"Together we are stronger": The proposed unification between Ireland and England-Scotland moves on
In mid-April, the Intermediate Chapter of the English-Scottish Province took place at the High Leigh Conference Centre in the town of Hoddesdon, just north of London
Eighteen friars were part of this historic chapter, including the newly appointed Assistant General for Northern Europe, Fr Ian Wilson. Joining him were the provincial superior, Fr Robert Marsh, and Fr Tony Egan (Prior Provincial of Ireland). Also present was Fr Stephen Shields, Bursar of the Irish Province, and two simple professed brothers. The Chapter sessions were facilitated by Sr Brenda McCole nds.
“One friar could not attend due to health problems,” Fr Ian told us shortly after landing in Rome to undertake his first work in the Curia. "In any case, the atmosphere that we were able to experience despite the absence of a much respected brother was one of deep fraternity, prayer, and honest and open discussion."
In the plenary sessions, there were opportunities to review the finances of the Province, see in detail the state of affairs regarding potential vocations - as well as discuss the related matter of how to encourage religious life among young people (harnessing the province’s communications activity, for example) and expanding work in the area of Justice and Peace. However, as Fr Ian related, the items that dominated the agenda above all others was the proposal for unification with the Irish Province and the future of the Clare Priory, originally founded by the French Augustinians in 1248 (although we have not been in continuous residence for the whole period).
With regard to the first matter, the brothers gathered in the Chapter agreed that, since the English-Scottish Province is technically now a vicariate, with a suspended regime and few vocations, the unification with the Irish is desirable. "Together we are stronger" was the cry that resounded over the days, which are already part of the long discernment that, God willing, will conclude in 2024 after the next Irish Provincial Chapter in March that year, and to which Fr Tony Egan extended an invitation to all his Anglo-Scottish brothers.
As for Clare Priory, despite the debate that the subject generated, no decision was then taken on its future.
"In general I consider - and I think I speak on behalf of all the participating brothers - that it was a positive and very encouraging experience", stated the Assistant General for Northern Europe, "and the weather was even good, which is always a help on these occasions." His concluding words echoed the welcoming words of Fr Robert Marsh at the opening session in which Fr Robert asked that the work about to be undertaken be guided by " the wisdom of the Holy Spirit": “It is safe to say,” Fr Ian said, “that, given what has been seen in this CPI, the Holy Spirit has prevailed."