June 3 2018, The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, marks the start of a Year for Priests in the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
This is a year of thanksgiving, prayer and celebration for the priests of this diocese, in preparation for a national celebration of priesthood to coincide with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in 2019.
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is set aside by the Church as a day of prayer and intercession for the sanctification of priests.
This year sees the 450th anniversary of the foundation of the English College, Douai, the first institution to form priests for the mission in England after the Reformation. From Douai, colleges were founded across France, Spain and Portugal, and in Rome.
These colleges trained the priests, without whom Catholicism would almost certainly have died out in England and Wales.
For generations, priests were regarded as traitors and lived under cover, in fear of their lives; hundreds were martyred for their witness to Christ and His Church.
Even in later times, priests were few in number, poorly resourced and socially excluded. Without their resilience and courage, the Church we have today would not exist.