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Vocations in Southwark Diocese

Archdiocese of Southwark
Our Seminarians

The journey to priesthood involves a time of formal formation at a Seminary - a place for study, prayer, and development. Below are four reflections from men preparing for priestly ordination for the Arhcdiocese of Southwark:

Deacon Giovanni Prandini, 6th (Final) Year Seminarian

Dcn GiovanniI was born and grew up in Italy. After Confirmation I did what many young Catholics do, I lapsed. I came back to the faith when I was 21 during a volunteer trip to Nicaragua with a Catholic group. They ‘peer-pressured’ me into going to Confession, but the most wonderful thing happened. It was during Confession that for the first time I encountered the mercy of God. It was a life changing experience.  I realised I could not live my life without God.

I came to England 10 years ago and found a job I liked. At the same time, I started to pray to see what God wanted me to do in my life. No answer came until one Sunday I was sitting on a bus—the 122 to Plumstead. I was wrestling with a nagging problem. Suddenly, I heard an inner voice saying: ‘Why are you worried? I want you to become a priest.’ I instantly knew I had to follow that intuition. So I did, and have never regretted it since.

David Hunter, 5th Year Seminarian

DavidWhen I was 14 I felt the Lord calling me to the Priesthood, but at that time I thought it was too early to think about it seriously. After finishing school at 16 I became a railway track apprentice for a major UK Rail contractor. I studied part-time and gained a BEng (Hons) in Civil Engineering. I became a manager and was looking forward to climbing the career ladder, buying my own house in my hometown of Ashford, and doing all the things a man in his mid-20s is looking to do.

However, the sense God was calling me to follow him as a Priest was growing stronger and stronger. Eventually, after years of saying “not yet”, I decided to apply. I was accepted, and began my formation at St John’s Seminary, Wonersh. It has been interesting and at times challenging, but slowly and surely God has used these years to mould me into the Priest he wants me to be. 

Formation for the Priesthood, by God’s grace, helps each of us to become the best we can be, so that we may labour faithfully for His glory and the good of His people in future ministry.

Frazer Bellfield, Second Year Seminarian

FrazerMy journey to the seminary began in my home parish of St. Theresa’s, Biggin Hill, when our elderly and kindly parish priest encouraged me to become an altar server after first Holy Communion. Fr. Flood was a great nurturer of priestly vocations and when I was 12 years he old took me on a “Discovering the Priesthood Day” for young people at the seminary at Wonersh.  I could never have known on my first visit that 12 years later I would end up as a student in this very seminary.

I thought about the Priesthood throughout my time at secondary school and enjoyed taking part in parish life, but always made time for my friends and other activities. After completing my secondary education I was given the chance to have an experience in Spain with a Spanish Religious Community which had connections to my home parish. I found myself at 18 years old living in an exciting new country, learning a new language and working alongside the Friars in a number of difficult neighbourhoods.  My time in Spain certainly made an impression on me, to this day I still love a good Paella, but I felt more inclined towards working as a parish priest rather than being a Religious Brother, and I wasn’t ready for in depth study at that point in my life. After returning from Spain I worked in a parish as a pastoral assistant, this gave me a greater insight into the inner workings of the Parish Priest.

FrazerBy the time I had reached my early 20s I was pretty sure that God was calling me to the Priesthood, however, I felt and was advised that as a young man I should have some experience of the “real world”, and being somebody that has always loved travelling and hustle and bustle I applied for a job for Easyjet, working at Gatwick airport as a Customer Service Agent. This job certainly broadened my horizons and not only allowed me to do a bit of personal travel but also gave me the opportunity to meet all kinds of people and to see their good sides…and on many occasions their bad ones! After a period at Easyjet, I moved over to British Airways in the same roll. It was whilst working at Gatwick that through another Priest I was introduced to the new Southwark Vocations Director Fr. John, who over a period of time got to know me, and helped me reach the decision that it was right for me to apply for the Diocesan Priesthood.

Frazer with the late Fr Gerry FloodI am currently now in my second year of formation and very much enjoying being part of the seminary community, just like “the real world”, the seminary is a place where we are called to serve God to the best of our ability, with all the joys and challenges that brings. It is great to be living with likeminded guys who help and support me on my journey to the Priesthood. What greatly encourages me is to know that many people are praying for me and for my brother seminarians. I would encourage anyone that feels they may be called to the Priesthood to pray about it and when the time is right, to speak with one of our Diocesan Vocations promoters who will be very helpful in guiding them through their discernment.
Frazer with the Late Fr Gerry Flood at Biggin Hill Parish

Stephen Trafford, First Year Seminarian

StephenI grew up in Sittingbourne, Kent, in a non-practicing Christian family. One night, aged 14, I read the story of C.S Lewis’ conversion to Christianity and it had a profound impact upon me. It was then that I started to pray, accepting the gift of my baptism and Christ’s offer of friendship. I was received into the Roman Catholic Church (from Anglicanism) at the age of 21, before starting what would be a six-year career teaching Religion and Philosophy in Catholic schools.

My life has been changed by the recognition that I am a child of God and we are all called to sainthood. Adoration has been an essential part of my journey and it was during a Holy Hour that I felt the call to priesthood. I now find myself in my first year at St John’s seminary. It is a happy and purposeful community and I pray that Our Lord will form us into worthy priests who will joyfully serve God’s people.



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