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Canonisation of our School Founder, Saint John Henry Newman

On Sunday 13 October, Pope Francis canonised Saint John Henry Newman, the founder of The Oratory School and The Oratory Preparatory School in South Oxfordshire. They are now celebrating the fact that they are the only English schools founded by a post-Reformation saint. Saint John Henry Newman is the first English saint canonised in over 40 years.

The canonisation of Saint John Henry Newman took place in Rome in a ceremony attended by tens of thousands of pilgrims. HRH The Prince of Wales was the highest ranking member of the royal family who could have attended the occasion. In an exclusive article for The Times newspaper, he declared Newman’s canonisation “a cause for celebration not merely for Catholics but for all who cherish the values by which he was inspired… He could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and perhaps most of all could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion.”

The Oratory School and The Oratory Preparatory School were proud to be invited to take a significant part in the celebrations. Pupils Arnauld Binder, Diggory Hobley, Oskar Jordan-Barber, Ollie Monye, Max Nugent and Lucas Sieyes represented The Oratory School. “This is the trip of a life-time,” said one 6th Former.

The boys were invited to serve in the sanctuary for the services surrounding the main Papal Mass. They found themselves vesting with archbishops and cardinals at Santa Maria Maggiore and serving for Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, at Monday’s Mass of Thanksgiving at the Lateran Basilica, the cathedral of Rome. Lucas Sieyes read after Melissa Villalobos, the recipient of the second miracle through Saint John Henry Newman’s prayers. Lucas Sieyes said, “Newman has been a role model for me during my time here at The Oratory School. I feel honoured to be reading and serving during the ceremonies." Another pupil commented “I am still trying to take in what has just happened… I have not only met so many cardinals but the actual people who received the miracles. We sat next to both of them in church. It’s incredible when I stop to think about it.”

The Head Boy and Head Girl of The Oratory Preparatory School were given the privilege of bringing the bread and the wine for Mass in procession to the cardinal in the Lateran Basilica. They seemed entirely at ease in the monumental settings.

Fr Kenneth Macnab, the schools’ chaplain, described the sense of being part of a world-wide Oratory movement as intense. Oratorians from five continents gathered in St Philip’s original Oratory church, the Chiesa Nuova. “We like to think St John Henry’s educational vision lives on in the Oxfordshire countryside. His motto, ‘Heart speaking to heart’ means as much now as ever. ”

Joe Smith, Head Master of The Oratory School said “Newman was not only one of the greatest nineteenth century theologians; he was an educationalist ahead of his time.”

“Newman’s global significance and influence is enormous” said Rob Stewart, Headmaster of The Oratory Preparatory School. “Newman’s canonisation is the greatest day in the schools’ history since the foundation.”

This year sees the 160th anniversary of the foundation by Saint John Henry Newman in 1859. The new saint once referred to his school as “the apple of his eye.” It had a special place in his heart. This week celebratory Masses took place in both schools. The two schools’ chapels are now proud recipients of Apostolic Blessings from the Pope, which mark the significance of the occasion.