New Priest Administrator announced for the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham

Father Kevin Smith, Vicar of Horden in the Diocese of Durham, is to be the new Priest Administrator of the Anglican Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham.

Father Kevin Smith, Vicar of Horden in the Diocese of Durham, is to be the new Priest Administrator of the Anglican Shrine of our Lady of Walsingham.

Fr Smith has been appointed by the Guardians to oversee the next phase of the Shrine’s witness and development.  In order to undertake the day to day ministry at the Shrine he will be licensed by the Bishop of Norwich, Graham James, cementing a strong relationship with the local diocese.

The Shrine is currently overseen by interim Priest Administrator Father Philip Barnes who today welcomed news of Father Smith’s appointment: “I am sure that Father Kevin will be made extremely welcome by staff and pilgrims and, because he knows the Shrine so well, he will soon be at home.”

The Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, Master of the Guardians, said he was “absolutely delighted ” that Fr Kevin had agreed to be appointed Priest Administrator: “Walsingham is a hugely important place of conversion, devotion and healing, for people across Britain and beyond.  Distinctively within the Church of England, Walsingham points us to the indispensable contribution that Mary makes to the gospel of her Son Jesus Christ. It also reminds us how much we have in common with other Christians, especially our Roman Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters.  In Fr Kevin we have a wise and experienced priest who will draw on his parochial ministry in the north and his knowledge of the Shrine as a Guardian.  We are deeply indebted to Fr Philip Barnes for his sensitive care and generosity of spirit in the months that he has been the interim Priest Administrator.”

After studying at Westminster College, Oxford Father Smith trained for the priesthood at Chichester Theological College and was ordained priest in 1993. He served in parishes in Worksop and in South Yorkshire before moving to the north east in 2003.

“I will miss my parish and parishioners very much indeed, but there is a strong tradition of pilgrimage to Walsingham from Horden, so it will not be goodbye for ever. I feel enormously privileged to have been asked to accept the post of Priest Administrator” said Father Kevin today.

He added: “I am both daunted and excited. It is a huge responsibility. But it is certainly a challenge I feel ready to take on.”

Fr Kevin was invited to join the Shrine’s College of Guardians in 2002 whilst Vicar of St Hugh’s Church, New Cantley, Doncaster. Both New Cantley and subsequently – from 2003 – S. Mary’s Church, Horden, under Fr Kevin’s leadership, have been regular pilgrim parishes.

The Horden Cell of OLW has always been a generous donor to all the various Shrine appeals and in recent years, the Horden Walsingham Festival in September each year has not only raised awareness of Our Lady in the north of England, but has also raised considerable sums of money for the Shrine.

In 2004 with the then Administrator, Fr Philip North, Fr Kevin played a major part in putting together the great festival of Our Lady of Walsingham visiting institutions (a school, hospital, airport, prison etc) around the country. This festival culminated in the wonderful service in York Minster – broadcast the next day on Radio 4.

When Fr Michael Whitehead retired as the Guardian Registrar in 2008, Fr Kevin was the obvious choice to take over this important role.

A keen walker and cook, who also likes travelling and entertaining, Father Kevin will say goodbye to his parishioners in the early autumn before moving to Norfolk.

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