|Abbot Luke Jolly (left) with Bishop Kieran Conry after the Abbatial Blessing|
Bishop Kieran Conry, Roman Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, presided at the Abbatial Blessing, in the presence of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the former Archbishop of Westminster, along with English Benedictine Abbot President Richard Yeo, and Benedictine abbots and abbesses from all over England. More than 50 Catholic clergy and Religious from the Sussex area joined the celebration. Bishop Martin Warner of the Anglican Diocese of Chichester was a welcome presence, along with several of his clergy. The locality was represented by the High Sheriff of West Sussex, Patrick Burgess.
Occurring only when a new abbot takes office, the Abbatial Blessing does not confer any new authority upon Abbot Luke. Instead, it is an opportunity for the monastic community of Worth Abbey and its new abbot to gather with the diocesan bishop, who is the head of the local church, and the faithful of the wider community and pray for God's blessing.
Abbot Luke, who was elected on 8th August, received a copy of the Rule of Saint Benedict, a signet ring, a mitre, and a pastoral staff from Bishop Kieran. The rule and the staff are the most ancient signs of the abbot's authority, and of his pastoral responsibilities. Bishop Kieran reminded the congregation that an Abbot is chosen to be a “guide, teacher and encourager” within the monastic community. As part of the promises made during the service, Abbot Luke undertook to “always be concerned” for those entrusted to his spiritual care.
Following the blessing, Abbot Luke received the kiss of peace from the bishops and abbots present, as well as from the members of his own monastic community. Commenting at the end of the ceremony on the wet weather on the day, Abbot Luke noted that it is “good to be reminded that we are not in control of everything”.
Abbot Luke (60) is the first old boy of Worth School to become abbot. He left Worth to study History at Manchester University, before training as a Probation Officer. He has been a monk at Worth since 1980 and has served as both Prior and Novice Master, manager of the Abbey Estate, as a Boarding Housemaster and as Senior Chaplain in Worth School. He was also the primary spiritual guide to the participants in the BBC TV documentary ‘The Monastery’, based at the Abbey.
Originally from East Anglia, Abbot Luke’s personal interests include a love of the countryside, walking, medieval East Anglian churches and following many sports.