Music loving priest Prof Monsignor Vladimir Felzmann, AKA Fr Vlad, has today started walking the final ten half marathons of his epic challenge of completing 52 laps of the Sir Mo Farah Athletics track 83 times over the coming year to raise £500,000 to replace the St Mary’s University, Twickenham Chapel Organ.
Fr Vlad set himself the challenge to combine his love for music and sport. Having originally come to the UK as a refugee from Czechoslovakia after World War Two, sport has been a key part of Fr Vlad’s life. He found when joining a British school for the first time that through competitive athletics and playing football he was able to make friends when he couldn’t speak English.
Speaking to Adrian Chiles on Radio 5 earlier in his epic challenge, Fr Vlad said, “It was sport that enabled me to get inserted into society, I realised if I could do sport then I began to belong.”
The two numbers in the challenge represent special significance to Fr Vlad. He will be completing 52 laps, to celebrate his 52 years as a priest, 83 times, to celebrate his 83rd year of life. So far Fr Vlad has raised over £50,000 from a range of supporters.
With 52 laps of the Sir Mo Farah Athletics Track coming in at 20.8km, just 300m short of a half marathon, Fr Vlad has completed each of his 83 track sessions in around four hours. So far through the challenge he has completed 1497.6km, just over the distance from London to the Vatican City.
Overlooking the main Piazza, the Chapel is at the heart of the St Mary’s University life. With Mass said there daily for the local and University community, it is also an important venue for Christian communities.
In recent years the Chapel has welcomed Pope Benedict XVI, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople of the Eastern Orthodox Church Bartholomew I of Constantinople, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rt Rev Rt Hon Prof Baron Rowan Williams, and the then Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Rt Rev Richard Clarke.
The University wants to expand and enhance these current uses, while also breaking new ground in pursuing linkages between music and disciplines such as theology and drama. St Mary’s will also utilise it in extending our outreach to local schools, unlocking the Chapel's full potential as a resource for music, art, and religious education.
Fr Vlad, who volunteered at the London 2012 Games as a Chaplain, has been passing the time completing his challenge by being joined by St Mary’s students, staff, and alumni for laps of the track.
Speaking of the challenge so far, Fr Vlad said, “I believe in St Mary’s University, I believe in the organ’s Apollonian music opening people to the presence of God, so I committed myself to walking the talk of my faith. Now that all restrictions have been lifted and the new term has started, I am looking forward to being joined by more staff and students of St Mary’s as I complete my challenge.”
Composer and Conductor Sir James MacMillan CBE said of the challenge, “There is something wonderful and life-enhancing when a commitment to musical excellence, a concern for beauty in the liturgy and a deep knowledge of and education in the arts all come together. These aspirations have always been dear to me.
"Therefore, I am delighted that St Mary’s University is demonstrating ambition in all these fields as it approaches the celebration of its 175th anniversary. Central to this determination is the desire to give new life to the place of the organ and the profound music it can make in the University Chapel, both in liturgical and concert contexts. The renewal of this instrument would be a significant step forward and I am delighted to lend my support to this appeal.”