On Friday last week I was at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh near Guildford when Fraser Bellfield and his classmate Eddie were received as candidates to the priesthood by Bishop Paul Henrick. Fraser was with us here at St Thomas of Canterbury, as pastoral placement for a month in June 2019.
St John’s Seminary was established in 1891 as the diocesan seminary by Bishop John Baptist Butt. Monsignor John and myself trained there is the early seventies when there were over 70 students in the house. There were less than 20 students there when Father John, was ordained priest last year. Last October it was announced that after 130 years the Seminary will close this summer. Of the seventeen students already in residence, six were due to complete their studies this month and it was envisaged that the other eleven would be transferred Allen Hall Seminary in London.
On 17th July Matthew Donnelly, who was also with us for a short pastoral placement will ordained priest at St George’s Cathedral along with David Hunter.
There has been a great decline in young men coming forward in answer to God’s call to share in Christ’s ministerial priesthood. As far as I know no new applicants have been accepted for the Archdiocese of Southwark for this coming September. As a diocese we are relying more and more on religious orders such as the Spirtitans and Missionaries of St Paul to provide priests in those parishes whose priest retire or dies. Why is there so few coming forward asking to be considered for the priesthood? What is God saying to us? There are different suggestions put forward often reflecting the different understandings of why the Church in this country is in the state it is in. There are some who want to go back to pre Vatican II days. Others wonder whether the clerical model that we have is the right one.
I have been a priest for 46 years and can say that the Lord has truly blessed me with great joy and pushed me beyond my comfort zone to share the Gospel. I would unhesitatingly recommend this life to anyone who feels that this is where God is calling them.
in Baptism you called us by name
and made us members of your family, the Church.
Help all your people to know their vocation in life,
and to respond by living a life of holiness.
For your greater glory and for the service of your people,
raise up dedicated and generous men who will serve
as priests for the Church of Southwark
Send your Spirit to guide and strengthen our communities,
our seminarians and all who are discerning their vocation.
Our Lady Immaculate and St. Thomas of Canterbury
Pray for us!