Ray Bayliss is Catholic Chaplain at Bangor University. He’s a Lay Dominican and Convenor of the North West Fraternal Group.
As far as I am aware, I am the only Lay Dominican in the Province that is blessed in living in a building that not only acts as a focus for pastoral care, catechesis and evangelization, but also has the wonderful additional blessing of having a Chapel, with the Blessed Sacrament reserved.
The house is called ‘Ty Acwin’ and is the home of the Catholic Chaplaincy to Bangor University. My wife, Allison, and I live ‘above the shop’ in a 3-bed flat, but the ground floor is a space that is opened for chaplaincy activities, including regular Mass, prayer, faith exploration and social activities.
As Catholic Chaplain I have a pastoral and ministerial role specifically aimed at the students and staff of the University. I was appointed to the role here in Bangor in 2016 by Bishop Peter Brignall, having previously served in a similar role at Keele University for 12 years. The fact that I am a Lay Dominican has been known to the Bishop and the Diocese from the start.
I was formally installed at a Mass celebrated by the Bishop on the 24 Nov 2016. At my Installation Service as part of his sermon he preached on how appropriate it was for a Lay Dominican to be coming into the role. He talked about St Dominic and the founding of the Order. Having already agreed to my request that the new Chaplaincy house, being redeveloped at that time, be dedicated to St Thomas , he preached on how Aquinas provided a model for academic endeavour. He even mentioned Bangor’s particular historical association with the Dominicans (2 medieval Priories and 5 Bishops).
On 28 January 2017, the feast of St Thomas, Bishop Peter was back once more, this time to officially consecrate the new Chaplaincy house and its Chapel. He comes here each year around the Feast of St Thomas to celebrate our patronal Mass with us.
Ty Acwin has a very ‘Dominican’ feel to it that someone coming into the building would find hard to miss. Our small Chapel particularly so, not only because of the statue of St Dominic but also because of relics of St Thomas and St Vincent Ferrer that are kept there permanently.
The Chaplaincy and our little Chapel are always special, but in the coming academic year (and through to the 28 January 2025) perhaps a little more so. I have recently had it confirmed by the Prior Provincial, having consulted with Santa Sabina, that it qualifies as a centre for the granting of plenary indulgence on ‘properly disposed faithful who participate in Eucharistic celebrations …or who will make pilgrimages to Churches, shrines and oratories’ under the patronage of St Thomas Aquinas that are under the pastoral care of the order, during the two year jubilee to mark his canonization and death. There was some question at the start as to whether, as I am a lay rather than religious member of the order, the Chaplaincy would qualify, but I am really pleased to say that this has now been clarified. This means that our Patronal Masses celebrated by Bishop Peter for the next couple of years will now take on an additional element, and it means that I can look to build other events into the calendar that carry the possibility of a plenary indulgence. It also means of course that I have to ensure that participating students and staff understand what indulgences are and the necessary conditions for their worthy reception. I’m looking forward to it.
Ray Bayliss August 2023