On Thursday 20th July a commemorative book will be released in celebration of the life and history of St John's Seminary in Wonersh. This will be celebrated by Solemn Vespers of St John in the Cathedral at 5.30 pm, to which all are welcome.
The much-loved seminary of St John's in Wonersh, located just outside Guildford, welcomed many aspiring priests and deacons through its grand doors during its 130-year history. St John's was established in 1891 for the then Diocese of Southwark by Bishop John Butt, who duly appointed Fr Francis Bourne as the Seminary's first Rector.
Reverend Bourne had studied at St Sulpice in Paris, where he met John Bosco, and considered joining the Salesian Order. However, he returned to Southwark and eventually succeeded Bishop John Butt as Bishop of Southwark in 1897, before being appointed Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster in 1903.
Elena Curtis, the Editor of 'These Walls have Spoken' explains in her article in the Tablet this week, that
"Butt and Bourne regarded St John’s as their supreme achievement. Butt eschewed a burial place in his cathedral, and a vault was built for him in the Wonersh chapel. Bourne was buried in the chapel of St Edmund’s College, Ware, but he asked for his heart to be interred at Wonersh “as a sign of his immortal love”.
The earthly remains of Bishop Butt and the heart of Cardinal Bourne were reinterred in the crypt of St George’s Cathedral, Southwark, last year, whilst two beautiful altars that once resided in the Seminary Chapel, that of Our Lady and of St John, have since found a new home in the Mother-church of the Archdiocese, and were recently blessed by the Apostolic Nuncio, H.E. Archbishop Miguel Maury Buendia.
St John's trained seminarians from dioceses across England and Wales, particularly those from the Southern province, but a continued decline in the numbers of men seeking to study for the priesthood after the turn of the millennium, against ever-rising costs, meant that the Seminary was eventually closed on 3 July 2021. Existing seminarians transferred to Allen Hall Seminary in Chelsea to continue their studies.
In this final opportunity to remember and celebrate St John's, we give thanks for the vibrant life and ongoing legacy of those who have taught, studied and resided within its walls, going on to give their lives to Our Lord, and bringing His love to others.
The Archdiocese regrets that owing to restrictions on building capacity it is not possible to invite everyone to the book launch, which is by invitation of the Trustees only. However, all are most welcome to attend the service in St George's Cathedral