Friday 19 November 2010

Letter to the Universe, Catholic Times and Catholic Herald

I have sent the following letter to these Catholic weekly newspapers, The Universe, the Catholic Times and the Catholic Herald;  I hope that the letter is published by one and all.

Dear Editor,
I am sure that you and your readers will have heard that there is a proposal to close Ushaw College, Durham, at the end of this scholastic year.  Ushaw College has a wonderful two-hundred year history of training priests, mainly for the Northern Province of England but with students from all over the British Isles; it was founded in 1808 by refugee students and priests from Douai College in the Low Countries, which trained many young men to be priests to keep the Faith alive in England during the persecutions of the 16th and 17th centuries and to become martyrs for their faith.  In my time at Ushaw, some of the traditions of Douai College were still in use at Ushaw. Ushaw College is a magnificent building with beautiful chapels, a famous Big Library and extensive grounds.
It would be a great tragedy for the English Church, not only in the north of England but for the whole country, if Ushaw were allowed to close.  I cannot believe that closure is inevitable.  The College is looking for business partners to promote it and to keep it in being.  I pray that they may be found, and I invite your readers to join with me in prayer to that end.
 Yours sincerely,
 Father Wilfrid Elkin


  1. I am writing this from Rome where I have just returned from a reception hosted by Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke in the North American College. This seminary has about 240 students, all of whom wear the appropriate clerical dress - either cassock or black suit. They have to have studied Latin for a year before arrival, or do a 12 month course after arrival. They are allowed to study both forms of the Roman rite and there is growing and healthy interest among the seminarians in this form of Mass. I was told by one student that many seminarins in the USA now wish to learn this form of Mass alongside the new. The resurgence of the North American College is one of the success stories of recent years.
    Compare this with the tragedy of Ushaw College which is closing. No Latin is taught so that the students are denied tuition in the official language of the Church, and anyone who has a desire for tradition has to keep his head down for six years so as not to jeopardise his chances of ordination. In addition, the wearing of clerical clothes has been frowned upon for many years. Young men no longer wish to go to Ushaw and, it is said, that some bishops no longer send their students there. To be frank, Ushaw has failed because its ethos for too many years has been negative and restrictive. Seminaries such as the North American College are reviving and succeeding because they are providing a formation that is attracting young men to the priesthood. Ushaw College is being closed because it has failed to do so. It is as simple as that. There is a renaissance occurring in the USA where the stale ideas of the 1960s have been banished from many seminaries. If the authorities in this country have the courage to recognise this reason for failure and accept that a drastic u-turn is required then it is still not too late to save this venerable old college. The means are there but is the will?

  2. A very good letter, Father. We do need to pray and work for the retension of Ushaw in the service of the Catholic Church.

    I was reading over the weekend Fr Milburn's book about Ushaw College. I noticed that in the latter part of the 19th century, students from Ushaw took examinations for degrees at London and later Durham Universities; and that these students obtained exceptionally good degrees, beating all other colleges. In the time of the presidentcy of Mgr Newsham and Mgr Tate, excellence was the objective. If Ushaw once again pursued excellence, it could have a glorious future.