Read about three of our seminarians who will continue their training and formation for the priesthood this year.
Deacon Joseph Gulliford
It took until my late teens and early twenties before I started to think about having a Priestly vocation. It was then that it grew and burnt like a flame in my heart, catching me unaware at times. I considered doing many other things, taking different paths but it was as if I could never find rest. I met a beautiful woman and for all intents and purposes planned on marrying her, but I had this itching hole in my heart that would not leave me a moment’s peace. In surrendering to God’s plans and entering Seminary, there has been a deep and abiding peace that has not left me, despite many ups and downs. Seminary life is not easy and the discipline of it has not always suited someone like me, feeling like a threat to my spontaneity and creativity, but there is no doubt that God has used it to fashion me into the Priest He has called me to be. Since becoming a Deacon, I have felt great joy assisting at Mass, preaching and being so close to Jesus at the altar. I cannot wait to be able to help people encounter Jesus and experience His healing and deliverance as a Priest.
Fourth Year Seminarian
I can’t quite believe that I’ve now spent four years in formation for the priesthood, ordination is getting nearer, but there is still much prayer, work and study to achieve first. I’m currently on my extended pastoral placement, this is when we leave the academic study of the priesthood to experience the practical study of being immersed into the daily life of a parish for the period of one year. I’ve been very fortunate to be sent to a very busy and vibrant city parish with seven Sunday masses, and 2,000 active parishioners! It is a great joy and a daily reminder of my vocation to work alongside a team of dedicated and hardworking priests assisting at baptisms, marriages, and funerals. One of the greatest challenges has been to learn so many names and try my best to get them right! The parish placement has not only reminded me that God is calling me to the priesthood, but enforced that deep sense of vocation. It has given me a taste of what is sweet, and also bitter about the life and work of the priest, one moment I will be preparing children for first Holy Communion, the next praying with a dying person in the hospital chaplaincy, and then helping the sacristan lift something high above the sanctuary.
We all have our own stories of how we have come to discover our vocation and we should be grateful for the different ways in which the Lord Jesus reveals Himself to us. I grew up in Sittingbourne, Kent, within a non-practicing Christian family. One night, aged fourteen, 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. 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. I can certainly say that my life was changed by the recognition that I am a child of God and we are all called to holiness, despite our own failings and brokenness.
My journey to seminary had much to do with my home parish in Sittingbourne. It was through my involvement in this community, to whom I owe so much, and through experiences of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, that I came to realise that Christ may be calling me to serve His people as a priest. I now find myself in my third year of formation at Allen Hall Seminary in London.
Formation has not always been easy; you are consistently challenged and come to know yourself in a way which you haven’t before. You also become very much aware of the sacrifices that need to be made in the life of a priest. I have found particular joy and strength this year in my pastoral placement at St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre, Hendon, (LEFT) which supports people with intellectual disabilities. It is a purposeful and joyful community, and the people I help have also helped me to appreciate my gifts and talents. A place such as St Joseph’s helps you to see concretely the worth and dignity of every human being.
Are you interested in discerning
whether you may have a vocation to the priesthood?
Prayerful and Practical Support for Vocations
We especially welcome prayer for vocations on Good Shepherd Sunday, which traditionally falls on the Fourth Sunday of Easter, and this year on 8th May 2022 .
The Archdiocese relies on your generous donations to the Southwark Priests Training Fund, in order to meet the substantial training and formation costs for each seminarian.
The Evangelist magazine was originally printed on an annual basis and distributed to parishes, but the Covid-19 pandemic heralded a change in format. Seminarians contribute to the e-magazine, where they publish homilies from senior clergy, prayer guides and spiritual book reviews.