Fr Michael Seed celebrates 25 years as a priest at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, in London

On Tuesday evening friends of Fr Michael Seed filled the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, in London, for a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Eugenio Sbarbaro, the former Apostolic Nuncio to Serbia.

The Mass was offered in gratitude for Fr Seed’s 25 years as a priest. Fr Seed has long worked for closer friendship between religious traditions, and the evening proved to be an ecumenical gathering, with some 20 Catholic priests joined by Anglicans, Methodists, Orthodox, Jews and Muslims.

Fr Seed was ordained on Saturday, January 18 1986 at the mother house of the Franciscan order of which he is a member, the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, in Graymoor, Garrison, New York. The late Auxiliary Bishop Eugene Marino of Washington DC, a close friend, ordained him. Fr Seed had been ordained a deacon on Saturday January 19 1985 in Westminster Cathedral by Bishop William Gordon Wheeler of Leeds, also a close friend.

Archbishop Sbarbaro, 76, comes from near Genoa and is himself celebrating his 25th year as a bishop.

Fr Seed said: “We met in around 1981 or 1982 when I was a friar student at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC and Archbishop Sbarbaro was chargé d’affaires at the Vatican Embassy in Washington DC.”

At the Mass on Tuesday Fr William Pearsall SJ, parish priest of Farm Street, read the homily. He said: “We might be forgiven if we were to think that [Fr Michael] comes as one full of himself as a priest, a Franciscan, a writer or even celebrity. Perhaps God might see him in another light, in the light of the Gospel we have just heard, a man poor in spirit, gentle, a man who knows what it is to mourn, to show mercy and to be a peacemaker.”

Fr Pearsall recalled Fr Seed’s baptism in the Jesuit Church of Holy Name in Manchester on December 23 1957 when he was six months’ old, and said: “Michael has experienced with all of its pathos and surprise the mysterious thread of divine grace. [His] life included the loss of so much and yet would he ever have imagined in those years of lost innocence and lost securities the astonishing story of grace and of love that has become his life story as friar and as priest?

“But this is not grim or depressing, it is all about the love of life, the love of people, the love indeed of wine and of long happy days in the company of friends, as well as the odd conviviality into the early hours, thank goodness for that, says Michael. But always open and vulnerable to the mystery and surprise of grace and of love of the wounds of knowledge and of compassion that living a blessed life inevitably entails. God bless you, Michael and may his love keep you open, empty and free.”

By coincidence, January 18 was the start of the 103rd Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, begun by Fr Paul Wattson, founder of the Friars of the Atonement.