THEME: the lifelong influence of the WF 'experience '

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Kerry Bagshaw
June 2014

From: Brookside


Subject: observations
Sent: Wed, Jun 4, 2014 7:50:21 AM

Greetings Mike

An observation - a poor thing, but mine own! and I was only briefly a seminarian - 11 - 17, taking in St Columbas's and The Priory with all those establishments entailed , all very formative, and I've never regretted that 'formation'

I am firmly of the opinion that it all set me off very well on the path of life. So much so, that when i had my open and frank career discussion with 'Fitz' having just completed 1 'A' level. And we agreed our ways should part, in the interests of both! I went off and after kicking my heels briefly in that Northern Centre of civilisation - Buxton - in the Peak District, until overtaken by ennui, I followed the instructions on an alluring poster, and joined the Royal Marines. Recruit life there - after my seminary time, was delightful! Hot water always available, excellent food, a straightforward routine. And lots of physical and other demands. And generally - good living conditions (no walls running with poverty here!!) Though we had little money (?9 a week to start, with lots of compulsory purchasing - cleaning materials etc). But then, that is how it had ever been.

Initial training went on for a long time (18 months overall) and after diversions to the West country, and to Norway, I found myself despatched to Aden. From there in January 1964, I actually managed to get to Africa for the first time, arriving, not quite as i had always envisaged 'Ad salvandos afros' - stepping off a helicopte, armed to the teeth, in Tanganyika to put down a mutiny by the Tanganyika rifles. and so on and so on. I loved it, and I stayed on (in the Marines but not in Africa) for the next 10 years (14 in all). Further great development time again following on from the Seminary. indeed there is some similarity. And my final 'Paid ' work was back in Africa, back in South Africa, but with a wide remit. During this time I visited Tan(zania) again - for the first time since the initial incursion, though I ( being unimpressed by the economic transformation achieved by Nyrere's great initiatives.....

Then to Whitehall, and further afield (the UN, Central America, and Russia and Central Europe), and never ending challenge and stimulus. WF and RM had so well prepared me for everything I encountered. And married now with 3 daughters and 4 grandchildren

No experience is wasted. And I still remember well much of what was dinned into me as a young lad. Education continued - slowly, 'auto-didact is I think the correct description, but it is the variety of WF fathers who encouraged me in that vein I must thanks for all that. AS I type I am listening to R4 and some of the typical wise vox pop on there, and was reflecting on how we managed to become good sports players with none of the facilities so apparently essential to today's youth. you too can remember when piles of clothes were as near to goalposts we could get, and the strip was either shirts or skins. And the disappointment to find the only football in the school had a puncture in the bladder, and the ingenuity with which we would set off to deal with that.And so on.......

And now, I think it would be good to have retained something of my Irish Catholic mother's faith and consequent stoicism, as i deal with physical decline and daily contemplation of ones' own evident mortality.

I drop in occasionally to the pelican's site and remember with warmth and humour, the times we had. Similarly with RM and other reminiscing, though I do not go near the dreadful farce book or similar non-discriminatory bodies.....!

Anyway, I look forward to the musings of others, and will check here again

Kerry Bagshaw

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From: MichaelGoodstadt
To: Kerry Bagshaw ('Brookside'}
Sent : 15/06/2014

Hi Kerry

What a wonderful email!

It brings to the fore many of the more positive aspects of our early training and experiences.

The synergy that you identify between your WF training and the military seems to be a common theme among the many ex-WF students who experienced military service. I ?issed?compulsory service, being born on the 1st day of January 1940. However, I?e always had enormous respect for the services: my father, grandfather, uncles and cousins were all professional soldiers; my father served in the Royal Artillery for 35 years. I know that I am a product of this background?nd the better for it!

After leaving the novitiate in 1960, my path took me at breakneck speed on an academic track. By 1969, I found myself having graduated with a PhD in Psychology from Stanford University (California), on the Psychology faculty at Western University (London, Ontario), and with two kids (one born in Manchester, the other adopted in San Francisco). I am sometimes left breathless at how rapidly all this happened.

I was married (so soon, in 1964!), I have four children: two biological, and two adopted; two boys and two girls; I have 7 grand-children.

My career has been in the health research field, largely associated with addictions, and the prevention of alcohol/drug related problems. In the past 15 years, things have been coming full circle as a result of my involvement with post-graduate students in public health at Toronto University, many of whom are heading to/from Africa?esterday, one of my favourite graduates (from Uganda) visited with his wife and new baby; he is a product of a very strong Catholic upbringing and education (thanks to the WFs!). At the same time, my life-trajectory has included a parallel development in my involvement in my faith community which, I know, has very deep roots in my WF preparation.

Question: how will this completing of the circle continue to evolve in my life?

Thanks again. Take good care.


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Michael Goodstadt

62 Wheeler Avenue, TORONTO, Ontario, Canada. M4L 3V2


From: Maurice Billingsley

Sent : 30/06/2014

Jim Connelly? observes that the full seminaries in the US are those where the guys wear the cassock and collar all day for seven years while following the old Latin Mass and seminary training. He asks, is there a lesson to be learnt?

First lesson, purely personal to me: I? have been out of one of those seminaries (if they? ever have let me in) a good deal faster than I was out of St Edward?. Would ?hey?have moved first or me?

Second Lesson: who are the guys in these seminaries training to serve, and how will they go about doing it? They would, of course, say they are training to serve God, but Jesus says the final judgement will be centred not on who said ?omine, Domine? or even ?ord, Lord? but upon ?hatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.? ?nd why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin.?Matthew 6:28).

Cutting yourself off ?by dress, by language, by where you live ?from the people you are supposedly learning to serve seems a strange way of learning to serve them. A South African sister was telling us that the most difficult part of living her vocation was the way her community was to a degree estranged by their comparative wealth under the vow of poverty, compared to the people around them, from whom most of the sisters came. Yet her vocation and her contribution to the well-being of her people, were real.

And Three, another lesson underlined by Pope Francis: you don? suddenly start preaching the Gospel when the bishop lays hands on you. From Priory days onward we were encouraged to spend time in pastoral work, beginning with joining Our Lady? Catechists, cycling out to Betty Mundy? or Upham to prepare Harry Moreton? young parishioners for First Communion. It was heart-warming to realise how much this still meant to some of those people many years on, when we returned for the Centenary.

Fourth Lesson: beware of clericalism! While we who have spent so much time with priests are likely to be relatively easy in their company, that black outfit is a barrier to many people. It is more than a school uniform, it sets the men apart as experts in religion, a status reinforced when they use a language not readily accessible to the rest of the world: this is true both of Catholics and non-Catholics. If the men in black are the experts, the rest of us can sit back and let them take all the decisions, let them be the professionals and do the different ministries because ?ather knows best? Surely part of the reason for what looks like a lack of vocations is that there are plenty of them, but that they are qualitatively different to what we expected to see fifty years ago.

Pope Francis warns again and again that this clericalism, whether assumed by the clerics or thrust upon them by the laity, is very dangerous. This is what he said to seminarians:

To avoid problems, in some houses of formation, young people grit their teeth, try not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told: ?ood. You have finished formation.?This is hypocrisy that is the result of clericalism, which is one of the worst evils. ?I summarise by some advice that I once received as a young man: ?f you want to advance, think clearly and speak obscurely.?That was a clear invitation to hypocrisy. We need to avoid that at all costs.

You see why I acknowledge that I would not have survived? I witnessed a fair amount of this behaviour when in formation and certainly the temptation was always there to adopt such a strategy to ?et through? I have no grounds to condemn the young men entering ?raditionalist?Tridentine rite seminaries; indeed I can sing Missa de Angelis, badly, with the best of them. But is that going to touch the lives and hearts of the people my local SVP conferences work with, or Pat Shanahan? street workers?charges?

Read Gerry Rathe? ?a href="../publications/publications3.htm#mud">Mud and Mosaics?and see what the White Fathers and others were saying some fifty years ago about the need for change, for vernacular, for inculturation. Inculturation in Europe today may well mean a different, more humble priesthood. The clerical sort has run its course.

*Jim Connelly's observation on Page 1 to which Maurice refers:

Further to the first article in the new OBSERVATIONS section, is it not significant that in the USA the two or three senior seminaries that are full and thriving belong to the priestly societies (in union with the Catholic Church) who espouse both the pre-Vatican 2 Latin Mass and seminary training ,where the seminarians wear the black cassock and clerical collar from the start of their training through to ordination (six to seven years)?

Contrast that with the disappearance of all but two Senior Dioscesan Seminaries in this Country and virtually all Seminaries that were run by Religious and Missionary Societies.

Is there a lesson to be learnt?

Response from: Patricia Hawkins de Medina    1st July 2014

I was so pleased to read Maurice Billingsley? sensible, down-to-earth, sane and very restrained response.

Perhaps you could post this:

?ear, hear, Maurice. I have read and re-read your sane and measured response. I agree with every word you have written. Pope Francis seems to be a sensible kind of man. As you say: ?ope Francis warns again and again that this clericalism, whether assumed by the clerics or thrust upon them by the laity, is very dangerous?br>
How I detest the elitist approach of the type of seminaries described where, for some reason, the inmates think that wearing a long black dress and holding ceremonies in Latin will set them above the rest of us ordinary mortals. Then again, I am not so surprised. That type of institution would be popular in the U.S.A. The more extreme the religion (all and any religion) so much the better where the U.S.A. is concerned, or at any rate, a wide swathe of the U.S. population.

I hope you will continue writing, Maurice. My best regards. Patricia.?br>

4th July 2014 : Jim's response to Maurice (email above)

Maurice, with regard to your "lessons" I believe you have missed my point. I cited the American Seminary because of the way it was run with the emphasis on the priestly spirituality. I am quite open to Mass being celebrated either in the vernacular or in Latin. I enjoyed my seminary days and did not feel constricted by the daily meditation, Mass, recitation of the rosary and evening services nor indeed by the wearing of the cassock or white habit. I left because the priestly vocation was not for me and for no other reason.

As for the wearing of the black being a barrier - really!!!! It's a means of identity and is universal. they are Christ's Ministers and should be visibly recognised for who they are and in no way does it or should it impede their sacramental ministry. Are the Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals creating barriers by wearing black or the Pope by wearing white, I don't think so.

I am pleased to see that Pope Francis has chosen a less elaborate white outfit and presumably less expensive one than Pope Benedict.

Priests and religious can still wear the black or habit and live the life of Christ as is clearly demonstrated by our present Pope.
From Mauricce Billingsley : Osservattore Cantauro

16th July 2014

I've intention here of prolonging a discussion into a dispute, but . . . some of these matters have been exercising me and others round here of late. As I said last time, Inculturation in Europe today may well mean a different, more humble priesthood. One can always hope that those who embody that model of priesthood don't get ground down.

What disturbs me about so-called ?raditional?seminaries is not the priestly formation but the clerical (de)formation that aims to set a man apart. I agree with Pope Francis that clericalism can all too easily breed hypocrisy. I was more than aware that, as he put it, students could ?ry not to make mistakes, follow the rules smiling a lot, just waiting for the day when they are told: ?ood. You have finished formation.?

There was a lot of keeping one? head down, from The Priory onwards. In the end that has to sap the spirit. Of course, one school of thought saw the seminary as a place to do exactly that. When his son described his experience in another seminary c 1970, a friend of my parents' announced that he was proud of his son's integrity in leaving.

The MAfr prayer life was not constricting, as Jim Connolly rightly points out. Much of it still runs through the bloodstream; there? no harm at our age in being reflective and prepared for death! Having studied alongside Franciscan seminarians in recent years, I can assert that they receive a good grounding in the life of the spirit, while just before St Edward? closed down, Joe Cummings said that he felt the students there then spent more time in the chapel than our generation had done. Studiously old-fashioned seminaries don? have the only answer to forming men of prayer.

It is, I repeat, the clericalism that disturbs me. The MAfr are less guilty of this than many. The habit was not intended to look like the Dominicans but like the ordinary Algerian man in the street. It has become a full dress uniform over time, having been pretty much a regular habit, if a most romantic one, for most of the last century. Now it would be a stumbling block in North Africa as culture changes there.

Much the same is true of the black in this country
; I remember when Derek Worlock came to Portsmouth he said the full-dress bishop? pink was a barrier when greeting people outside the Cathedral. That was some 50 years ago, and he was talking about committed Catholics shunning him. Today, however, as Francis reminds us, we are all called to be missionaries, including parish clergy who in the past often saw themselves as simply tending the flock. So the black might have its place in Church circles or when one is representing the Church, as Francis is whenever he appears. But more important is to represent the Lord. A great many of the people I work with would find it difficult to see past the black.

I was listening to a grandmother of two of my pupils, talking about her husband? funeral. When the priest came to prepare the service, it was someone she? been at school with, a late vocation: ?he sat where you are now, in her ordinary clothes, and it was just talking between friends. She was so understanding.?That was being a missionary.

I feel as though I am a ?re-missionary? clearing the brambles so that another can sow, a third can reap. People of our age and younger may never have been ?hurched? not even baptised, and never marrying. I conducted both my parents-in-laws?funerals; Christian but not denominational, catholic with a small ?? all-embracing. Having attended the funeral of my wife? grandfather, I can see why I was asked; that vicar knew neither the deceased nor the family, and did not look us in the eye once.

Events a hundred years ago eroded the respect people may have had for the clergy. As Catholics our priests were not part of the national establishment but made up for it with clericalism. Whatever respect this commands inside the Church, it means nothing to the average teenager in the street, let alone the underclass ?not my word ?that I work with. Black suits and the celibate priesthood are ?ust weird?in the words of one pupil when we were talking about my past lives. If it is a universal symbol, the clerical attire is not readily understood outside certain circles. And we are supposed to witness outside those circles.

From Commander WJ Nimmo-Scott OBE:
My Late Years Observations for The Pelicans

(source: Bill Nimmo-Scott)

We have had some interesting comments following Michael Goodstadt? observations. I guess we are all at an age now where we look back more than we look forward. I had the Irish mother syndrome too which caused me to go to St Columba's/The Priory - and hormones that caused me to leave. I don't regret going there nor do I regret leaving. There was a very good post on the message board by Patrick Southall some time ago, essentially saying how well the White Fathers did in educating some of us to grammar school level when we probably would not have made it to grammar school outside.

After I left I started and gave up a couple of apprenticeships and joined the Royal Navy. Having had a few strappings in my time with the WF, I had no trouble with the discipline. (Anyway, the rope's end had been banned in the Navy by the time I joined). In fact I needed the disciplined environment; I needed parameters to live by. I soon discovered that I could work the system and found that the 'more you sucked, the more you got.' Being a Royal Navy Commando (attached to Royal Marines) hardened my body and my head and later having joined the Submarine Service, the Navy continued my education up to Master of Science degree level. If I had not had the foundation, none of that would have been possible.

The question posed is whether I would I recommend the religious life, or the junior seminary system? Probably not, especially not to someone who has hormones as strong as mine were, unless it changed. Would I abolish forced celibacy for the priesthood? Certainly, I see no virtue in it at all. We have had two vicars in our CofE parish recently who have formerly been Catholic priests but became Anglicans in order to be married and continue in ministry, one a former Jesuit. These two both wear the Roman collar consistently so that they look like priests and are recognisable as such and, no doubt, would have continued in the Catholic priesthood if their personal circumstances had allowed them.

I go to Italy probably two or three times a year and have done so for many, many years. I teach Italian and take groups there to attend school. Yes, in Rome, in Vatican Square, every second person wears a suit and a clerical collar but outside there it is almost impossible to distinguish a priest (or nun) from any other person in the street. The same goes for France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Austria (and I presume any number of other so-called Catholic countries. Does it matter ?of course it does. In the past, the laity related to the pastor. He stood out as someone different; someone with recognisable values and someone to look up to.

Commander WJ Nimmo-Scott OBE