Yesterday was the feast of the birthday of Our Lady and here in Oxford the Oratory celebrated with a birthday party. This was not merely part of our celebration of the feast, but one which included the Oratory itself and also one of its priests.Twenty three years ago, on September 8th 1990, the first Fathers arrived from the existing Oratory in Birmingham to begin life and ministry together in Oxford. Three years later on this same feast Cardinal Alois Stickler came as celebrant and brought the brief from Rome formally establishing the Oxford house as an independent Oratory. So it was the Oratory's birthday. Moreover we are close to the birthday of one of the Oxford Oratorians, Fr Richard Duffield, who this year was marking his 50th birthday. It was therefore a very good excuse to have a bring and share lunch party following the 11am Mass.
The Mass was celebrated by Fr Richard, who in his sermon reflected upon these last twenty or twenty three years - he was a founder member of the community here - and looked to the future, including the new undertaking of the care of St Wilfrid's church in York. This was especially suitable as Fr Richard, himself born in York and baptised in the church, will be going to be parish priest there. There was therefore something of a farewell to the occasion, although we understand Fr Richard is retaining a base in the Oratory house, so we are not losing him altogether.
The party itself was, as is the norm with such events at the Oratory, generously catered for, and an opportunity to meet up with friends and to talk and look both to the past and the future. It was also an opportunity to enjoy the new facilities created in the parish social centre by the Oratory Appeal.