My name is Philip Wrigley from the city of Carlisle, I am a second year seminarian for the Diocese of Lancaster. Studying for the priesthood at St. Mary’s College, Oscott in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham.
My time spent at Oscott has been very busy and fulfilling, the first three years of formation is linked to Birmingham University studying a BA (Hons) in Fundamental Catholic Theology, learning a mixture of Philosophy and Theology. The last three years is linked to Leuven University in Belgium studying a Baccalaureate degree in Sacred Theology (STB).
I remember my first week at Oscott, you begin with a clean slate and have many good intentions to add into your daily schedule. Throughout the week you find your spare time disappears with lectures, meetings, private study, pastoral placements, house group socials, prayer, mass and meal times. Before you know it, it’s the start of another day.
There are four pillars of formation: Intellectual, Spiritual, Pastoral and Human.
I am assigned a Formations tutor (FT) and during my monthly meetings we talk about my life in seminary, any worries or concerns in my academic studies. We read in ‘Pastores dabo vobis’ that intelligence of heart which knows how to ‘look beyond’ is in a position to communicate the mystery of God to the people. Pope Benedict XVI said that intellectual formation is not simply to learn useful things, but to understand and appreciate the internal structure of the faith as a whole, so that it can become a response to people’s questions and bring them closer to the Lord.
There is also a Spiritual Director (SD) assigned to us, helping me learn the life-long habit of living in an intimate union with Jesus Christ. This involves learning the meaning of Christian prayer and prayerful reflection upon the Word of God. Learning how to lovingly and actively participate in the sacred mysteries of the sacraments and the Church’s life. Developing a spirit of humble service of others especially to the poor, in imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so I can become a man of charity living in obedience, celibacy and self-denial.
I have a monthly Human formation Director (HD) focusing on my lifelong commitment of personal growth. Each one of us is invited to ‘know yourself’, to have a deeper understanding of self in relation to others and his own inner life. Integrating my faith with my humanity, letting myself be shaped by the way I live searching for truth and goodness. Being called to be a living image of Jesus Christ and so try to reflect as far as possible the human perfection which shines forth in the incarnate Son of God.
Pastoral formation aims to prepare me to enter into communion with the charity of Christ the good shepherd, it is encouraged to experience a variety of practical pastoral activities, which includes Social outreach projects, Chaplaincy in Primary or Secondary schools, Hospitals and Prisons, RCIA and Adult Catechesis.
All the seminarians are assigned a weekly placement one afternoon per week. We go out in pairs and get vital hands on experience in many different fields a priest could get involved in at a parish.
Last year I was sent to St. Joseph’s primary school in Nechells Birmingham, and currently this year I am visiting ‘George Elliot’ NHS hospital in Nuneaton.
One Sunday per month we visit in our ‘house groups’ a local parish church to help and participate in their Sunday morning mass. We assist in the readings, singing, altar serving and socialising with the parishioners after mass. We have so many wonderful conversations and the parishioners can see the fruition of their prayers for vocations to the priesthood.
At the end of each semester we have essay deadlines and end of term exams, these are a mixture of 20 minute oral or 2 hours written examinations, and it is the most stressful part of the year.
It is not all study and no play at Seminary, we have a football team that play regularly and a gym on site in order to stay fit, and a pool table tournament (which I am a former champion).
We have retreats to different abbeys. In my first year we visited Belmont Benedictine abbey in Herefordshire, and in the second year as part of my Lectorate ministry retreat we visited Buckfast Benedictine abbey in Devon.
During Holy week and the Triduum services the whole college assist at St. Chad’s Cathedral in the centre of Birmingham.
On Easter Sunday the Archbishop of Birmingham celebrates morning mass with us at Oscott College before we head home in the afternoon for our Easter break.
We have two opportunities in the year to help out and shadow a parish priest in our own diocese. We have three weeks in January and three weeks in July. Currently I have been to ‘Sacred Heart’ church in Blackpool last January, St. John XXIII parish in Preston last July, and at time of writing I am currently finishing my placement at ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus’ parish in Carlisle.
I feel very privileged being a seminarian and the difference my witness is making to the Catholic Church. Anyone who is interested in discerning their vocation to the Priesthood or the Religious life please have the faith and courage to step forward and enquire with the Vocations team, who will lead you through your discernment process.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom: Pray for us.
St. John Vianney: Pray for us.