Concerned readers send us the following piece on the closing of the Ushaw Seminary. [We note in passing that, in addition to what our friends write, Ushaw Seminary seems a magnificent building for the works and as a formation house for the new Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham - the necessities of our new Anglican-Catholic brethren, most of them without assets or property, certainly need to be taken into consideration from now on regarding each and every case of closing of a Catholic building in Britain, as a matter of charity and common sense.]
The Trustees of Ushaw College, a 200-year-old Catholic seminary in the north of England standing in over 500 acres, announced on 8th October 2010 that the seminary would close at the end of the academic year (ie June 2011) if a development partner could not be found. Presumably, this meant that they were looking for a business to take over part of the site and relieve the college of some of the running costs of a large complex of buildings. In 1962 there were over 400 students there and priestly ordinations were running at over 20 per year. Now there are just 26 seminarians in total but the closure announcement has dismayed many as no warning was given about this decision. However, it is a magnificent complex set in over 500 acres and a group of lay people is trying to save it.
Following a further meeting of the Trustees it was announced on 14th December 2010 that the ancillary businesses, including the hosting of conferences, would cease at the end of December 2010, and that all bookings after this date would be cancelled. By eliminating the conference activities, and the healthy income stream that they generated, the Trustees, who are the bishops of northern England, have struck a severe blow at any possibility of a rescue plan that they were supposedly seeking. It seems that this decision was ill-judged, premature, taken without wide consultation, and without any regard to the financial consequences. It was also dismissive of a sound business proposal that was put forward some weeks ago.
Ushaw College has very fine buildings, many designed by distinguished architects including members of the Pugin and Hansom families; St Cuthbert’s Chapel and the library being particularly notable. It also occupies a major place in the cultural, religious and educational heritage of the Catholicism in the north of England. Many are dismayed that its future is being dismissed without consultation and that there seems to be scant regard for those who have supported it during the past 200 years.
An on-line petition has been launched and some hard-hitting comments from clergy and previous seminarians give a clear indication why this seminary has failed. It is also known that some bishops will no longer send their young men to study there. If it is saved from closure then it is imperative for its future development that the current culture is changed and orthodoxy and obedience to the Magisterium are restored once again. It is only this that will attract young men once again to return, and bishops once again to feel comfortable in sending their young men there for their formation.
Anyone sharing this dismay at closure is invited to sign a petition which can be found at: