- St Mary's College, Oscott, Warwickshire, the diocesan seminary of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, founded in 1794
- St John's College, Wonersh, Surrey, initially the diocesan seminary of the Archdiocese of Southwark, founded in 1891, now within the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton.
- Allen Hall, Chelsea, London, relocated from St Edmund's, Ware, in 1975, the diocesan seminary of the Archdiocese of Westminster.
- Venerable English College, Rome, Italy, founded in 1579
- Pontifical Beda College, Rome, Italy, founded in 1859 to form older men to the priesthood from the English-speaking world.
- Royal College of St Alban, Valladolid, Spain, founded in 1589, and continued to form priests until re-founded as a propaedeutic seminary in the 1990s.
Can you take time out?
Are you stuck in the seminary the whole time, or do you go into parishes?
Pastoral work is a very important part of our formation. As we've already seen, our formation centres around the four strands of human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral development. It is important that the seminary is a place of separation from the world, not because we are monks, but because we are entering a life where the sacred and transcendent occupies the whole of our being; necessarily, we should learn to live apart from secular worldliness, while continuing to live within it.
Most priests will undertake their ministry in parishes throughout the country; it is the whole purpose of priesthood, after all! As so, in seminary today, we undertake a considerable amount of pastoral work, to gain experience, yes, but also to build us up as persons.
Every year in Oscott, as a rule, seminarians undertake a 3-week placement in January in a parish in the diocese, or in another place. Every week, on Thursday afternoons during term-time, they are placed in an institution or with a group for a couple of hours. This can be a school, a hospital, a prison an RCIA programme, a social club for the elderly, and many more examples! This placement lasts the whole year.
At the start of the fourth year, they undertake a 5-month placement in a parish in the diocese; they call this an extended pastoral placement. During that time, they do not live in the seminary, but in the parochial presbytery.
After a seminarian is ordained to the diaconate, he undertakes a month-long placement in a diocesan parish over the summer, and, when he returns to seminary in September, he is attached to a local parish, and attends it parish life on Sundays, and perhaps other times too.
Every seminary has a different pastoral programme; this is what it looks like in Oscott. Some people say that we should have more pastoral work, as if we should be made into perfect models of pastoral priests upon leaving the seminary. Perhaps we could do more in parishes, perhaps not, but, as we have already seen, a seminary does not produce finished products, and we grow in experience and wisdom throughout the whole of our lives. A complete and honest openness to priestly formation in seminary is sufficient to permit the germination of this growth; self-discovery is of capital importance for our pastoral responsibility. Sometimes, some priests are more shy than others; some seem far too bombastic for their own good! But, we must remember that all the work that we do is, in fact, God's work done through us, his earthenware vessels.
Don't you want to get married?
It seems a little impertinent to ask someone, 'why aren't you married?' You don't normally go up to someone and say, 'so, why are you married'. But still, clerical celibacy is a very big thing for seminarians, because ordination in our rite requires a promise of celibacy.
For many of us, the opportunity to get married never really came up! For some of us, there was an opportunity of marriage but we chose a different path. Some of us have had lots of relationships, others haven't had any relationships.
In our post-war society, it seems a little odd that someone would choose to reject the sexual revolution culture which is dominant in the west. Even from within the Church, we seminarians are criticised for not wanting to have sex. For future reference, this can be very discouraging for seminarians, and priests, who hear this from parishioners, and is not the best way to go about fostering priestly vocations! One could similarly ask, 'why aren't people getting married?' How many marriages have been solemnised in your parish recently? There is a crisis of marriage, as well as a crisis of priesthood. People just don't want to make commitments. The real crisis is a crisis of humanity; lack of priests and marriages is a symptom of something evil in our society.
Well, first of all, celibacy is odd. It is unnatural. Our blessed Lord, too, was a bit odd. Just imagine, a thirty-something year-old man, single, living with his mother, in a society which expected men to marry and multiply. Jesus was counter-cultural. Even though every baptised person is conformed to Christ, priests are conformed to Christ in a particular way, and imitate his life. As Cardinal Hume said, "If I had no arguments in favour of celibacy, I would look no further than the person of the Lord, and He was celibate. I would find that totally satisfying."
Second, it is simply more practical for priests to be celibate. They are able to channel their overflowing love to perform their pastoral functions among the people of God. Priests are freer to serve them. They are totally theirs.
Third, is an eschatological reason. Eschatological means 'about the end times'. The purpose of priesthood is to get people - you and me - into heaven. That is it. Everything a priest does flows from that sole purpose. This eschatological symbol of celibacy says: 'there is more to our life than what we experience here and now. There is another life to come, a life with the Blessed Trinity in heaven.' When we go before the Judgement Seat, it's just you and God. We shall have neither our iPhones, nor our wives at our side. Imagine some people waiting for a bus at a bus stop. They are a sign, a sign which indicates something which hasn't yet arrived, but will surely come. Otherwise, why would they be waiting for it?!
For these three reasons, celibacy, even though it remains a discipline of the Church, rather than a doctrine, it is integral to the life of priests, and priestly spirituality. In seminary, we grow into celibacy, so that we are ready to make the commitment at the end of our formation. We make it our own. So no, we don't want to get married.