CONTINUATION OF A GRACE-FILLED JOURNEY:
THE MOVE TO ROME
The Institute of St Anselm has come to the end of a long and fruitful journey here in Great Britain, but is now on the threshold of an exciting and adventurous onward journey which we anticipate with hope and trust in God, the God who has led us to make this decision, and the prospect of a grace-filled future in Rome.
The Institute was founded in 1985 and our first premises were at Damascus House, a Retreat Centre in Mill Hill, London. This venue rapidly became too small and after a year we moved to Cliftonville, Margate, where we established ourselves in several buildings in Edgar Road. In 2008, we moved to more suitable premises in Norfolk Road where all the participants and team could be housed under one roof and all rooms were en suite.
This is an opportune time to reflect on the thirty-two years of the Institute, with gratitude to God and all the many people who have been guides and supporters on this journey. Miss Thalia Slinn played a major part in the original planning and setting up of the Institute and spent most of her working life as the administrator. She was joined by Miss Claire McGuire who took over Thalia's role when she retired. However, after a few months, Thalia made the generous decision to work voluntarily at the Institute.
Both Thalia and Claire and most of the other staff (Fr John McCluskey and also semi-residential staff like Sr. Therese Garman) will accompany the Institute on its journey to Rome and into its future. Many guest lecturers have also expressed their willingness to come to Rome for their modules. Mr John Hunt who is very involved in the Institute will also come with us. All our courses will be in English, just as they have been here in Great Britain.
Fr Len Kofler (l)
Without working closely with our Creator-God as co-creators, we would never have been able to achieve what some of the participants share in their testimonials. Christopher Schenk, our BSI inspector, in his letter to me on 11 May 2015 wrote: "From my three visits to the Institute over the last few years, I formed the strong impression that the ISA has made a major contribution to the health and well-being of Catholic priests, nuns and lay people throughout the world. As you prepare to mark the 30th anniversary later this month, there is much to celebrate." This is the reason for thanking God and the many people who have assisted us in our work. I consider everything that happens to us as individuals, or to institutions to be God's grace and thus as so many opportunities for personal growth. Therefore, we need to walk with God on this journey to Rome, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Reflecting on the origin of the Institute which, in my first thoughts and discussions I had envisaged as being in Rome, I see the wisdom of the late Cardinal Hume, the first President of the Institute, who said to me in 1984, "Do it, do it here next year and think of the practicalities later." It was important for this new venture to have full freedom in this country which I experienced from 1985 to 1995. The Institute grew from strength to strength with exceptional moral support from Cardinal Hume who used to say at Graduation Masses, "There is a handful of people for whom I pray daily and Fr Kofler is one of them." So I and the Institute owe him a big debt of gratitude.
As new and ever more restricting rules and regulations were introduced by the Home Office with regard to obtaining visas, I saw in some of them beneficial aspects and others as chains put round my hands. When on 19 January this year, I received the letter from the UKVI saying that the licence to issue the necessary documents to prospective students, needed to obtain their visas, was withdrawn, I was first deeply shocked. It came completely out of the blue and sadly showing an obvious inability to understand the status of priests and members of religious congregations. Next day, during my daily meditation at five o'clock in the morning, I experienced a great relief – freedom from all these rules and regulations which made further planning for the Institute impossible.
As we discussed the situation in various meetings, it became clear that Rome was the right place to move the Institute. For this type of course at this time, Rome seems to me the appropriate location for many reasons. I am looking forward to steering the Institute into the future with great hope inspired by the Risen Lord, placing the Institute in the hands of the God who inspired its creation. I know it is an enormous task, but there are many willing people to support us, especially the Carmelites who offered us the lovely premises in Rome.
Len Kofler mhm
African exuberance at Mass of Thanksgiving: