By a Staff Reporter Two American priests, running a parish in Whitton, Middlesex, keep alive the memory of one of England's great Archbishops, a saint and a martyr to tyranny.
This is because the patron of their congregation is St. Edmund, Archbishop of Canterbury, who upheld the rights of the Church against the King, Henry III, and died in exile in Eransm.
These two priests belong to a community established in France —at Pontigny, where the Saint is buried—they are known as Fathers of St. Edmund, their Congregation was founded over a hundred years ago, and is now predominantly American.
if they can, they are going to revive devotion to St. Edmund, and to have a Novena to him approved for public use. Bishop Beck, A.A., Coadjutor of Brentwood, once belonged to this community, when French members of it ran the Hitchin mission, which was later handed over to the Augustinians of the Assumption, but the Whitton parish was begun from America in 1934.
With typical American slickness the Whitton Fathers rebuilt their temporary church after the blitz, and believe they were the first to do so. Others still wait.
They are here ever on the alert for the Pope, and our Bishops, and their own superiors, to give them the word " go," when they will, with the zeal that characterises all modern Orders, throw themselves into any work that may be given them to further the cause of the Church.
Meantime they encourage and run every kind of lay organisation which will help their parishioners to be
better Catholics. From a stable. where they said Mass at the beginning for 20 years, they have branched out to a parish of 1.200, with four packed Sunday Masses, and plans in hand to build a church for 500.
They are sociable, happy, " breezy " priests, with a Christian cheerfulness that is contagious.
Three English Fathers are in the States now; other Englishmen will join them once they get to know that the Community is just as keen on the conversion of this country as it is on the sanctification of Southern States negroes—a work in which it is now engaged -or on running impressive high schools in America, which is also another task it has taken up.
Background to the Fathers'
romantic story is the banding in 1843 of a small group of priests in France to help the poor and neglected. and they started off as Oblates of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary; they became the caretakers of the body of St. Edmund, resting miraculously preserved in the ancient Cistercian Abbey of Pontigny.
Flourishing for a while, they were expelled from France, with other religious in 1901, and a tiny group of Edmundites reached Vermont, in America. There they struggled and expanded till the Community now numbers 100 priests and lay Brothers.
The Constitutions were revised and approved in 1943, and there is hope that the cause of the saintly Fr. Masse, one of the original founders, might be introduced.
Characteristic of the Edmunditca is black cassock and sash; vows are simple, and a beautiful prayer composed by St. Edmund, in which the day's work and activities are commended to God, is used by them, particularly during the Feast and Octave of the Saint on November 16.