(DR.) FERNANDO CERVANTES, OP (BRISTOL FRATERNITY PRESIDENT; VICE-PRESIDENT AND ARCHIVIST, LAY DOMINICANS OF THE ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH PROVINCE PROVINCIAL COUNCIL)
I teach history at Bristol University but have had a marked interest in religion and theology ever since I first came to England in the early 1970s. I was then intrigued by the differences between the approach to religion in the Benedictine school I attended in London and the Jesuit school I had attended in Mexico City. What started as a somewhat anxious comparison of what seemed sharply contrasting approaches soon developed into a keen appreciation of the richness and diversity of the Catholic tradition.
My relationship with the Order of Preachers goes back a long way. I first came across them as an undergraduate in Oxford and later as a graduate student in Cambridge. I was particularly influenced by the preaching and writings of Simon Tugwell and later by the humour and friendship of Timothy Radcliffe, Bob Ombres, Herbert McCabe and David Sanders. During my frequent stints in Mexico I also frequented the Dominican house of studies at the University and was taught at postgraduate level by the brilliant Daniel Ulloa.
When Paul Williams had the idea of exploring the possibility of establishing a fraternity in Bristol, I expressed a cautious interest. It was only after a few monthly meetings, however, that I became convinced that this was just the right thing for me. I was admitted four years ago and made my final profession in November 2012. In 2014 I was elected Vice-President and Archivist to the Lay Dominican Provincial Council, and in 2018 President of the Bristol Fraternity.
FR. ROBERT GAY, OP (RELIGIOUS ASSISTANT)
Fr. Robert is currently Prior of Blackfriars, Oxford. He teaches moral theology and bioethics at Blackfriars Hall and Studium. He is a Governor of the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, and is a member of the Advisory Board for a Catholic Investment Fund. Fr Robert was elected Prior to the Holy Spirit Priory, Oxford, in May 2018. He is also JCR Chaplain and Welfare Officer, providing pastoral and spiritual support to Hall and Studium students.
Fr Robert studied biological sciences at Wye College, University of London, before going on to do his doctorate in Plant Physiology at the University of Glasgow. He studied Philosophy and Theology at Blackfriars Studium, and bioethics and medical law at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham. His particular academic interests include the ethics of persistent vegetative state, ethical issues at the end of life, and the use of Thomistic virtue ethics in bioethics. See www.bfriars.ox.ac.uk/people/very-rev-dr-robert-gay-op/
(MR.) ROGER BIRD, OP (SECRETARY)
I read law at Bristol University and subsequently qualified as a solicitor. After practising law for some years I was appointed as a judge and sat for many years, finally in Bristol, having a particular interest in family cases. I retired in 2015.
I was brought up as an Anglican but, from my mid-teens onwards, regarded myself as a devout atheist. I drifted back to the Anglican church in my mid-thirties and, by the time I was 40, was a regular member of the congregation of Wells Cathedral, where I was attracted by the beauty of the building, the music and the liturgy. Eventually I came to realise that my centre of gravity was the Catholic Church and that I could not enjoy the fullness of the catholic tradition where I was, and so I was received into the church in 1995 at Downside Abbey with the aid of Fr Michael Barnes SJ and Dom Sebastian Moore OSB.
I became a member of the parish of Clifton Cathedral in 2010 and I there heard about the Bristol Fraternity of Lay Dominicans. This interested me because I enjoy discussing and thinking about theology and there are few opportunities for this anywhere today. I soon realised that the Dominican way was ideal for me and I made my first profession in 2016. I hope to make my final profession in the near future.
(MS.) LIZ TRIMBY-HAWORTH, OP (TREASURER)
(PROF.) PAUL WILLIAMS, OP (FORMATION)
My spiritual journey has been in some ways a strange one. I was brought up an Anglican, and I was a choirboy well into my teens. I subsequently became an actively involved practising Buddhist and Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy working at the University of Bristol’s Centre for Buddhist Studies mainly in Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.
After well over twenty years as a Buddhist I was received into the Catholic Church in 2000. I describe the context and reasons for my conversion in my book The Unexpected Way: On converting from Buddhism to Catholicism (T+T Clark/Continuum, 2002; repr. with corrections 2007). Central to my conversion was a growing conviction of the sheer rightness, the actual and factual truth, of Catholic Christianity, and what seems to me to be its deeply convincing rationality.
In this I was particularly influenced by the work of the Dominican saint Thomas Aquinas and the writings and personal influence of Dominicans like Fr Herbert McCabe, OP – who taught occasionally at the University of Bristol – and Fr Brian Davies, OP, many years ago one of our students at the university. I was admitted as a Lay Dominican in 2004, made my first profession in 2007 and my final profession in 2009. I retired from the University of Bristol in 2011, where I am now Emeritus Professor.
(PROF.) DAVID THOMAS, OP
My decision to become a Lay Dominican is part of a long journey of the heart and mind. So far it has taken me from atheism as a student, when I was convinced by Nietzsche’s view of life’s absurdity, to reception into the Catholic Church in 1997. In between, the decision to turn to Christ led me initially to explore my new-found faith within the Anglican Communion. As an Anglo-Catholic I became increasingly interested in the beauty of liturgy. In 1993 I was able to help design and then to direct what was in effect a large outdoor Catholic Mass for the Diocese of Coventry. The Archbishop of Canterbury presided and 300 priests concelebrated.
What convinced me to join the Dominican Order was the fact that the founder of the Order, St Dominic, was committed to the conversion of souls through debate and discussion: not violence. Following his example, the subsequent Dominican tradition is one that places stress on study, on rational analysis and on clearly formulated argument so that faith may be underpinned by reason, and reason may be lit up by faith. It is also a joyful tradition in which study, discussion and laughter play a crucial role. Our role as Dominicans is to become persuasive voices for the Word of God.
Like Paul, I made my first profession as a Lay Dominican in 2004 and my final profession in 2009. Since then I have enjoyed exploring complex and challenging issues with my fellow Lay Dominicans in Bristol. I have also made presentations on a wide variety of topics. Apart from my activities in Bristol, I have become actively involved in the work of the Dominican Couvent in Nice, France. Since 2007, I have given an annual public lecture for the Nice Dominicans on modern films which explore philosophical, political and religious issues.
I began my academic career at Bristol. From 1986 until my retirement in 2004, I served as Professor and Head of Department at the University of Warwick. I am now an Emeritus Professor at Warwick’s School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies.
(MR.) MICHAEL MCLOUGHLIN, OP
Michael lives in Cardiff and chairs the Lay Fraternal Group affiliated to the Bristol Fraternity in the Welsh capital. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
Please contact him regarding the Cardiff Group's meetings and news.