Meeting with Neville Connell from Adelaide

Neville Connell, AdelaideA couple of weeks ago I received an eMail from Neville Connell, a former Anglican priest of fifty years standing who is now one of the mainstays and cantor of the South Australian Ordinariate Community of Blessed John Henry Newman in Adelaide.

Neville explained that he was doing an extensive tour of Asia and Europe and would like to meet with me when he was in Düsseldorf just before Whitsun. We agreed to meet in Münster on Friday 13th May. Münster is the former provincial capital of Westphalia and the seat of regional government as well as the Catholic Diocese of Münster.

Neville’s train from Düsseldorf was due to arrive at Münster Main Station on Platform 14 at 12.52 p.m. So I stood there in good time with my notice with Neville’s name on it in large letters. The train came. Several white-haired men got out but no-one reacted to my sign. Oh no! Then I realised what the date was – Friday the 13th.

What was I to do? I decided to go to Platform 2E, where an earlier train had arrived, hoping that he might be there – again no luck. So I leant against a wall and started to write him an eMail. I was just finishing the eMail when Neville stood there in front of me. He had apparently got the right train but for some reason we had missed each other on Platform 14, so he had started to look for me.

The sun was shining brightly so we made our way into the city centre, spending a short while in front of the Blessed Sacrament in the St. Servatius ErbdrostenhofChurch, where there is exposition all day long. We continued our walk into the centre, passing two baroque buildings by Johann Conrad Schlaun so untypical for Northern Europe, and all the while Neville told me about his pilgrimage through Europe in search of his family roots – his family came from Grünberg in Silesia (now Zielona Góra, Poland), Ireland and England before migrating to Australia 150 years ago.

We had a nice Friday lunch of potato and salmon gratin with salad and were able to sit at the table and chat for a couple of hours. I learned a lot about the history of the Ordinariate in Australia and was able to supplement my knowledge of the various Ordinariate communities with some very welcome first-hand information. Neville was a goldmine of details.

prinzipalmarktAfter our chat we were able to visit the Prinzipalmarkt, Münster’s main market street with its historical City Hall, where the Peace of Westphalia was negotiated and signed in 1648 at the end of the brutal Thirty Years’ War between the Protestants and the Catholics of most of mainland Europe.

We then walked to St. Paul’s Cathedral, a beautiful, bright building from the end of the Romanesque and various stages of the Gothic periods.

münster domAs we visited  the cathedral we were able to see the tomb of Blessed Clemens August Cardinal Count von Galen, the Bishop of Münster during the war, who was beatified because of his heroic resistance to the Nazi regime.

Blessed Clemens August Cardinal Count von Galen

Blessed Clemens August Cardinal Count von Galen

I was also able to show Neville a bronze eagle lectern which has a personal and ecumenical significance for me. In 1978 I accompanied a group from my local German parish to Norwich, where we were guests of the Anglican Cathedral parish. During that visit we were given a beautiful bronze eagle lectern from a redundant C of E church, which then received pride of place in our parish church. On a pastoral visit the then Bishop of Münster admired the lectern and asked if we could get a second one for the cathedral in Münster. So off we went again and brought back the beautiful lectern which is now in the choir of the cathedral. It came from an Anglican parish in London (like me, by the way).

Bishop Felix Genn at the eagle lectern

Bishop Felix Genn at the eagle lectern

At 5.15 p.m. the 10 Poor Clares who live at the cathedral were to sing vespers. We worked out that if we hurried back to the station we could attend vespers and catch the train too.

So we sat in the choir stalls in the Western choir (the cathedral has a sanctuary at both ends because of the history of the bishops of Münster being both bishop and prince until the end of the 18th century). The sisters sang beautifully and we in the small congregation did our best to do the same – Neville’s German singing was superb. The only spot in the ointment was that the priest who preached and gave the blessing was wearing civvies! I have never seen that before in the cathedral. On the other hand the organist, a young man of no more than 20, was quite superb.

Münster Cathedral - Western Choir

Münster Cathedral – Western Choir

On our rush back to the station we took a brief look at St. Lambert’s Church, a gorgeous Westphalian hall church, where Clemens August von Galen had been parish priest and held some very famous and very courageous sermons against lamberti käfigeeuthanasia by the Nazis. Hanging from the church tower are the cages in which were put the bodily remains of the Anabaptists, who had conquered the city from the bishop in 1530 until the town was recaptured a year later and they were hanged, drawn and quartered. The cages remain there today as a sign that it does not pay to contradict the bishop.

The afternoon with Neville was very enjoyable indeed and I wish him well on the rest of his journey through France to the UK.

David Murphy

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7 Responses to Meeting with Neville Connell from Adelaide

  1. Rev22:17 says:


    You wrote: I learned a lot about the history of the Ordinariate in Australia and was able to supplement my knowledge of the various Ordinariate communities with some very welcome first-hand information. Neville was a goldmine of details.

    Please do share!

    In particular, did he provide any information about the reception of the Church of the Torres Strait?

    You wrote: So we sat in the choir stalls in the Western choir (the cathedral has a sanctuary at both ends because of the history of the bishops of Münster being both bishop and prince until the end of the 18th century).

    This is a custom with which I am not familiar, in spite of my background in liturgy, and thus would be grateful for a more detailed explanation. Why two sanctuaries? Was there a main (high) altar in each sanctuary, or did one of the sanctuaries serve another purpose?


    • Much of what Neville and I discussed was of a confidential or personal nature, including the question of the Torres Strait. We must continue to pray for a solution for the Islands.

      I shall be posting a short piece on the developments in the parish of St Edmund Campion, Mentone, Melbourne.

      With regard to Münster Cathedral: Yes, indeed the cathedral has two crossings with two choirs and a high altar at each end of the church. I have been told that liturgies began with the Prince-Bishop in the West Choir in his princely regalia. He then processed to the East Choir where he ceremoniously disrobed and rerobed as a bishop. And indeed many of the older German cathedrals have a similar floorplan (Mainz, Bamberg, Speyer, Worms).

      • porys says:

        Very interesting – I know that some churches or cathedrals in Germany are split for the catholic and protestant part (like for instance in Bautzen/Budiszin), but I (the same as Norm) have never met with two sanctuaries in the church,
        As to the question about Torres Strait – say only if we should have any hope?

      • If we are asked to continue praying for the Torres Strait, it would seem that there is still hope.

      • Rev22:17 says:


        This explanation of the layout of several German cathedrals is very interesting.

        In a course on Roman Catholic liturgical documents some years ago, the professor described the process of developing the schemas (drafts) prepared for discussion at the Second Vatican Council. As he explained it, Pope John XXIII sent a letter to all of the Catholic bishops asking for their input as to what the council should discuss. The #1 question, at least in the area of liturgy, was the liturgical vesture of bishops and specifically the bishops’ use of the dalmatic. He then proceeded to explain that, in Germany, many bishops vested at the altar as a means of teaching the congregation that the bishop possessed the fullness of holy orders: he would first put on a dalmatic, becoming a deacon, then put on a chasuble, becoming a presbyter, and finally put on his miter and take his crosier, becoming a bishop. And, of course, wearing all of these layers was fine in Germany, where the weather tends to be cool most of the year, but not so fine in the tropics. However, the professor did not frame it in the context of the bishop also being a secular prince.

        That said, the tradition of Roman Catholic bishops being secular princes is not altogether dead. The Bishop of Urgel, Spain, is, ex officio, the Spanish Co-Prince of Andorra, and the entire co-principality, which has seven parishes, is within that diocese. (The President of France is French Co-Prince of Andorra, also ex officio.)


      • I just watched a documentary film on the Cathedral in Mainz. One of the first comments was that, when you enter the church, you cannot tell which way round the church is, since there are choirs at each end. In Mainz the main sanctuary is actually in the West not the East, to reflect the fact that in St. Peter’s in Rome it is also in the West, and Mainz viewed itself as the second St. Peter’s, because it was intended to be the seat of investiture of the Holy Roman Emperors. However, because the original cathedral in Mainz was destroyed by fire very soon after being built, Aachen (or Aix-la-Chapelle) remained the place where the emperor was invested and crowned.

  2. EPMS says:

    I would assume that any realistic proposal for the reception of former CTS members would have to be worked out after senior OOLSC clergy had a chance to visit local congregations and personally vet potential cadidates. This would be an expensive and time-consuming process for an organization short of resources and especially of manpower.

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