The harmonising thread
The Jesuits have served the Oxford University chaplaincy since 2007. But the chaplaincy was established as early as 1895 when the Catholic hierarchy first allowed Catholic students to attend Oxford. Their caution had been caused by the danger of exposing young Catholics to such a strongly Protestant environment, hence the urgency of setting up:
“a universities Catholic Education Board to institute and supervise safeguards for the faith of the Roman Catholic laity attending the Universities.. And for superintending the religious instruction of Roman Catholic undergraduates by conferences or lectures or otherwise as the Board should think fit”
Thus the chaplaincy came into being. It is now located around the corner from Campion Hall in the former Bishop’s Palace, and serves around 1,600 Catholic students and staff.
Former students Annie Killian and Joshua Dixon reflect on the difference the chaplaincy made to their time at Oxford
Annie came to do a Masters in English at Oxford after doing her first degree at Yale:
“Excitement about the course notwithstanding, I felt some anxiety about crossing the Atlantic to live in a new country for two years. Yale had a strong Catholic center where I had been involved as a student leader, so I instinctively looked for a similar community at Oxford - and found the Jesuits! In the first term alone, I participated in a week-long guided retreat, with daily talks on imaginative prayer and the examen, as well as a trip to the Jesuit house in Barmouth where Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ had also lived. The chaplains, firmly rooted in Ignatian spirituality, simultaneously supported and participated in a range of other initiatives, from a Lectio Divina group to a daily soup run and visits of the elderly via the SVP, to teaching in a primary school in Tanzania. Offering this diversity of approaches to prayer, catechesis, and social justice invites in the full range of Catholic (and non-Catholic) members of the University. And everything that happens at the Old Palace is directed toward service of God and one another. The formation in discernment I received while at the Chaplaincy, of seeking and finding God in all things, has influenced how I approach my doctoral research, teaching, and relationships with family and community. What a gift!”
Joshua studied Theology for three years and is now in formation for the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Liverpool
'I have come that you may have life and have it to the full' (John 10:10).
“In many respects these words sum up my time in Oxford. The excitement of a new world opening up, of new friendships, of challenges and of adventures. I took up rowing, running and socialising with a new vigour. I travelled to many places and made lasting friendships. At the Chaplaincy I found the harmonising thread that drew everything together. The mix of ages, backgrounds and tastes both challenged and deepened my faith. The Chaplaincy was vibrant, alive, committed and, well, fun!
I really learnt that the Catholic faith is meant to be lived joyfully and in communion both with friends and with those we find more challenging. Whether we are challenged by difference or by something new it is the only way, through prayer, that we discover ourselves and come to know God and His Church more deeply. Jesus is the yes to life! This discovery, this way of seeing God, of others, myself, is my abiding memory of the Chaplaincy lived out in my friendships with the chaplains and students to this day.
As my own discernment journey unfolded the Chaplains were rocks of support. Living in the Chaplaincy for my final year was richly rewarding. My vocation to the priesthood is in no small part thanks to the witness, loving support and joyful examples I found at the Catholic Chaplaincy in Oxford! It really is a special place.”
Making the right choices, an Ignatian guide
Following Edmund Campion out of Oxford...
Oxford University student Olivia McDermott reflects on her visit to Stonor with a group from the Catholic Chaplaincy.
Dushan Croos SJ, Chaplain to the University of Oxford
Dushan became a Jesuit in 1995. He has been chaplain to Wimbledon College and is now senior chaplain in the University of Oxford.