Our Lady of Walsingham dedicates shrine, prepares for ordinariate

June 21, 2011

HOUSTON — The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston’s only Anglican Use parish has erected a new shrine to its patroness, Our Lady of Walsingham.

On a recent spring morning, visiting priests, parishioners and a few pilgrims from across Texas joined Daniel Cardinal DiNardo for the dedication of the new shrine at Our Lady of Walsingham Church, a Houston-area parish founded by Anglican converts in the early 1980s.

The shrine dedication has marked a culmination of sorts in the life of the intrepid parish, which, before it was formally reunited with the Church, gathered parishioners in each other’s homes for prayer much like the early Christians. Parishioners credit Our Lady of Walsingham with guiding and protecting them in their journey back to Rome.

“It’s like a dream come true and it’s so new it almost feels like living in a dream,” said Father James Ramsey, one of Our Lady of Walsingham’s founding priests and pastor of the small but growing parish in Spring Branch. 

Founded in 1982, Our Lady of Walsingham is one of only seven Anglican Use parishes in the United States established through a pastoral provision created by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
The provision made possible the full communion of Anglicans with the Holy See, while allowing them to found parishes and preserve some of their liturgical traditions. It also provided a way for married Anglican clergy to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood. 

Building on that ecumenical progress, the Vatican is now working to establish an Anglican ordinariate in the U.S. that will create a jurisdictional and leadership structure to facilitate the conversion and reunion of Anglican communities with Rome. Personal ordinaries, rather than diocesan bishops, will lead Anglican Use parishes.

As the dialogue builds for the upcoming U.S. ordinariate, some parishioners at Our Lady of Walsingham hope the new shrine will be a place of hope, refreshment and welcome for those discouraged in their faith and discerning new possibilities. 

“We want them to see there is hope and something very nice on the other side once you are welcomed into the Catholic Church,” said long-time parishioner Margaret Pichon. 

Connecting the parish more deeply with its Anglo-Saxon roots, the new shrine is closely modeled after the original 12th-century ruins of Our Lady of Walsingham in England. Tradition holds that in 1061, Lady Richeldis de Faverches had a vision in which Our Lady took her to the house in Nazareth where the Annunciation occurred. She then asked her to build an exact replica in Walsingham. 

Over the centuries, “Little Nazareth” became one of the great pilgrimage sites in Europe until it was destroyed by King Henry VIII during the English Reformation. A priory wall that once enclosed the little Nazarene house is among the few remains on the original grounds. 
At the parish, a replica of the priory façade, exactly half the size of the original, soars 35 feet above a marble altar. A marble statue of Our Lady of Walsingham is perched over the altar, the infant Jesus enthroned in her lap. 

In addition, a new cloistered walkway, expanded parish hall and additional office, classroom and meeting space was added to the parish grounds, anticipating future growth. The additions were funded by an anonymous benefactor.

Many parishioners said that they could not be more thrilled and grateful for what they have to share with the faithful across the Archdiocese and beyond — namely, as Father Ramsey said, “a place of refreshment for all seeking Our Lady's intercession and her Son's grace." †