Guildford Cathedral ‘Ecumenical Youth Service’ 1974

The Invitation

In 1973 Mgr Barry Wymes saw Mother Teresa accept the Templeton Prize at the Guildhall in London. Coming back from this event, he tried to understand what he had witnessed and was reminded of the Gospel story of a woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and ‘power went out from Him and she was healed.’ In a similar way, he felt that: “‘Power went out’ from Mother Teresa at that Templeton Award ceremony.”

Fr Barry thought that it would be good to invite Mother Teresa to come and speak to the young people of the Diocese. Archbishop Michael Bowen, Bishop of Arundel and Brighton at the time, agreed.  When Fr Barry met Mother Teresa she took some persuading!  She initially felt that it wasn’t the will of God for her to give lectures or talks.

After further discussion, she said gently but sternly, “Father, do you have a problem regarding the will of God”?  “Yes, Mother”, I replied. “The will of God for me is what my Bishop would like and my Bishop would like you to come to our Diocese and speak to our young people!” She clasped her hands, bowed her head in silent prayer and following a brief silence she said; “Father I will come”. 

The Event

On Wednesday 18th September nearly 2,000 schoolchildren from across the Diocese gathered in Guildford Cathedral. The event began with a few specially-selected hymns and readings, and ended with a joint ecumenical blessing, one of the first of its kind, from Bishop David Brown of Guildford Cathedral and Bishop Michael Bowen of Arundel and Brighton. The middle consisted of an interview and questions session conducted by Ralph Rolls of the BBC.

Sister Mary Andrew from the Towers Convent School in Sussex took a group of pupils to the event.

When we got there it was absolutely packed with young people… It’s hard to measure her impact on the children. But they certainly were desirous of doing something to help her. And that’s what her life has been. To get other people to spend themselves as she did, in the love of Christ, and spreading it – as so many have followed her and do that.

She told us how one day in Calcutta, on her way home, she heard a destitute person crying out for help. It was a moment of decision. Should she continue on her way or go back to help? She went back to help – it was a defining moment, and Mother Teresa and the world were never the same again.

Surrey Daily Advertiser 23-24 Sep 1974

The Soft Words of Mother Teresa, The Surrey Daily Advertiser, Sept 23/24, 1974

By Sally Ballard

GUILDFORD Cathedral was filled when nearly 2,000 schoolchildren came to hear Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The majority of children were fifth- and sixth- formers of all denominations from Surrey and Sussex schools.

It was a three-hour event, the world-famous figure having come especially to Guildford on her last day in England to talk on her beliefs and work with the poor, before she returns to India.

In her gentle and soft-spoken manner she enchanted the audience, which included the Bishop of Guildford, the Rt. Rev. David Brown and the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, the Rt. Rev. Michael Bowen.

Mother Teresa emphasised that her work with the poor and sick in Calcutta is no different from her work in London homes.

The poverty in London is material she said, but in London there are “the lonely and the unwanted and unloved. I think that is the greatest poverty that a human being can bear.”

Her visit was the brain-child of Father Barry Wymes, director for Pastoral Renewal in the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.

He had seen her at a ceremony in 1973 when she was presented with the Templeton Award for religion.

An immediate disciple, Father Wymes felt that the opportunity to see and hear her obvious sincerity and devotion might impress the young people in the area who are unsure about institutional religion and the church today.

Impressed could hardly describe the awe-struck audience who sat with hardly a murmur throughout the talk, and then queued to ask questions both personal and relating to society in general.

As two girls from Farnborough Hill Convent, Farnborough said: “If you listen to it all and only remember half, it has done some good.”

The Mother Teresa Youth Rally, as it was called, took the form of an interview session conducted by Mr. Ralph Rolls of the BBC, who then supervised the audience question-time.

The afternoon ended with an informal service.

A BBC sound team recorded the entire proceedings for the World Service and future education programmes.


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