On Monday 13th Feb, 45 intrepid parishioners gathered at the crack of dawn to get on a coach down to London. Battling traffic delays, ‘smart’ motorway speed limits and London congestion, we arrived at our first stop; Allen Hall Seminary in Chelsea. This is where Fr Joe studied to be a priest and where Joe McCay is currently a student. We were welcomed with a cuppa and biscuits before Fr Michael O’Boy, the college Vice Rector, welcomed us and led us through to the library where he gave a fascinating talk on the history of Allen Hall and it’s present role in preparing young men to serve as priests. We learnt that Allen Hall began in 1568 in Douai, Northern France, making it the oldest seminary foundation in the world. Students from there came over to England to serve as priests in the midst of terrible persecution and over 150 of them were martyred – often by hanging, drawing and quartering! We heard that students are formed in four areas of life and ministry; human development, academic learning, prayer and spirituality and pastoral work.
Whenever Fr Michael spoke, there was the underlying threat of sharing tales and stories of Fr Joe’s time at Allen Hall; he and Fr Michael were together there for 5 years and remain great friends. Thankfully, Fr Michael was discreet!
Joe and David, another seminarian, took us on a tour round the seminary to give us a sense of the place and what life is like now. we came back to the refectory for a fantastic meal of lasagne and salad prepared by Karl, the college chef.
There were a couple of hours free in the afternoon so some of us took a leisurely walk along the Kings Road towards Victoria, others set off to see if herself was in at Buckingham Palace. She was, but had forgotten to put the kettle on.
We all met up again at Westminster Cathedral for a quick guided tour round this most beautiful building. We were shown the different chapels with incredible mosaics and marble and saw that the interior of this huge church is a work in progress – the main ceiling vault is bare brick, blackened by years of incense and candle smoke.
After the tour, we hot-footed it down the road, past the Houses of Parliament and Westminister Abbey, over the Thames to arrive at the London Eye. After a few minutes in the queue, we got into two pods for the rotation. Dusk was falling and London was lit up for us to see all the major landmarks. We all coped remarkably well with the heights – even Fr Joe kept calm – and thoroughly enjoyed this end to our day. We have a lovely picture here of some of our younger parishioners on the Eye along with Joe, our seminarian.
After a quick fast-food joint visit (mainly to use their facilities) it was back on the coach for the journey back home. We were blessed with great weather, good drivers (cheers Howard and Dan from Marshalls of Sutton – very smooth), lovely hospitality from Allen Hall and everything else going to plan.
The question on everyone’s lips was ‘where are going next?’
Any suggestions for future parish trips will be gratefully received.