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Blessed Dominic Barberi CP
Dominic Barberi, born on June 22nd 1792, was the eleventh child of Giuseppe and Maria Barberi. His father died when he was six, his mother when he was eleven. So young Dominic was adopted by a maternal uncle and his wife to live and work on their farm near Viterbo in Italy.
Dominic received no formal schooling, but thanks to the interest of the Capuchin Friars, who had a convent in the village, he did learn to read. Then, when four Passionists came to live in the neighbourhood, he quickly made friends with them. They had brought their library with them and, and because he was given free access to it, his process of self-education continued to blossom.
When he was twenty-one, Dominic received the first direct inkling of what the Lord's plans for his future might be. He writes: "One of these days (I think it was one of the last of the year 1813) as I was saying my prayers, I heard a voice which said to me, I have chosen you to announce the truths of the faith to many nations. 'After I heard these words the idea came to me that God wanted me to be a priest, and that I was to go and bring the light of the Gospel to aforeign nation. The idea pleased me. "
In the summer of 1814 he applied to join the Passionist Congregation. His lack of formal education meant that he was accepted as a lay brother. However, while waiting admission into the novitiate he received a further premonition regarding his future. He writes; "On a certain day I wentfor afew minutes into the Church to pray before the altar of the Blessed Virgin, and whilst I was on my knees, the thought occurred to me. How was the prophecy of last year to befulfilled? Was I to go as a lay-brother to preach, and to whom I was to go? Whilst I was thus racking my brain, I understood that I was not to remain a brother, but was to study; and that after six years, I should begin my apostolic ministry; and that I was to labour in the north-west ofEurope, and especially in England Soon after I was sent to Paliano to be received as a lay-novice, and yet Ifelt that I would, not withstanding, become a cleric and a priest. " By an extraordinary sequence of events, Dominic was finally professed as a cleric and after a brilliant course of studies was ordained as a priest on March 1st 1818.
From 1820 to 1830 he taught theology and was director of students, first at the Passionists retreat at Vetralla and then in Rome. It was at this time that he first met George Spencer, the future Fr. Ignatius Spencer, who was in Rome studying for the priesthood at the English College. It was due to his influence that Dominic eventually came to England. But that was still in the future as he wrote to an English friend, "I shall cross the sea and convey my body to the island to which twenty-two years ago I sent my heart. " It was not until 1840 that the Passionists accepted a house at Ere in Belgium and it was from there that Dominic finally came to England in October 1841.
After spending some four months as guests of Mgr. Wiseman at Oscott Seminary in Birmingham, the Passionists moved into their first monastery in England at Aston Hall,Staffordshire, on February 17 th 1842- It was from Aston Hall that Dominic would firmly establish the Passionist Congregation in this country, making foundations at Woodchester in Gloucestershire, Hampstead in London and choosing the site for a foundation here in Sutton.
While these building projects were in progess, Dominic continued his crusade for the conversion of England and Christian Unity - preaching, teaching, writing and receiving converts. Among these, of special interest to us, was Elizabeth Prout, later Mother Mary Joseph, the foundress of the Passion] sts Sisters. Born in Shrewsbury, the family had moved to Stone in 1842.
Another well-known convert was, of course, John Henry (later Cardinal) Newman, received into the Church by Dominic on October 8th 1845. But one of Dominic's greatest-joys came in 1846 when his long-standing friend and benefactor, Fr. George Spencer, made his application to join the Passionists- He made his religious profession on January 6th 1847 and became known as Fr. Ignatius of St Paul.
On the one occasion that Dominic visited Sutton to meet his benefactor, John Smith, and to choose the site for the proposed house and church, he is reported to have said- "Here will I dwell forever, for I have chosen it. - He died on August 27th 1849 in the Railway Tavern, now the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel. in Reading. He was on his way from Poplar House in Hampstead to Woodchester for the opening of the new church. His remains were brought back to Stone and Aston Hall, but on November 1& 1855 they were transferred to St. Anne's. His body now lies under the altar in the shrine specially prepared for it when the new church was built in 1973 - On one side of the altar lies Fr. Ignatius Spencer, and on the other side Mother Mary Joseph Prout and we pray that, God willing, the words of
Archbishop Beck of Liverpool will one day come true: "One day this will be The Church of the Three Saints. "
Father Ignatius Spencer CP
Elizabeth Prout, Mother Mary Joseph of Jesus
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