Friday 10 June 2011

Seminary at Ushaw could be full!

Ushaw College as it was in it's centenary year of 1894

Fr Ray Blake mentions that not a few of his friends have had difficulty getting ordained. I find myself in a similar position. I can think of a half dozen young, intelligent men who would like to test their vocation but who have experienced great difficulties and obstacles because they are also perceived as being "too Catholic" - not a new phrase, as it was once used by a member of the seminary staff to a friend of mine, who is now a long-standing chaplain to the armed forces. The difficulty becomes insurmountable if someone in this situation does not want to go outside this country or does not feel called to one of the traditional priestly societies.

Fr Blake believes that no-one has a vocation until the bishop puts his hands on their head, which is true but it's also true that just because an applicant is turned down in one place, it does not mean that he doesn't have a vocation and shouldn't persevere. (Especially if the 'lay vocations team' finds you 'unsuitable' after meeting you for 20 minutes!) It is devastating to go though an application process and be turned down - I speak as one who experienced this in his home diocese. I encourage anyone who has experienced this or who thinks that they would end up in this category, not to give up hope but to persevere.

If I know such a group of men and so does Fr Blake, I wonder how many prospective vocations are not being given the chance to be tested on the basis that the person is considered to be too traditional / conservative / catholic / orthodox?
- Perhaps enough to fill a seminary like Ushaw in the north of England?

This is all the sadder as this coming Saturday will see what will presumably be the very last ordinations (to the diaconate) in the chapel at St Cuthbert's College, Ushaw, as it is still set to close after more than 217 years of training men for the priesthood.

The graph below, from 'A History of Ushaw College' by David Milburn (Published 1964), shows the growth of seminarians until 1962 - when there were 376. In 1964 an enormous new 5 floored wing was built to accommodate the growing numbers (and I'm told this was onlyhalf of what was planned at the time!)

- the future looked bright for Ushaw and the church in the North of England.

We know what happened next. This & this.
Will the rest of Ushaw suffer the same scandalous neglect?
UPDATE: The Diocese of Hexham & Newcastle (in which Ushaw is situated) had 201 seminarians in 1964 - but by 2009 were reduced to 6!


Fr Ray Blake said...

I also think some people have a vocation to offer themselves, like St BJ Labre.
They might be turned down again and again and never offer the Sublime Sacrifice but simply be willing to offer themselves to God for him to use or not in whatever way He chooses.

But I am sure that many young men would offer themselves if they felt they would be taken seriously, and might "fit in" and not be laughed out of the parish priest's or vocation director's office.

Liberalism is the great threat to vocations, orthodox dioceses flourish. Liberal one's die on the vine. Compare Toowawomba to Sydney or Frejus-Toulon with pretty well any other French diocese. Trad monastries with the more lax.

Mater mari said...

A priest acquaintance of mine was eventually ordained in his 30s, in spite of having felt he had a vocation since boyhood. I understand he was consistently rejected as a seminarian because he had not known a woman (in the biblical sense). You couldn't make it up.

He persevered, and with a change of bishop he was finally accepted and I was privileged to be at his ordination five years later. I recently met, entirely by coincidence, one of his parishioners who sang his praises with enthusiasm.

Another young man I know was told by a priest friend, on entering the seminary, that he should keep his head down, an allusion to his love of traditional liturgy. He eventually left, for reasons which it would be inappropriate to repeat.

These tales can no doubt be repeated again and again. It is little wonder that Ushaw is closing.

Jacobi said...

It is unbelievable that a candidate should be turned down for being "too orthodox". What is happening in the Church?

I have long suspected that what amounts to a Relativist Reformation afflicted the Catholic Church in the post-Vatican 11 period, and I think we are just waking up to this and the fact that in some areas, and some seminaries, the Reformers are still at work.

Sadie Vacantist said...

There was a rector of Allen Hall who preferred his students to have 'sown their oats' prior to arrival. The rector has since gone to prison. At his trial, many of his former charges testified to get his sentence reduced.

Anonymous said...

Oi! I was in theological study in the late 60s. I was in an order, restrictions but no con life.
naI doubt that the open dating, some homosexual relationships and even a pregnancy were unusual. I got out for reasons of odd, or oddly presented doctrine. I got sane, eventually.
e bout the buildings. How the hell can bishops allow unused hoouses of worship to be so rudely treated. There are rgulations, I believ, about secularisiation of a blesse or conserted Church. England must have private security firms to proet against

The Rev. Michael P. Forbes
Rochester, MN USA