Priest who received Newman into the Church remembered

Archdiocese to honour Blessed Dominic Barberi

 Masses on 26 August and 19 September

As preparations are underway for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman by Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham on Sunday 19 September, the parish of St Anne and Blessed Dominic in Sutton, St Helens, is preparing to remember the man who received Cardinal Newman into the Roman Catholic Church.

Nineteenth Century Passionist Priest, Dominic Barberi, is buried in the Shrine at Sutton and was himself beatified by Pope Paul VI in Rome in 1963. Dominic had met the then Anglican Clergyman John Henry Newman at St Mary’s, in the Oxford village of Littlemore. They had great respect for each other, Newman, probably recognising Dominic’s spiritual stature, wrote: ‘When his form (Dominic’s) came in sight, I was moved to the depths in the strangest way. His very look had about it something holy.’

Dominic arrived at Newman’s home in Littlemore on his way to Belgium on 9 October 1845. He had travelled for twelve hours tied to the outside of a stagecoach in the driving rain, treated as baggage for a cheap fare. As he tried to dry himself in front of the fire Newman entered, knelt at Dominic's feet and asked to be received in to the Catholic Church. From there Newman went on to be ordained priest, be created a Cardinal and become one of the great Churchmen of the nineteenth century.

Thursday 26 August is the Feast Day of Blessed Dominic Barberi and the Shrine at Sutton will be open all day for private prayer. The Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, will celebrate Mass there at 6.30 pm that evening.

Father Ignatius Spencer CP is also buried in the Shrine. He was the youngest son of the second Earl of Spencer, who became first an Anglican clergyman, then a Catholic and a priest in Birmingham Diocese, and eventually a Passionist, being professed by Blessed Dominic at the first Passionist Monastery in England at Aston Hall near Stone in Staffordshire.

Ignatius, an ancestor of Diana, Princess of Wales, had played a big part in bringing the Passionists to England and had known Blessed Dominic for many years in Italy. After Dominic’s death he succeeded him as the Superior of the Order in this country and died in 1864 while Rector of Sutton Monastery.

On the other side of the altar lies Mother Mary Joseph CP, Foundress of the Passionist Sisters who had been received into the Church by Blessed Dominic

In time the town of St Helens may well have three Saints making St Anne and Blessed Dominic ‘the church of the three saints’. Blessed Dominic was beatified in 1963 and the Causes for Sainthood of Father Ignatius Spencer and Mother Mary Joseph were introduced in Rome in 1996

On the morning of 19 September normal Mass Times have been suspended at St Anne and Blessed Dominic church and one Mass will be celebrated by Parish Priest, Father Peter Hannah, starting at 10.00 am so that it will take place simultaneously with the Mass of Beatification in Cofton Park, Birmingham.

Father Hannah says of the celebration which will incorporate elements of the Mass of Beatification: ‘We are having one Mass in honour of the connection between Blessed Dominic and Cardinal Newman and will clearly associate ourselves with the celebration by the Holy Father in Birmingham.

‘We have in the parish a Shrine Development Group devoted to the cause of Blessed Dominic. This is the next stage in the story of how Dominic received John Henry Newman into the Catholic Church. Newman had a high opinion of Blessed Dominic and part of our aspiration is that the huge interest in Cardinal Newman will also focus the Church's attention to Blessed Dominic and promote the cause for his canonisation.’