St Hilda’s Parish in Whitby is currently sponsoring one of our students for the priesthood and has also been able to make a donation to the House of Formation recently established in Middlesbrough.

Fr Neil McNicholas, parish priest at St Hilda’s, explained that St Hilda’s is in a very healthy position financially at the moment as a result of selling two pieces of land that were owned by the parish. “What do people give their money for? Initially it is to support their parish, to help pay the bills and to provide for the needs of their priests. That said, I’m not convinced that people give their hard-earned money just to see it accumulating in a parish account. How accumulated funds can best be used will depend on the situation and needs of individual parishes: perhaps a new parish hall is needed, or improvements to the church, repaving the car park, or whatever the needs may be.”

“I am always very conscious of the Catholic legacy we owe to generations of Catholics in the Whitby and North Yorkshire Moors area who kept the Faith alive through the very difficult and testing times of English Catholic history. Fr Nicholas Postgate was arrested right here in what is now St Hilda’s parish for his efforts to serve the Catholics of our Moors communities and was martyred for doing so. We are also more than aware of the importance to Church history of St Hilda and the Synod of Whitby. St Hilda’s parish is in a position to be able to contribute to the on-going efforts to encourage and support the provision of priests for the future of our parish and our diocese.”

“To this end I recently proposed to our Parish Finance Committee that we make two donations: one to help pay some of the costs of one of our seminarians studying in Rome, and the other to the new House of Formation which has been established in the presbytery at Sacred Heart parish in Middlesbrough under the direction of Fr Gerard Robinson, our diocesan Vocations Director. The Committee gave its full and unanimous backing to the proposal.”

Fr Gerard explained that the purpose of the house is to provide a place where those who are considering a vocation to priesthood can spend time with appropriate spiritual direction whilst helping out in the parish and so gaining some first-hand experience of what the priesthood is all about – which can be very different to the more theoretical and general picture gained in the seminary. It will also provide a place where students for the priesthood can stay during seminary holidays, especially those older students who may no longer have a family home where they can stay and, again, they will have the opportunity for parish involvement whilst they are there.

Fr Gerard added, “Last year’s Vocations Walk greatly helped to raise the profile of vocations in general and the response to the Priests Training Fund appeal was very encouraging. However, given that the average annual cost for a student at seminary is in the region of £15,000, financial support is always needed – so too support for the new venture, our House of Formation. The help provided by St Hilda’s is greatly appreciated and it is hoped that it might encourage other parishes to help out in the same way.” At present we have five students at seminaries, three at the Venerable English College in Rome and two at Ushaw College, Durham. The basic annual cost alone is £75,000 and most study for six years!