Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chaplaincy History: Part I - 1908-1934

Several people have attempted to write histories of the Chaplaincy over the years. Two editions made it into print, and cover aspects of the life early life of the Chaplaincy community, and of what is now known as Newman House, during the first twenty years of its existence as a chaplaincy centre. For those attempting to piece together a picture of life here in those years, we are aided by a wealth of scrapbook material, with photographs, articles, copies of termcards and programmes, and even a substantial report on ‘opinions of Catholic students’. Over the coming months, we will post some of this information, and invite our readers to contribute their own materials.

To begin with, here is the opening of the first of the two booklets published, by E.A. Weldon in October 1968. This looks back to the beginnings of Chaplaincy work with students and staff

University Chaplaincy from 1908-1934
The University of London Catholic Society was founded in 1908 by Canon Driscoll and Miss Forsater of King’s College. For many years Hilaire Belloc was president, following in 1933 by Douglas Woodruff. Catholic Societies, linked to the ULCS, existed at a number of individual colleges.

The London Catholic Chaplaincy began its existence in 1934 when the Cardinal Bourne (Archbishop of Westminster) announced his appointment of Dr David Mathew (later Archbishop of Apamea) as the first full-time resident chaplain to the Catholics in the University of London: staff and students. This robbed the Cathedral of St. David in Cardiff of a curate, and the University College in that city of a chaplain to its Catholics. Dr. Mathew took up residence at No 1 Woburn Square, WC1.

It was something of a coming-of-age for the groups scattered in colleges, to be gathered, as Catholic academics, round a central chaplaincy. Dr. Mathew found the University of London Catholic Association (ULCA) “in full activity in all the Central London Colleges”. It had been founded in 1908 by Miss E. L. B. Forster leading the group at King’s College, and supported by the late Canon Driscoll, then Headmaster of the Cardinal Vaughan School. A succession of “Cat. Socs.” had joined. Mr. Francis O’Brien Donaghy and Miss Monica Grobel recall an active Society (founded in 1919-23) at University College. East London College (which became Queen Mary College on receiving its charter in 1935) did not lack a spirited Catholic Society. Sister Mary Bernardine, O.S.U. recalls a “popular group of men” from the Cardinal Vaughan School, active in debates; but the group dated from the First War years and may have drawn from Franciscan and Ursuline sources in that area, for Fr. Alphonsus Bonnar, O.F.M. records (May 30th. 1931) a request from it that he should act as Director. His acceptance was approved by all higher authorities, and he carried on under Dr. Mathew till reasons of health necessitated his withdrawal. In 1934 the then Monsignor Montini, on a visit to London. “had a long conversation with me” he writes, “about work among university students”

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