The Whole Class Became Catholics

Earlier this summer a reunion of former Anglican theological students took place in Aldridge. They had all studied at Kelham Theological College near Newark in Nottinghamshire. Of those ordained into the Anglican ministry from the class of 1968, all have been received into the Catholic Church.

The reunion was organised by Canon Michael Leadbeater and began with a concelebrated Mass at St Mary of the Angels Church followed by lunch together at the Fairlawns Hotel in Aldridge. Not all of the class were able to attend and not all have proceeded to ordination, but for those who did attend it was an occasion full of reminiscences and opportunities to catch up. Two priests from our diocese attended. As well as Canon Leadbeater, Canon David Mellor (who sadly passed away on 20 September) studied alongside Canon Michael as immediate contemporaries. The two are possibly recognisable on the photo from the class of 1968 (which was taken on a bright sunny January day in 1969, hence the squint!). Fr John Baggley also attended the college though he was in an earlier year group.

The Society of the Sacred Mission, which was the monastic order whose Mother House was Kelham Hall, was formed in 1893 by Fr Herbert Kelly, initially in order to train men for missionary work in Korea. It subsequently became a training college for the ordained ministry of the Church of England.

The students’ formation was in the context of the disciplined monastic life of the community. This meant domestic and administrative tasks, with theological studies supervised by the priests of the religious community and latterly by the Theology Department of the University of Nottingham. The College closed in 1973 following a restructuring of training for the ministry in the Church of England. The building, however, which was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott as a prototype for St Pancras Station in London still exists, with the student accommodation buildings and huge domed chapel added later. The community is now based at Willen in Milton Keynes as well as priories in Durham, Australia, South Africa and Japan.

Canons Leadbeater and Mellor agreed that it had been a very enjoyable day, and were pleased to meet up with former classmates now serving in the Catholic Church as priests or laymen in a variety of dioceses.

Canon Michael Leadbeater
St Mary of the Angels, Aldridge