Fr Philip and the Pastoral Assistants have visited Oxford this week. The primary purpose of the trip was to visit St Stephen’s House, one of the Church of England’s theological colleges in Oxford.
Jake, Laurens, and Fr Philip paid a visit to the university city of Oxford this week. It was ninth week, so many of the students had gone down for the vacation. But not so for the ordinands at St Stephen’s House whom we visited, who were preparing to begin their Advent Retreat.
The College was founded in 1876 by Edward King, later Bishop of Lincoln. King was a prominent member of the Tractarian movement, and the College since its foundation has had a definite Anglo-Catholic identity. St Stephen’s House moved to its present position in East Oxford in 1980, taking over the premises from the Society of St John the Evangelist (known as the ‘Cowley Fathers’), who had occupied the site for over a century.
Fr Philip trained for ordination here, and Fr Tim is a member of the College’s Governing Body. At St Michael’s we pray regularly for Fr Robin Ward
(the Principal) and all the members of St Stephen’s House, and the Mass is offered for that intention c. once per month.
We met some ordinands during our visit, who were able to tell us a bit about their daily routine of prayer, worship and study. Many also have designated extra jobs that assist the community, like sacristan, musician, guest master, even barman! We were also very pleased to be able to stay for the opening Mass of the Advent Retreat. After Mass there was a procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the cloisters, to the College Chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament will remain enthroned for forty hours, the students and staff taking turns to maintain the watch.
The retreat conductor is Fr Andrew Collins-Jones, a parish priest in Sunderland, and a member of the Company of Mission Priests for which we pray every day at St Michael’s.
As well as visiting St Stephen’s House, we visited some important institutions connected to the Oxford Movement: the University Church, where Blessed John Henry Newman was vicar; Pusey House, where the Community of the Resurrection had its beginnings in 1892; and Magdalen College, alma mater of Fr Basil Jellicoe, one of the most famous ‘slum priests’ of the early twentieth century, who transformed housing provision in North London in and around King’s Cross and Euston stations.
Oxford is, in every sense, a religious city – for we also managed to fit in visits to the Franciscans, Dominicans and Oratorians during the day. We were pleased to be able to spend the day in this wonderful city, and particularly that Jake and Laurens were able to visit St Stephen’s House, to meet some of its students, and to get a glimpse of the College at prayer.