Norman Banks


Over 400 actors and crew from Warner Bros filming a night scene for the Charlie & the Chocolate Factory prequel used my garden to position a massive crane with powerful arc lights to light up the night sky, making it an Ash Wednesday to remember. Despite the churned-up grass being and trampled flower beds, I remain calm and cheerful throughout, encouraging amongst their frenetic activity. And friendly, despite the smudge of dirt on my forehead.

Energy and vision at Saint James, Colchester, converting a former Chinese restaurant into a Pilgrim Centre to serve the church and community. With the PCC we discuss how best to maximise resources for long-term security and sustainable parish ministry.

Confirmations galore. Occasions of grace and joy for candidates and their families, and affirmation for clergy and congregations. The Holy Spirit moves powerfully among us, renewing and restoring, especially after the trauma of the Great Interruption. Photographs full of smiles, followed by food and wine and positive thankfulness that we can again gather together, delighting in one another’s company.

ACS Vocations Team met to prepare for the annual Vocations Weekend, planned for St Katharine’s, Limehouse, this year. We hope is to help potential candidates for ministerial priesthood navigate the new national guidelines. Criteria have become qualities, the selection conferences is less focussed on the academic and aims to be more intuitive. Catholic candidates will need to be ever more robust and realistic about the challenges as they offer themselves for ministry in our increasingly secular and complex society.

Saint Mary at the Elms is the closest church to the medieval shrine of Our Lady of Ipswich, once regarded in England as second only to Walsingham. 20 years ago, I was present when an Image based on the original, which escaped the fire at Smithfield in the sixteen century and literally landed up in Nettuno, was restored through the work of the Guild of Our Lady of Ipswich (Meyemana). The statue was carved by the late Robert Mellampy together with the statue in Lady Lane on the site of the original shrine. Both sculptures have recently been donated by Robert’s children and an array of ecumenical and Nettuno guests, met to re-establish the Guild and commit to renewing friendships and pilgrimage between the two shrines. 

Another statue to be blessed, this time at St John’s, Sevenoaks: a stunning St Anne with Our Lady carved by Alan Lamb. I worked with Alan on the project to restore the Image of Our Lady Greeting in All Saints, East Barsham, which in medieval times marked the beginning of the Holy Domain of Walsingham. His carving is distinctive, largely in the fifteenth century English hieratic style, so common before the Reformation and now so very rare. His St Anne in bright vibrant colours is a delight and a worthy focus for prayer. His best known work is the prow sculpture on the Royal Barge, Gloriana.

Westminster Cathedral, to support Fr Jonathan Goodall at his ordination. A poignant moment, as I’d been privileged to be one of the two Presenting Bishops at his consecration in Westminster Abbey. Cardinal Vincent was, as always, gracious warm and kindly, acknowledging with gratitude Jonathan’s journey of faith and 32 fruitful years of ministry in the Church of England. It was Fr Jonathan who arranged our presence at the canonisations of Pope St Paul VI and St John Henry Newman in Rome where we had sat together as Ebbsfleet and Richborough. 

Having heard so much about Tonbridge School Chapel, it certainly didn’t disappoint. Faithfully restored after the fire of 1988, it is again a glorious and worthy worship space. It was the school’s first confirmation for three years and the chapel glowed with light, energy and life as 40 youngsters prayerfully and sincerely affirmed their faith and committed themselves to walking in the Way of Christ. 

To Walsingham with the Council of the Guild of All Souls and an opportunity to celebrate a Requiem in the Chapel of St Michael and the Holy Souls for David Morgan, recently departed, who loyally served the Guild for many years (ND February). The GAS is to celebrate its sesquicentennial next year and remains deeply faithful to its origins. In recent years it has sponsored an annual day-conference on bereavement, providing free prayer cards and tracts. Uniquely, The Guild has a chantry chapel and priest who lives and works in Walsingham. How comforting to know the departed are remembered at the daily mass and with a dedicated person specifically to help the bereaved with spiritual counsel and support. 

Finally, I discovered on my Tonbridge visit that Fr Arthur Tooth, famously imprisoned for ritualism in 1877, had been a pupil at the school. He founded The Guild of All Souls in 1873 and, as a reminder of his heroic and visionary work to restore the Catholic identity of the Church of England, his purple stole is displayed in the Guild Chapel.