Born in Surrey in 1936, Thomas McMahon is Bishop of Brentwood. Educated at St Bede's Grammar School in Manchester, he trained for the priesthood at St Sulpice, Paris, and was ordained at Wonersh in 1959. He was then appointed assistant priest in Colchester before moving to Westcliff-on-Sea and later serving as parish priest of Stock. He was Chaplain of Essex University from 1972 until 1980 when he was consecrated as Bishop of Brentwood. A former member of the National Ecumenical Commission, he was Chairman of Brentwood Ecumenical Commission in 1979, Chairman of Churches Together in Essex and East London from 1984-1993, and served on the International Commission for English in the Liturgy from 1983-2001. He was a member of the Bishops' Department for Christian Life and Worship, serving as Chairman of the Pastoral Liturgy Committee from 1983 to 1997. He was also Chairman of the Church Music Committee from 1985-2001, and since 2005 has represented the Bishops' Conference on the Council of St. George's House, Windsor.
In 2005 he was installed as an Honorary Ecumenical Canon of Chelmsford Cathedral then in 2007 was appointed a Vice-President of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust - 2007. Thomas McMahon has been involved with a number of developments in the diocese, including the establishment of the Justice and Peace Commission, the Social Welfare Commission, the Youth Commission, the Diocesan Pastoral Centre at New Hall and the Diocesan House of Prayer at Brentwood. He was responsible for the building of the diocesan offices' "Cathedral House" in Brentwood and the building of a new Cathedral in 1989.
He has been a member of the International Commission for English in the Liturgy, a member of the Bishops' Department for Christian Life and Worship, and served as Chairman of the Pastoral Liturgy Committee. He has also served as Chairman of the Patrimony Committee and in 2007 was appointed as a Vice-President of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust. He has published two books - The Mass Explained and Alter Servers' Prayerbook. He is a patron of many groups, most notably as Vice-President of Pax Christi. He has received an Honorary Degree from Essex University and was made an Honorary Fellow of Hertford College, Oxford.
In 2001 Thomas McMahon received an honorary degree of Doctor of the University.
"Chairman, Vice Chancellor, the Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending this award of an Honorary Doctorate of the University to Rt. Rev. Bishop Thomas McMahon, Roman Catholic Bishop of Brentwood for his contributions to ecumenism in Essex and North East London, and services to the county in many domains.
It is very fitting on this day that we do honour to both our two diocesan bishops (Anglican and Roman Catholic), who have together contributed so much to inter-faith understanding in this region, an endeavour greatly facilitated by the fact that their dioceses are the only ones in the country whose boundaries are co-terminous.
Thomas McMahon was born in 1936 at Dorking, Surrey and grew up in Harlow, Essex. His father was chief consultant civil engineer to Harlow New Town, and his twin brother, John, who was a barrister, died in 1969. He was educated at St. Bede's Grammar School, Manchester, before training for the priesthood at St. Sulpice, Paris, and was ordained in 1959, at Wonersh, Surrey. He was appointed an assistant priest in Colchester where he served for five years. From 1964-1969 he was appointed to Westcliff-on-Sea, and then became parish priest of Stock (where he continues to live now as parish priest), the only Roman Catholic bishop who has both a diocese and a small parish, at the present time. From 1972-1980 he served as chaplain to Essex University.
In July 1980 Cardinal Basil Hume consecrated him Bishop of Brentwood, (unusually, from within the diocese), and he has been a member of the Ecumenical Commission, and I.C.E.L. (representing the Bishops' of England and Wales since 1983). He was Chairman of the Committee for Pastoral Liturgy from 1983-1987, and Chairman of the Committee for Church Music since 1985.
Bishop Thomas takes special interest in all areas of pastoral work. He has been involved with various developments in the diocese, including the establishment of the Justice and Peace Commission, the Social Welfare Commission, Youth Commission and the establishing of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre at New Hall and the Diocesan House of Prayer. There have also been various programmes in the diocese such as the Ministry to Priests Programme (1984), the Diocesan Renewal Programme 'Movement for a Better World' (1982), and three year Confirmation Programme. He has instituted a ten year Pastoral Plan for the diocese. He was responsible for the building of the diocesan offices 'Cathedral House' in Brentwood in 1982, followed by the building of the new Cathedral in 1989 by the classical architect, Quinlan Terry. It is the first Cathedral to be built in the classical style since St. Paul's, and is a truly inspiring building.
Bishop Thomas is Patron of a number of groups and organisations, notably Vice-President of Pax Christi since 1987. He was a founder member of the Movement for Christian Democracy and together with Lord Alton visited refugee camps and homes in Albania in 1999.
However, it is his achievements with Bishop John in the field of ecumenism that we especially honour today, a co-operation which is pastoral and personal, and thus, highly functional. The two bishops meet every month in the early morning for an hour's prayer, followed by a working breakfast. They undertake many joint engagements in their dioceses. Brentwood has five ecumenical parishes where there is shared ownership between the two denominations; two shared primary schools and there is also a joint pilgrimage each year to Bradwell. There are joint parish magazines. The two cathedrals cooperate closely in joint services of remembrance, Jubilee services, millennium occasions, and this cooperation includes music where the Bishops' Chorister Award is joint, and the two choirs frequently give concerts together. Bishop Thomas chairs or sits on a wide range of ecumenical bodies with the protestant denominations and also shares a fruitful dialogue with the Jewish and Islamic congregations, especially in London.
The Sheppard-Worlock partnership in Liverpool was often characterised as 'better together'. The McMahon-Perry axis espouses the so-called Lund principle, 'Never do apart what you can do together'. Their immediate joint translation to positions in Jerusalem would thus seem long overdue! The very jointness of their work together is graphically illustrated by the fact that their guests for this occasion are jointly selected from the various collaborative projects they have initiated. Bishop Thomas' wide involvement in the life of the county of Essex was recognised when in 1991 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of the University of Essex and in 1992 elected President of the Essex Show. He is a member of the Court of both the University of Essex and East London University.
His personal hobbies and interests include music, reading, art, architecture, tennis and walking, and Mayhew McCrimmon have published two of his books; 'The Mass Explained' and 'Altar Servers' Prayerbook'. His remaining ambitions are simple, yet terrifyingly gigantic, namely, to make Christ a personal reality to those who are His flock. The University wishes Bishop Thomas every success in this endeavour. May I therefore, Chairman, invite you to confer upon the Right Reverend Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood, the Honorary Degree of Doctor of the University for all the reasons outlined in this citation."