Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The Wonder of Wonersh - Part 2

St John's Seminary, Wonersh
Rev Dr Stephen Dingley MA PhD STL in conversation about his life and his work as Lecturer in Theology at Wonersh with A&B News correspondent, Peter Burholt. Part 2.

You were sent to the English College in Rome. What was that like and are you fluent in Italian?
Many memories were being gathered by Fr Stephen of his 6 years stay in Rome and back came that smile.

When I tell you that my first year was studying philosophy – in Italian! – and that we had only had a few weeks of Italian lessons before starting it, you will understand how I felt. Fortunately, the next year was better.

After gaining your Masters in Theology what happened next?
It was back to England and I was ordained in Banstead by Bishop (now Cardinal) Cormac. A placement as curate came at Haywards Heath with Fr Ian Byrnes. I will always be grateful to him as he took an interest in me and my development. However, I did not relish the experience of being left in charge of the parish after two weeks as Fr Ian went on pilgrimage to Medjugorje – along with the only set of parish keys! Later I was relocated to Bognor Regis for a further stint of parish work.

So how did you get to Wonersh? Did you fill in an application form?
One dark January evening the telephone rang. I replied to the caller “Sorry, but Kieran who?” “Your Bishop!” was the rather gruff response. “Would you like to go to St John’s Seminary to teach theology?”
Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather as I assumed I would continue in parish work for the rest of my life. It was an exciting prospect as I had always liked the idea of teaching. Afterwards I found out that the Rector had approached Bishop Kieran – the Rector has his ears to the ground, a bit like a football scout!

I moved into St John’s in the summer before the start of the academic year to sort out what I was supposed to be doing. The first year was pretty hellish at times! I had, as any teacher will tell you, to do it all at once and to somehow keep my head above water.
How long will I be here? I am happy to stay as long as Bishop Kieran and the Rector want me to; but my predecessors have typically lasted around 8 to 12 years.

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