St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, Guildford, is ceasing its formation of seminarians, who will be re-located to Allen Hall for the remainder of their studies.
Wonersh, the principal seminary for the Archdiocese of Southwark and the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, has been training men for the priesthood since 1891.
In a statement issued by the Trustees of Wonersh, Archbishop John Wilson of Southwark and Bishop Richard Moth of Arundel write of their “great sadness that formation must now cease on the site.”
Explaining the decision, the bishops claim that the “current and projected number of seminarians is too small to sustain a healthy formation community, and the building and staffing costs have simply become prohibitive.”
Currently there are 17 seminarians at Wonersh, but there was no new intake this September and six of the current students are due to complete their formation next summer.
With the agreement of their local bishops, therefore, it was determined that the 11 remaining seminarians would be transferred to Allen Hall from September 2021, the seminary of the Diocese of Westminster.
Archbishop Wilson and Bishop Moth, however, add that Wonersh seminary does not yet have plans to close completely.
“While it is proposed to consider all options for the future use of the St John’s Seminary buildings, St John’s Seminary will remain a legal entity so that consideration can be given to the ways in which the tradition of priestly formation established at Wonersh in 1891 will continue into the future”.
The bishops’ statement closes with a message of thanks to all who contributed to the seminary during its 130-year history.
“The Trustees are extremely grateful to Rectors, Staff, and Seminarians, past and present, and to all those who have supported the Seminary over the years. We give thanks to Almighty God for all that has been achieved and received. We seek to promote vocations to the priesthood, and we commit ourselves to providing priestly formation that will serve the people of our Dioceses and parishes into the future.”
Dr Pia Matthews, Director of Studies at Wonersh and a teacher at Allen Hall told the Catholic Herald that there was still “much to discuss over the relocation of the seminarians to Allen Hall to continue with their formation.”
“These are uncertain times for everyone, and the Church is no exception,” Dr Matthews added. “However, the Wonersh Seminary motto is ‘the hope of the harvest is in the seed’, spes messis in semine. The seminary community at St John’s is a strong family community, a family that continues together into next year. Beyond that everything, as always, is in God’s hands.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Photograph of St John’s Seminary, Wonersh, courtesy of P O’Sullivan and distributed under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.