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franciscan - September 2005

The Society of Saint Francis, 2005

SSF and Cambridge

The End of a Chapter: 1939 - 2005

Yes, the year war broke out - indeed, the month war broke out - Brothers Denis, Douglas and Ronald arrived at that substantial house in Lady Margaret Road to be joined almost immediately by some refugees from London and to begin a ministry which was to continue October 2005.  Douglas was there briefly to fill a gap caused by bereavement (Gilbert's father had died) - soon they were joined by Arthur and Gilbert.

Within a few months it became clear that the ministry of the brothers was welcome in wartime Cambridge - a large congregation attended the Sung Eucharist in the church of St Edward, King and Martyr (kindly lent by its chaplain), and at the house the Sunday afternoon gathering attracted upwards of fifty people.


In 1945, the year which saw the end of the war, Denis became priest in charge of St Bene't's - about 100 yards from St Edward's - and the next year, vicar.  However, his presence was needed at the friary in Dorset in 1948 and he was replaced by Lothian whose name is linked with St Bene't's by generations of those who loved and valued his ministry.


Other brothers who should be mentioned in this brief survey are Barnabas, SSF's claim to fame in the academic world, who taught for many years in the Divinity Faculty before migrating to Manchester where he held the John Rylands chair; Michael, that pied piper of the student world whose travels often took him away but whose ordination followed studies at Westcott House and led eventually to five years in Cornwall as Bishop of St Germans.

In 1985 he 'retired' to the Cambridge Friary to be Minister General - but not to Lady Margaret Road, for in 1967 the lease on that property expired, and the friars moved from premises big enough to be shared with some homeless men to the cramped quarters of 15, Botolph Lane - three bedsits, kitchen, common room, bathroom, and two tiny guest rooms. Another brother who should be mentioned is Edgar, who became the first chaplain of the Arthur Rank Hospice for the dying, and whose caring ministry is frequently mentioned even 20 years after he left Cambridge.

Lothian died after only three years as vicar and was succeeded by Brother Martin, who was vicar from 1971 until 1985, when he moved to Scunthorpe, though he returned to Cambridge in 1997, and is now priest-in-charge of St. Clement's church.  Thomas Anthony became the parish priest of St. Bene't's in 1985, and Anselm in 1992, followed by Samuel in 2000.

Since the Community began its work in Cambridge many brothers have shared in the ministry for varying periods of time.  Individual brothers have made differing contributions, according to their own abilities.  Some have been involved in the University, both in pastoral and academic roles.  Some have been involved in the work of the Cambridge Cyrenians amongst homeless people.  In more recent times there has also been involvement in the chaplaincy team working amongst asylum seekers at the detention centre at Oakington.  Many homeless people come to the Friary door for tea and sandwiches, and others also with needs which the brothers try to meet.

Central to all this work the brothers maintained the regular round of prayer and praise, with the daily Eucharist and Evening Prayer at St. Bene't's, and the other offices in the small chapel within the House. 

Over the years the Cambridge Friary has helped to make the Community known to large numbers of University students and residents of the city.  Several Tertiaries and Companions are among the congregation of St. Bene't's, and it is hoped that the church will continue its Franciscan ethos under new leadership.

The brothers wish to thank all who have supported them and who have helped to make their life so abundantly fruitful and happy. f


The Four Last Vicars of St Bene'ts, Cambridge:


Thomas Anthony (1985 - 1992)

Martin (1971 -1985)


Anselm (1992 - 2000)

Samuel (2001 - 2005)










General Information about this site from: websterssf@franciscans.org.uk

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