We have just come back from a day’s visit to Stonyhurst (http://www.stonyhurst.ac.uk), the mother house of the British Province of Jesuits. It is considered to be the Mother House, because it was the first Jesuit house in Britain, all the various schools, churches and centres sprung from this original site.
Fr. John Twist and Sarah Young, the chaplains there, invited us so that we could talk about our vocation with a group of (hopefully) interested students and talk about the Holy Week Retreat that is open to all and will be held from 29th to the 31st March 2013. We had a great time meeting everyone and saw a lot of the historical collection kept within the walls of the school.
The college was founded in 1593 in St. Omer, France, at a time when penal laws prohibited Catholic education in England. After moving to Bruges in 1762 and Liège in 1773, the college moved to to its present site in Lancashire. It was terrific to see the school keep its original ethos despite everything that had happened to it over the centuries. During our time there, we saw four chapels located within the college, not to mention St. Peter’s church which is used by the parish. Also, there was night prayer held on Tuesday and Wednesday in the pupils’ dormitories and the morning assembly started and ended with a prayer. They have young people there who belong to other Christian traditions, and other faiths, and they encourage all of them to play a full part in the spiritual life of the school.
It is incredible to think how the Jesuits have spread through England, Wales and Scotland from this one location and in such a short space of time (see this Google map for an idea: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?vps=2&hl=en&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=210071895635585590112.0004ca147026d42a10474). Okay 200 years isn’t that short, but compared to 2000 years of the Church, or nearly 500 years of the Society of Jesus, it gives perspective to how resourceful the Jesuits are and will have to be in the future.