On the Eastbourne Ordinariate site, Julianne Chatfield, Father Neil’s wife, wrote these very personal words:
At our arrival at the Shrine, having walked the Holy Mile out of the village, we
were welcomed by Mgr John Armitage. He spent a few moments saying how this place
was very much our place.
It made me remember the January day, 5 years ago, in Westminster, when Vincent
Nichols announced the name and patronage of this new Ordinariate. For us from
Eastbourne, there was a sense of the ‘rightness’ of the name. Walsingham has
been a key part of the journey to full communion with the Church. Pilgrimages
from Christ Church, along with a Walsingham cell had been begun by Fr Neil’s
predecessor, the late Fr Philip Fordham. Fr Neil continued this parish
tradition, which became ecumenical. Many from St Agnes, where our group now
meets joined Christ Church for these.
For us as a family, Walsingham became a key part of our children’s faith
upbringing, firstly with parish pilgrimages and then with the yearly Family
Pilgrimage at the Anglican shrine. Incidentally this is the place where our
children witnessed Sr Wendy play the drums! It is a place we all love.
For me, coming from an Evangelical background, Walsingham was not always a
comfortable place to be. It was also the place where discomfort turned to
understanding and understanding turned to valuing this part of the catholic
tradition. Walsingham has become a place which challenges and which feels like
home. This was no different when we returned as Catholics and members of the
Ordinariate. Some found the shift difficult but I, who had once been
uncomfortable never lost the home-coming feeling I had gained during my time as
an Anglican. Now, after several years of Ordinariate pilgrimages this process
has deepened. Walsingham provides a continuity to our spiritual journey. It is
part of our identity as members of the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.