FORming priests for the future since 1889
Welcome to the Seminary website . . .
a Seminary that closed on 3 July 2021! The statement from our Trustees explaining the reasons for our closure was made on 16 October 2020, and appears in the Latest News section further down this website page.
Regardless of our closure, we have decided not to archive our website just yet, because there are still a number of things going on at the Seminary during the coming
months - which include closing events, residential retreats and a visit to Rome in early2022 for Seminarians and Formation Staff who were part of the House on 3 July – our final day. Also, by keeping the website going for the time- being, we can be reminded of all that has gone on at Wonersh over the years – and of all that we need give thanks to God for during that time.
The past year has been particularly busy, and our apologies for any areas of the website that are not quite up-to-date – the Ordinations section for example - which does not include details of the 5 Deacons ordained on 17 December 2020, the 5 Deacons ordained on 3 July 2021, and the 5 priests ordained in July 2021.
We were very blessed in our final year - in spite of the difficulties presented by the Covid pandemic. Seminarians and Staff remained focused and positive, while at the same time not denying the inevitable sadness brought by the closure of an institution that has formed priests for service in the Church for 130 years.
In the past year, there was much to be done to enable the smooth September transfer of our 11 remaining Seminarians to Allen Hall. Everything that can possibly be done to make the transition seamless has been done – and we are grateful for the sensitivity, kindness and warmth of welcome offered to us by Allen Hall throughout this process.
May God, who has begun the good work in us all, bring it to fulfilment.
Mgr Gerald Ewing
Archbishop John Wilson with Rector, Staff & Seminarians on 3 July 2021
The Final Words of the Rector – Saturday 3 July 2021
The warmest of welcomes to Archbishop John, to all of our guests, and the most heartfelt of congratulations to our 5 newly-ordained Deacons!
When occasions speak for themselves, there really is no need to speak for the occasion – so I will be brief.
We have had difficult times over the past year. Covid … and then the announcement, processing and practicalities of our closure. However, difficult times do not have to be bad times, and even bad times can be the best of times anyway, as Dickens reminds us in A Tale of Two Cities. In a strange way, the past difficult year has indeed been the best of times for those of us who are part of this House.
Of course we can’t ignore the fact that this Seminary is closing today, but neither can we allow that to over-shadow what has happened here today, and what has happened here for 130 years … and as we know, there will be ample opportunity to commemorate those 130 years in our closing celebrations in the autumn.
So, rather than being sad that we are closing - today let us simply be glad that we existed in the first place – and that 5 men have been ordained here to the Diaconate, on their way to the Priesthood, and that 5 others among us will be ordained to the Priesthood this month, the first being at Arundel tomorrow.
There surely has to be much gladness, that for 130 years we have been ‘churning out’ Deacons and Priests from this place, and have continued to do so, right up to our very last day!
And so now, as we honour in song, our new Deacons, on their way to the Priesthood – and on this historic day - we unite in heart and mind with all those who, over the years, have done the very same in this place.
We thank God for our newly–ordained Deacons, and for those to be ordained Priests this month, and we thank God for Wonersh, and for all, who through this place, have served, are serving, and will serve the Church. Ad multos Annos!
The Deacons ordained on Saturday 3 July 2021
The Future of St John’s Seminary - Wonersh
Statement issued by the Trustees on 16 October 2020
Following extensive consideration and discernment, especially over the past year, including communication with the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, the Trustees have regretfully come to the decision that St John’s Seminary cannot continue in its present form. 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.
We are reminded ‘that the Seminary, more than a building, is a community of formation’ (Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis 188) and the Trustees, Rector & Formation Staff, are aware of their responsibility to provide the best formation possible for those preparing for the priesthood at Wonersh.
There was no new intake this September, and the seminarian body currently numbers 17, from the Dioceses of Southwark, Arundel & Brighton, Clifton and Portsmouth. With 6 due to complete their formation in the summer, the September 2021 seminarian body will be 11 in number, and 5 of these, please God, will be deacons in their final year.
With the agreement of their Bishops, arrangements have been made for the 11 seminarians to join the Seminary community at Allen Hall - Chelsea from September 2021. A number of the Wonersh seminarians are already attending lectures once a week with those from Allen Hall at the Pontifical Mater Ecclesiae College at St Mary’s University – Twickenham.
The re-location of Wonersh seminarians to Allen Hall means that their formation will be uninterrupted while the Trustees continue to explore formation for the priesthood in a wider context in England & Wales.
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.
St John’s Seminary has a proud tradition of serving the Church for 130 years. There is great sadness that formation must now cease on this site. 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.
Most Rev John Wilson
Archbishop of Southwark
Chair of Trustees
Rt Rev Richard Moth
Bishop of Arundel & Brighton
Vice-Chair of Trustees