Peter Edmonds SJ
My life with the Jesuits began when I was despatched to a Jesuit boarding school, Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, at the age of nine in austere post-war years. I remained there for eight years, leaving with a State Scholarship in 1955. In those days, there was an immense Jesuit presence in the college and a strong religious atmosphere. This atmosphere contributed to my priestly vocation.
Three years at the University of Manchester followed. Then with my Classics degree, I entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Roehampton in south west London. It was a few weeks before the death of Pius XII and the election of John XXIII. Jesuit life there was very traditional. After two years I moved on to the old Heythrop College in Oxfordshire for the philosophy course. We lived an isolated and even monastic country life with most lectures in Latin.
Because of my degree, I did not accompany my contemporaries to Oxford for secular studies but went to teach at Mount St Mary’s College near Sheffield where I joined other committed Jesuit teachers. After two years, I returned to Heythrop for theology studies. These were the days of the Second Vatican Council and changes in lifestyle and study programmes which culminated in the transfer of Heythrop to London to become a College of London University.
Meanwhile it had been decided that I would teach scripture at the Regional Major Seminary in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), then entrusted to the English Province of the Jesuits. As preparation, I attended the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, a very international house with many Jesuits well known and influential in biblical studies.
I then began my own teaching in New Testament and Biblical Languages. Despite the tensions of a country struggling to move from colonial status to full independence, I accepted the challenge of helping future priests to know and love the scripture. Several now serve the Catholics of Zimbabwe as their bishops. I also became involved in parishes and offered biblical formation to religious and laity.
At that time, because the Society was increasing in numbers in Africa, its authorities set up a formation programme for the young Jesuits. In October 1984, the Society opened its school of theology, Hekima College, in Nairobi, Kenya. I gave the first lecture there. After teaching part- time, I moved there in 1992 to teach New Testament. For nine years I was Dean of Studies. Jesuits came from over twenty African countries. From their numbers have come several Provincials and the majority of the present day teaching staff of the College. Fr General’s Assistant for Africa belonged to that first class in 1984.
In 2003, I returned to England. After some months at the Retreat House at Loyola Hall, I moved to Campion Hall, Oxford. Among other apostolates, I taught Biblical Languages in the Theology Faculty. In 2012 I moved to Stamford Hill, a Jesuit community north London. I give giving study days and retreats based on the New Testament and write steadily on biblical topics. I enjoy the company of Jesuit scholastics from other continents, now that I no longer live and work in Africa.