Current seminarians include a former driving instructor, a prison visitor and an engineer, a computer programmer, a young man with a law degree, a former member of the merchant navy, a teacher, a gardener and a supermarket worker. He also receives letters from priests, particularly on the challenge of celibacy. CAFOD now has its regional headquarters at Ushaw, which also houses the Marian Studies Centre. Father Jim Overton, a former chaplain of London University, was appointed by Basil Hume to Allen Hall, a seminary in Westminster, a year before the Cardinal's death.
The main buildings were built in the 19th century and amongst the… This September may have seen modest increases, but last year saw the lowest intake of seminarians in England and Wales for nearly 150 years. During Hume's term of office, numbers coming forward for the priesthood continued to fall. Even when O'Keefe came as a student in the 1950s, Latin was compulsory up to A-level and the life of the student academic enclosed. Now there are 30, none under 21, many in their late 20s and 30s and some approaching 50.

For the whole country we're talking of no more than 280 new trainees, far too few to stem the critical shortfall in priests. Today he is rector to a body of students from very different backgrounds from his own, many of whom have worked and owned property, or gone through a period of being alienated from the Church. Students are just as likely to take courses on personal growth and pastoral care in which they focus on self-awareness and the development issues affecting childhood through to old age and on pastoral issues such as stress and depression. He believes that celibacy should be a choice, rather than compulsory, but he is very sure about the important role a celibate priest can play in contemporary society.

He does not underestimate the challenge: "It's a big task and there are very few answers. For much of that time it also functioned as a boarding school for boys, learning from some of the most intelligent men in the country, as well as a seminary for men destined for the Catholic priesthood.

What can be the role of a celibate male priesthood in an age which has seen the triumph of secularism in Western democracies and left the Church in crisis, ripped apart by sexual scandal among its ordained, and with increasing non-attendance by its laity? graduation from Ushaw College, then a senior seminary in Durham, U.K. Tucked away on a wooded estate overlooking County Durham, it is a vast, rambling stone building that opens out endlessly into great halls, refectories, Pugin chapels, long corridors and inner courtyards, the nearest thing to Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast. Now it's about being mature, about being compassionate and having the capacity for friendship and intimacy as well as leadership.". These days students are required to go out into the world. Ushaw offers seminarians time to study, contemplate and pray, but O'Keefe also sees outside influences moving into the place as crucial to their development. "Personal maturity is fundamental to a priest. I'm a Sussex based priest, ideas and people person, author and broadcaster. On the last occasion, O'Keefe spent the last night in the bar with three former students - all were ordained as priests but left to marry. After various periods of expansion, Ushaw became what it is today, with a wealth of Pugin architecture and a grand selection of Chapels. But the emphasis is just as much on spiritual and human development. For much of that time it also functioned as a boarding school for boys, learning from some of the most intelligent men in the country, as well as a seminary for men destined for the Catholic priesthood. Father Jim O'Keefe, the president of Ushaw, feels constantly challenged on this subject, and as the recipient of many personal letters from priests over the years, is well aware of the difficulties they face. The late Cardinal Basil Hume has been praised for helping to accommodate Catholicism within the British establishment as well as speaking out for the socially excluded and sexually marginalised, but the problem of attracting ordinands remains intractable. "Above all," says Overton, "we do not want a man not to know what he is entering into. ", O'Keefe takes this type of plea seriously. At their reunion former students joked about the ruses they would devise to escape the college confines. Needless to say the education of priests has had to change, and is constantly being reassessed to cope with demands. After a brief residential period at Crook Hall, which was not perfect for the purpose that was required, Bishop William Gibson began to build what would later become Ushaw College, which he christened St. Cuthbert's College. It’s a relatively new tourist attraction in the north east with entry fee a modest £3.

Ushaw College, a seminary five ... was a key member of the working party to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales on cases where the sexual abuse of children involved priests. One described how, having fallen in love with the dentist's receptionist in Durham, he persuaded her to give him a pile of blank appointment cards, which he would fill in and present to the college rector at credible intervals. Since 2011 Ushaw has been without trainee priests but it remains open for worship and for visitors like ourselves.

In the mid-1990s, he was a key member of the working party to the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales on cases where the sexual abuse of children involved priests. Not only should the priest of the future be there to contemplate and reflect on God and society in a "very busy, relationship-oriented world", but the celibate bears witness to the fact that being a normal being "does not have to be justified by sexual activity. What the heck the priesthood will be like in five years' time, never mind ten, I just don't know.". Ushaw College, a seminary five miles outside Durham, has seen its numbers double this year.
At Ushaw we're talking of 13 new entrants, as opposed to six the year before. Here I am with Brian my brother-in-law inside the main Chapel first completed by Augustus Pugin in 1847 then enlarged in 1879 to fit 350 to serve the burgeoning Roman Catholic community and its need for priests. Much of Ushaw's training style and class structure can be taken from these establishments, particularly that of Douai College, from which Ushaw was the descendant in northern England. In the late 1950s, when Jim O'Keefe arrived as a boy, there were 400 seminarians from as young as 11. He is only too aware of the hardships they must be prepared to face. It is with great sadness that I received the news that Ushaw College is to close this month. Ushaw College trained men for the Roman Catholic priesthood for more than two centuries, from its establishment in 1808 until 2011. During their six-year formation they are sent out on extended placements into parishes or as hospital, school or university chaplains. Since 2011 Ushaw has been without trainee priests but it remains open for worship and for visitors like ourselves. However, both he and Jim Overton are aware of the responsibility facing them as educators. ", In the Gormenghast-like halls of Ushaw College, Father Jim O'Keefe guides would-be priests towards their vocation. In addition, 16,000 visitors passed through the college's conference centre last year.

I’ve never seen a thumbscrew before! Ushaw was once a self-contained community with a home farm, kitchen garden, bakery, tailor and cobblers; it has had to change. He came back to Ushaw in 1977 to run its pastoral theology and communications department. Eerie photos show chilling scenes inside austere abandoned Catholic seminary haunted by allegations of sex abuse by priests. For the first time in over a decade, every seminary in England and Wales has seen an increase in men coming forward to train for the priesthood. In the past, training for priesthood was about learning to keep the rules. They are as likely to take a course in death and dying or on sexuality, gender and Christian ministry in which they will explore issues such as celibacy, singleness, homosexuality and intimacy. The training of priests and schooling of young boys destined for the seminary continued at Ushaw until 2011, when the establishment closed due to a lack of vocations within the Catholic Church for the men it had trained. They are still rattling around a seminary built for 400. The unique system of educating future lay and clerical students alongside each other, almost unique to Ushaw in the UK, was at odds with both the spirit and the letter of the seminary legislation of the sixteenth-century Council of Trent, which aspired to create a separate clerical caste, free from worldly contacts, lay ambitions and lay habits of life. 635 St Aidan founds the monastery on Lindisfarne, 664: Synod of Whitby; St Cuthbert (635-687) is sent to Lindisfarne, 681: Foundation of St Paul’s Church, Jarrow, 725: St Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 1529: English Reformation: Henry VIII declares himself Supreme    Head of the English Church, 1533: Pope Clement VII excommunicates Henry, 1559: Elizabeth I Act of Supremacy, declares herself Supreme Governor Church of England, 1568: William Allen founds The English College at Douai, By 1700: 160 Douai Priests martyred in England, 1778 Catholic Relief Act: removed penalty of life imprisonment, from Catholic bishops, priests and schoolmasters, 1791 Catholic Relief Act: the Catholic Mass became legal in registered chapels, 1794 Douai staff and students occupy Crook Hall, near Consett, 1829 Catholic Emancipation Act: Catholics could sit as MPs and  hold most public offices, 1850 Restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy by Pope Pius IX, 1978 Ushaw students attend Durham University, 1988 Ecumenical links with partners in Anglican and Methodist Colleges, 2011 Ushaw closes as a seminary for the Church, The Reading Room  now the Francis Thompson Room, The Main House before the building of "Tip Top" in 1906, Address: Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels & Gardens, near Durham City  DH7 9RH, © 2019 Ushaw,  all rights reserved.

It now also offers public tours, and boasts a spectacularly well maintained garden alongside the exhibitions we have now opened. Things have certainly changed dramatically since those first decades at Ushaw, when the formation was largely academic and the staple teaching method was dictation in Latin. But before we start to see signs of a religious resurgence at the dawn of a new millennium, let's be clear about the figures.

Ushaw College trained men for the Roman Catholic priesthood for more than two centuries, from its establishment in 1808 until 2011. O'Keefe, the son of a good Catholic mining family, came to Ushaw at 11 to join the junior seminary (now closed).

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