It’s all change here at the moment. A few weeks ago the news broke that Canon David Oakley, our present rector, had been appointed the 13th bishop of Northampton by Pope Francis. Canon David, a priest of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, has served as Rector of Oscott for the last six years. Prior to this, he ministered in various parishes along with taking a leading role within CaFE (Catholic Faith Exploration), an organisation that creates catechetical resources.
Many of us here are experiencing mixed emotions as a consequence. On the one hand we are deeply pleased for the Diocese of Northampton, which will be gaining a wonderful new bishop, while on the other we are all saddened to be losing such a kind and pastoral man. Canon David is being consecrated bishop on 19 March, the feast of St Joseph, and the whole college is due to attend. Perhaps on this day you could spare a special prayer for him as he takes up this new and massive responsibility. I would ask for your prayers for our community here too, as we await the appointment of a new rector.
On top of Canon David's departure, one of the seminarians in my year group recently discerned that God was calling him to something else. People discerning to leave is an inevitability in seminary. Here we all live, eat, pray, work and socialise together. When someone leaves, you really notice it and it does get you down a bit. When this happens, it always reminds me that a calling to priesthood is not about success. Discernment is not about ‘getting through’ or winning or losing. Instead, it is about responding to God’s call and being open to whatever He has in store for each of us. My friend who decided to leave has not failed; he has simply continued to respond to the God who calls us all, each in our own way, to follow Him.
Another change is the recent introduction of a counselling skills course for seminarians. This comes in response to feedback from priests who feel they would have benefitted from such a course, which is delivered by a certified practitioner who is deeply passionate about supporting seminarians in their preparations for ministry. Priests encounter people from all sorts of backgrounds and situations all the time. Therefore, I feel that my taking part in this course will provide me with the necessary skills and theory to be fully present to the people I hope to minister to one day.