Andrew Cameron-Mowat SJ
I was born in Lanarkshire, one of six children; my father was the local NHS GP. I attended St Aloysius College, serving on Br Ward’s impeccable altar staff and as a technician in Fr Grumitt’s stage crew. I studied Medieval History and English Language and Literature at the University of St Andrews. Having been a keen pianist since the age of five, and after some minor efforts on the church organ in my local parish, I sang in three choirs during my student years, including a tour of churches in Poland shortly after the first visit of Pope John Paul II, the experience of which confirmed me in my vocation to be a Jesuit. I was exposed then not only to the thirst for God that existed in the hundreds of people who packed the churches, but also to the poverty of oppression, beneath which lies indomitable hope. I left the noviceship with a new mission: to use my skills to help people to sing and pray during liturgy, while at the same time avoiding giving the impression that I was merely showing off – something a Jesuit must never do! Each of us who took vows were also given a strong foundation in prayer, and a way of proceeding – to follow our hunches but to pray about them at all times – that has been a godsend to me ever since.
During philosophy studies at Heythrop College I developed my music skills. A week at Ushaw about the RCIA set me firmly on the liturgical road I was to follow for the rest of my life. In 1984 I was permitted to work in full time liturgical music ministry at Clifton Cathedral, as an “apprentice” to Christopher Walker, who helped me to grow as a cantor, choir director, all round musician and accompanist.
I was then sent to teach at St Ignatius College, Enfield. I made many mistakes, but the staff there were hugely supportive and patient, and I grew to love the apostolate of the Jesuit teacher.
I was very lucky to be sent to Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where over four years I gained two degrees in theology, training and practice in directing retreats, and I continued my musical ministry.
I was ordained at Clifton Cathedral. Then I had a wonderful year as a new priest in Sacred Heart Parish in Blackpool, while at the same time serving as the music advisor for the diocese of Lancaster.
Having previously been accepted to do doctoral studies in liturgy, I then travelled to Berkeley, California, where I spent five years studying, giving spiritual direction to scholastics, and in pastoral and music ministry in various nearby parishes, leading to my appointment as Director of Music at St Ignatius church in San Francisco, where I directed the choir for two years, while at the same time writing my doctoral thesis on the liturgical ecclesiology of Yves Congar.
I returned to Britain in 1998 and began my major work: as a lecturer in Liturgy at Heythrop College, teaching the MA in Pastoral Liturgy, as well as undergraduate courses in liturgy and in sacramental theology, and a practicum in preaching and sacramental celebration for the scholastics in their final year before ordination.
After seven months tertianship in Sydney in 2000, I was eventually approved for final vows and which I made at St Aloysius in Glasgow on November 5th, 2003 (with fireworks exploding during the ceremony). In 2003 I became Superior of men in formation in our community in Brixton, while continuing to teach at Heythrop. The London Formation Centre was undergoing a significant transformation during these years, with an influx of men from overseas, mainly from India, Sri Lanka and further east. I was also asked to take over the running of the Arrupe Month (the period of reflection and prayer before diaconate ordination), which I have now been doing for the past seven years, based at the Royal English College in Valladolid, which is a wonderful place.
From 2009-14 I was the Provincial’s Assistant for Formation, which meant I had oversight of the pastoral and academic development of all the men in formation in the British Province, as well as of all those who are sent to Britain from other provinces as part of their formation. This has been a very fulfilling and rewarding ministry to the wider Society of Jesus.
I am now parish priest of Farm St Church. I am still learning how to be a parish priest, and I rely on the support of many people, including my Jesuit Community, and on the parish committees, and staff. It is clear that many people have a great affection for Jesuits, and for the church. There is a great deal of work to do, and I am frequently encouraged by the words and example of Pope Francis. I continue to enjoy music, whether playing the piano or the organ, or listening to the beautiful music that our parish choir and musicians provide. Our ministries are multifaceted, to people of all ages and walks of life, and it is exciting to wonder where we can develop and continue to grow. At the same time I maintain my teaching at Heythrop College, as part of the re-activated ecclesiastical faculty of the Bellarmine Institute.