by Canon Stuart Wilson
The seminary community at Allen Hall is both a present reality and a past history. All that came together on the morning that our four Westminster candidates were part of a group of nine men who were admitted into the Ministry of Acolyte. It was the transferred feast day of the Douai Martyrs. Our seminary is the continuation of the post-Reformation Seminary that Cardinal William Allen created in Douai, France. On the Feast Day, Mass usually begins with the seminarians reading aloud the names of 174 men who trained for the priesthood at Douai and then came to England to be put to death for the crime of ‘being a Catholic Priest’. Our new acolytes, Jakub Joszko, Daniel Daley, Michael Guthrie and Marco Salvagnini, follow in their footsteps.
The Mass was celebrated by Bishop Mark O’Toole of Plymouth, previously a seminarian at Allen Hall and then later a member of staff and finally Rector of the seminary. Bishop Mark reminded us that the call to priesthood is filled with challenge but it is also filled with grace. God will never call without supplying the gifts we need to do his work well. The ministry of acolyte is a moment when our seminarians are able to recognise that the Lord is calling them on, to take a further step upon the road to priesthood. By being instituted as an acolyte the seminarian is being asked to recognise how important in his priestly life will be his love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. His own devotion to the Lord as well as his commitment to bringing our Lord to the people the Lord has called him to love and serve.
Our liturgy that day was lovely and it was moving to witness Bishop Mark handing each man a pyx, the metal container that holds the Blessed Sacrament when a home visit is made. He charged each man to take with love the Love of Christ in the Holy Eucharist to those who desire that love.
It was a love-filled day in every way. It was good to see family and friends support the seminarians. It was good to see another generation of men walking in the way of the martyrs. It was good to know that our diocese will have, God willing, four new priests in a few years’ time.