Last Saturday a small group assembled in the former college cemetery in Mill Hill to celebrate the feast of St Joseph, they were accompanied by Fr Phillip Baptiste who is the Director for “Mission Together” in Westminster Diocese. He was joined by two parish Priests from the locality and led the ensemble in prayer reciting the rosary whilst processing to the cemetery via the steeply rising path. It was a sunny day but the winds swirling around the Calvary were strong. No wonder this is called the place of “The Mill” as this high point is indeed ideal for a windmill.
On arrival at the cemetery, Father Philip pointed out a small statue of sleeping St Joseph fixed on top of the gravestone listing the names of many former Missionaries. The statue was blessed in its location just beneath the Calvary cross that is a gift from the German speaking region. Thereafter prayers were offered to St Joseph, the pilgrims then laid their hands on the statue and asked for his intercession. Prayers were offered especially for peace in the Ukraine.
The pilgrims then visited the graves of the missionaries and benefactors of the Society comprising several priests, Bishops and religious laying to rest in this peaceful place. Father Philip informed the group that the tomb of Cardinal Vaughan is now empty and made reference to the tomb of Christ that laid empty after his resurrection.
Several expressed their feelings following the sad departure of the Mill Hill Missionaries in 2006 and recalled how they used to enjoy the liturgical and social gatherings held at the college as well as the annual garden fete and Zelators Day gatherings organised by the former APF, now Missio.
Strong in the discussion was the desire to see the statue of St Joseph replaced on the top of the tower. It is such an imposing and well known landmark and missed by the Catholic Community but also the Mill Hill residents. One of those present produced an email informing that the statue repair was delayed but expected to be returned at Easter time. We pray it will.
There was a reflection on the Society members working in all the houses and Missions in different parts of the world being united in prayer on this day in celebration of the patron and the hope that the work inspired by Cardinal Vaughan who nominated St Joseph as his patron will flourish wherever the Mill Hill Fathers go to love and to serve.
We hope that there will be an annual gathering on the feast of St Joseph. It was mentioned that the former College was dedicated by the Pope as the National shrine in England 150 years ago and although the shrine Altar has been removed to Farnborough Abbey, this resting place still embodies the spirit of St Joseph’s College in this sacred place and is fit place for pilgrims who love St Joseph to visit and pray.
Let’s hope we do see the statue returned soon.