Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Our Men in Rome!

St Ralph Sherwin
 Proto-Martyr of the College
Today 1st December is the Feast of the Martyrs of the Venerable English College in Rome. Today the College in Rome remembers those men who trained in Rome and became priests during the Reformation and returned to England and Wales under the daily threat of capture and trial as 'traitors'. Forty-Four of them were put to death as martrys during this period.

The Venerable English College still trains men for the priesthood and a good number of the curent diocesan clergy including Bishop Kieran trained there. At the moment the diocese has one man training there, Stephen O'Brien who started in September after a preparation year in English College in Vallodalid in Spain. We wish him well in this first year and that he will be inspired by the life of the martyrs.

Fr Tony Milner (left) and 
Fr François-Xavier Dumortier SJ
(Rector of the Gregorian University)
Our other man there is Fr Tony Milner, an Arundel & Brighton priest who is the Theology tutor at the college. He assists the students with their studies as well as leading a couple of theology seminars both for the college and for the Pontifical Gregorian University where most of the students study. The University has students from all over the world and is open to all including clergy, religious, seminarians and lay people. 

Fr Tony is one of a number of priests in our diocese who have roles outside the parish. Fr Jonathan How and Fr Stepehen Dingley, for instance are at St John's Seminary, Wonersh near Guildford where all the other diocesan students are based. There are a number of other priests with other non-parish roles such as Fr Paul Turner, the Diocesan Vocations Director.

We may wonder why with apparently falling priest numbers they are not in parishes. The truth is that many of these men have been in parishes, and are in these current roles only for a few years before returning to a parish. They also have a set of skills and abilities that are vital to the training of new priests and other activities. Finally, in many ways our diocese is blessed with the number of priests it has. A new diocese has just been erected in Tanzania and apart from the Bishop there are only 2 priests for 335,000 Catholics. This diocese has over 100 priests for some 400,000 Catholics. We should count our blessings!

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