Sunday, 10 October 2010

The Closure of St Cuthbert's, Ushaw

How sad to hear that St Cuthbert's is having to close its doors. It has a long and noble history going back to recusant times and the college at Douai in French Flanders which was closed at the French Revolution but found new homes at Ware and Ushaw. The seminarians left Ware in the 70s; now Ushaw is to go, too.
A seminary is a real alma mater to its alumni; as celibate priests we don't have family homes, but a seminary is where we have spent a considerable portion of our lives among the people with whom we still work. To some, perhaps, seminary is a miserable memory, but to many it is something of a foundation, a steady rock on which they have built their lives.
I am living at the seminary at Wonersh at present, (which, I might add, is a much happier community than when I studied here). A final-year student I was talking with last night spoke of the closure of Ushaw with emotion, saying how hard he would take it if Wonersh were to close. There are so many shared memories, as well as growth as a person, and in the spiritual life that take place within the walls, that it is going to be hard to find an adequate substitute elsewhere.
And now there must be the headache of finding a new home for the students. It won't be easy. If they transfer them all together to one other college, there is a real risk of cliquiness, us and them. If they split them up, that in itself would be an additional unkindness.
I dare say they have considered simply decanting into smaller premises and rejected it for one reason or another. Relocating to the very different atmosphere of the south (and two of the three remaining seminaries are in the south, with one in the southern midlands) is not going to be easy, though I'm sure that any college would provide a very warm welcome.
Valladolid would have been a possible choice—it was always a 'northern' seminary in any event—but for the fact that it has recently been converted into a sort of pre-seminary seminary.
I do hope that they will be leasing the buildings at Ushaw and not selling outright. Who knows where we will be in 25 or 50 years? Even this September there might well be a serious upturn in vocations, the hoped-for Benedict Bounce. My year in seminary was the one following the 1982 visit of Pope John Paul, and we were several times larger as the year above us.

1 comment:

Terry Middleton said...


Your comments on the closing of my Alma Mater (1958 - 1963) are very apposite. However, it is not only celibate priests who look back at their seminary days with affection. I left Ushaw aged 18, having realised that the priestly vocation was not for me, but I am deeply grateful for the spiritual formation I received there. It has guided my life as a married man with a daughter ever since.

I know it lost its way following Vatican 2, and the reforms following that Council, such as the closure of the Junior Seminaries, but the lasting significance to my life is immeasurable.

The buildings and memories are much too precious to be just abandoned - pray to God that some use could be made of this daughter of Douai.