Life in a Seminary
Mark Tully explores life in a seminary. Trainee Catholic priests must involve themselves in the world of the congregation, but also need space for spiritual development.
In Something Understood this week, Mark Tully is intrigued by life in a Roman Catholic seminary. How are young men trained for the priesthood?
At Allen Hall Seminary in the busy heart of London, Dean of Studies and Formation Advisor Father Stephen Wang explains the need for his students to train for their pastoral role within the Catholic community. Seminarians at Allen Hall spend much of their time in local parishes, schools and hospitals preparing for life as a Diocesan priest. And yet it's also crucial that they have the quiet, contemplative space they need to develop spiritually. They must become men of God and men of communion.
Mark explores the history of the seminary system, with readings from Anthony Kenny and Denis Meadows, and hears music written by ancient monks in isolation. He speaks to writer and academic John Cornwell, whose own time at Upholland Seminary in the 1950s left a strong imprint on his spiritual life. The Junior Seminary system he experienced from the age of 12 no longer exists, but John believes that there are still serious flaws in the way the Catholic Church trains its priests. He argues that seminarians are too separated out from the world and from the people they are destined to serve once ordained.
Ultimately, becoming a priest requires huge dedication - what Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe described as a 'falling in love' with God. Perhaps what is also needed is a balance, between the prosaic and the spiritual, between being within the world and being apart from it.
Producer: Hannah Marshall
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.