14 July 2017
It was a complete delight and honour to welcome Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor to Stowe Chapel on Sunday 18 June. His Eminence was created a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II in 2001, and, before he retired, he was Archbishop of Westminster and President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. By virtue of his position as Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was sometimes referred to as the Catholic Primate of England and Wales. He was accompanied by Monsignor Roger Reader, Prisons Adviser, Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
The Cardinal gave an excellent address on the difference between ‘Celebrities and Heroes’ and referred to one of his heroes – Sir Leonard Cheshire (OS, Chatham). He emphasized that celebrities lasted but a moment but heroes were known for their character and talked about for many years after their deaths. The Stoics listened attentively and respectfully as he talked to them also about eternal life which begins now in all our lives. The Service was made all the more poignant by the Choir singing ‘Ave Maria’, and led by Geoffrey Silver (Director of Music), and the most exquisite flowers were provided by Clare Hill-Hall (Chandos Matron).
His Eminence was particularly interested in meeting the students and this was achieved by a drinks reception and light supper in the Music Room after the service. Louis Esquerre-Gow, Oliver Woods, Arthur Vickers (all Art Historians) were joined by John Peatfield and Mar Martinez-Tomas at the supper and there was much lively discussion on Rome and the Arts! They made a very positive impression on the Cardinal and he was as delighted to talk with them as they were with him.
As a complete coincidence (and unknown to the Cardinal) the School has chosen the Charity, Leonard Cheshire Disability, to support next year as we celebrate the centenary of the birth of Sir Leonard Cheshire (VC; OM; DSO and Two Bars; DFC) on 7 September 1917. The Charity supports disabled people to enable them to have the freedom to live their lives the way they choose. The Charity goes far beyond providing social care as they help disabled people find and remain in employment. They build confidence through information, advice and guidance, and to break down barriers through access to computers and adapted IT equipment.
It has been an honour to have welcomed such a distinguished guest in my last term at Stowe and I look forward to returning as a preacher in Chapel in the future.
Revd Sue Sampson (Stowe Minister)