Peter Wygnański arrived at the end of his seminary journey on Saturday 25th July as the Bishop of East Anglia ordained him to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Norwich.
Around 100 supporters from places where Peter had lived and ministered, as well as Peter’s parents and sister and some 30 priests, came to join the socially-distanced celebration. “This is a great day of joy as we come together,” said Bishop Alan Hopes. “I know that he will draw tremendous strength from your prayerful presence here.”
“I remember attending an ordination many years ago,” said Peter, “and reading in the back of the order of service a thank-you note that the new priest had added in. I recall reading with some scepticism the line, ‘I couldn’t have done it without you’ and thinking it was a bit much, that surely he’d have managed somehow on his own steam.
“As I reach the end of my own seminary journey, I know now that it is absolutely true that seminarians only persevere thanks to the immense support, encouragement, and prayer of countless people along the way. Particularly here, I would want to thank Bishop Alan and my formators at the Venerable English College for all they’ve taught me, and also all those throughout East Anglia who have prayed for me and the other seminarians of the diocese over the years.
“I have some studying left to finish in Rome, but I greatly look forward to returning to the diocese to begin the ministry the Lord has called me to in the years to come. I can but hope and pray, by God’s grace, that I continue to grow in my discipleship and, as I place my hands in the Lord’s, he may work as He wills through me, in the life of His people.”
Peter (Piotr) Wygnański grew up in Cambridge and was an altar server for 11 years in the parish of St Laurence. He was a longstanding member of the Diocesan Youth Council of the diocese, and helped to lead pilgrimages to Taize and World Youth Days.
He studied electronic engineering at Warwick University and worked in industry in London before beginning his training for the priesthood at the Venerable English College in Rome. He had the opportunity to study theology at the Gregorian University and chose to gain pastoral experience in the Diocese of Malolos in the Philippines. In October 2019 he had the unique honour of singing the Gospel at the canonisation Mass of Cardinal John Henry Newman in Rome.
Peter has been based at St Edmunds, Bury St Edmunds, since the Italian universities closed in the spring.
During the ordination Mass, Bishop Alan laid his hands on Peter’s head, and afterwards Peter prostrated himself and received the vestments of priesthood.
He was anointed on the hands with the sacred oil of Chrism and his parents brought forward the chalice and paten he will be using.
In his homily, Bishop Hopes said: “Jesus tells us we must be prepared to share in his suffering and death…and at the heart of our ministry must be humility”. Priesthood, he added, “Is nothing to do with status”.
The bishop told Peter: “Your prostration before God…is an abandonment of yourself to His love and will” and he encouraged him to “model your life on the mystery of the Lord’s cross”.
At the end of the Mass, Peter took the opportunity to address those gathered, saying: “My hope is that you’ve caught a glimpse of the goodness and beauty which has taken hold of my heart.”
He expressed his gratitude to Bishop Michael Evans for “getting me moving” and to Bishop Alan for being a father figure over the last seven years. He also commented that the youth ministry of Hamish McQueen had “worked wonders for me”.
Peter now has a year left of a license, a pontifical postgraduate degree, specialising in Fundamental Theology. His main focus will be writing a thesis, considering how metaphysical presuppositions constrain how we understand Divine Providence; he’ll be considering how more recent philosophy, specifically the sacramental ontology of Henri de Lubac, and the phenomenological developmental ontology of Merleau-Ponty, could contribute to deepening our theological understanding of how God acts in the world.
Picture: The Bishop of East Anglia, Alan Hopes, ordaining Peter Wygnański to the priesthood at St John’s Cathedral in Norwich. (Keith Morris).