On Friday 15th September the Diocese of Westminster signed
The Society of the Divine Word (SVD) pastoral care of Our Lady of Sorrows and St Bridget of Sweden, Isleworth, with Fr Nicodemus Lobo Ratu SVD as Parish Priest, Fr Kieran Fitzharris SVD as Assistant Priest and Deacon Vitalis Barik SVD. Fr Tim Lehane SVD, Provincial represented the order at the signing of the agreement.
Each of these orders has a rich charism which they are hoping to share with their parishes. Here, Fr Kevin O’Toole SVD introduces The Society of the Divine Word:
The Society of the Divine Word (SVD), an international missionary congregation, was founded in 1875 by a German diocesan priest, St Arnold Janssen. Because of the political situation in Germany under Bismarck, he could not found the order in his own country, so the society had its humble beginnings in Venlo, Holland on the banks of the river Meuse.
In the early 1930s, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome entrusted the SVD with the spiritual care of an area in central India, whose capital was the city of Indore. India, of course, at that time was a British possession and, as all the priests and brothers working in the new mission were of German nationality, the Superiors felt the acute need of English missionaries to work there. The decision was, therefore, taken to start up a minor seminary in England to train young men to become missionaries and, after ordination, be assigned to work in India.
A priest from the United States came to England to look for a property that was suitable to use as a minor seminary and a Dutch priest in Birmingham told him of a vacant manor house in the village of Hadzor, just outside the town of Droitwich Spa. The house had become vacant upon the death of the last member of the Galton family. Priests and brothers from Germany became responsible for the conversion of the manor house into a residential college. The name of the Manor was changed to that of St Richard's College, Hadzor, because St Richard had been born nearby.
The first two English SVD priests, educated in St Richard's, were ordained priests in the college chapel in 1941 by the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Leighton Williams. One was appointed to the staff of the college to teach English and the other to Ghana. Only in 1955 were three English priests asked to work in India and others soon followed.
With the work of recruiting and training missionary priests well under way, an expansion of the work of the SVD in the UK was undertaken. In 1948, St David's College for late vocations was opened in Carrog, North Wales and in 1954, St Gregory's, Gateacre, Liverpool. In 1980 the society purchased a small monastery from the Capuchin Friars in Uddingston, Glasgow.
After their initial studies, our English scholastics proceeded to St Mary's, Techny, near Chicago for their study of philosophy and theology. Then, in 1967, the seven missionary congregations in England combined to open the Missionary Institute based in Mill Hill and St Edward's College, Totteridge. Two houses of residence were purchased for our SVD students, in Hendon and in Teignmouth Road NW2. Over the past few years, the number of seminarians decreased dramatically for missionary institutes, and today our house in Teignmouth Road remains the only residence of eight priests, some retired, some serving as hospital chaplains or engaged in higher studies.
In 2004 the Bishop of Clifton entrusted the spiritual care of
St Mary on the Quays, Bristol, to us.The wonderful opportunity of two SVD priests now being appointed to St Brigid's of Sweden, Isleworth, London is welcome news indeed.