chairman of the Trustees of Caritas Anchor House, a residential centre for single homeless men and women in Canning Town.
Mgr Armitage said: “I first visited Walsingham as a seminarian in 1976, and since that visit have had a great devotion to our Lady of Walsingham. Each year I have attended the Youth 2000 Festival, and spent part of my holidays in the village. Although born and bred in London’s East End, I have a particular love for Norfolk, my great grandmother having come from Holt. I have lived in the East End for most of my life, where it has been a real joy to minister to the most wonderful people in the parishes in which I have served. I know I will find it hard to leave my parish, but as the local saying goes: ‘you can take a boy out of the East End but you can’t take the East End out of the boy’; I take them all with me in prayer as I go to serve this most ancient shrine of Our Lady at Walsingham. The message of the Annunciation is ‘do not be afraid’; this proclamation to all God’s people, to trust in God’s unconditional love, is the heart of Our Lady’s ‘yes’. In the spirit of the new evangelisation may Walsingham continue to play its part in calling all men and women to a conversion of heart, bringing healing, unity and peace in our lives.”
The Bishop of East Anglia, Bishop Alan Hopes, said: “I am delighted that Mgr John Armitage has accepted the appointment to be the new Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. He has been coming to Walsingham since 1976 and has a deep devotion to and love for Our Lady and her shrine. He will bring to this responsibility a huge amount of pastoral and practical experience with a love for people and especially for the most deprived and vulnerable of our society. Building on his predecessors’ work, I know that he will bring vision, enthusiasm and boundless energy to the task before him.
“I would like to thank the Marian fathers for the ministry they have carried out in Walsingham over these past decades; I would also like to express my gratitude to Bishop Alan Williams for releasing Mgr Armitage from the Diocese of Brentwood for the next five years.”
Bishop Alan Williams, who was director of the Shrine before his episcopal ordination as Bishop of Brentwood, said: “I offer Mgr John my warmest congratulations and wish him well in this new role.”