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By Fr Mike Guthrie

On a sunny mid-September evening, nearly 20 priests and three transitional deacons received their Sacred Theology Baccalaureates from Mater Ecclesiae College. A further 16 priests, who were unable to attend, were also awarded the degree. Many of these men had also received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theological Studies from St Mary’s University several months earlier.

Mater Ecclesiae was established as a newly-formed Ecclesiastical Faculty, to offer Pontifical degrees which are recognised by the universal Church to students in the UK, and has worked since 2019 in collaborative partnership with St Mary’s University in Twickenham. The fruit of this partnership is the award of a double degree. 

These priests and deacons were its first graduates and, while many were from our own Diocese of Westminster, there were also several from other dioceses in the south of England and Wales.  For most of us, receiving this degree was the culmination of up to seven years of intellectual studies that are part of our formation for  priesthood.  

Intellectual formation, along with spiritual, human and pastoral formation are known as the four pillars because together they are necessary for forming well-rounded and Christ-centred priests.

For the nine priests and three deacons from our diocese, it was a celebration of the fruit of  years of study and lectures. It was also a chance for us to reconnect with our brother priests after the summer away from each other.  

While it takes many years to complete these two degrees,  lectures and study do not take up all of a seminarian’s focus.   Time spent in parishes, schools, hospitals and prisons,  with  Catholic families, with our brothers in leisure activities such as sports, and with learning to grow in our relationship with Christ and with his people is every bit as important, and as time consuming, as the intellectual study.

Please pray for us all as we start our journeys in the diocese serving you as Jesus’s priests, and please pray for the continued success of Mater Ecclesiae College in intellectually forming the coming generation of new priests.