What happens at the Royal English College?


'Did not out hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road?'

(Lk 24:32)

The Propaedeutic stage at the Royal English College is a community experience, offering seminarians the opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and in community living (...)

The college benefits from dedicated staff, overseen and governed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Working together with the seminarians each year, they provide both personal and community accompaniment on the discernment journey.

The characteristic theme of the programme is the Gospel account of the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35). Here, Jesus meets the disciples on their journey and a profound exchange of faith takes place that leads them to recognise him “at the breaking of bread”. The course is structured around the personal journey of the seminarian and moments of encounter with the Lord.

Formators and lecturers provide accompaniment and formation for seminarians in response to their needs and the requirements of Church teaching. Formation centres on the four pillars of formation given by the Church – Human Formation, Spiritual Formation, Pastoral Formation and Intellectual Formation.


Human Formation

'Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?'

(Mk 10:18)

Human Formation ensures that the seminarian is guided towards personal maturity, self-knowledge and self-responsibility. The candidate for the priesthood strives, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to speak and act in the person of Christ, so that in seeing him, the people of God will in time see the person of Christ himself.

Before the students arrive, a psychologist has assessed them on behalf of their diocesan bishop. The rector and seminarian, in collaboration with the college psychologist and its spiritual director, sets targets and selects areas on which to work. These goals are reviewed and developed throughout the Propaedeutic stage.

The aim is to assist the student to grow in self-knowledge and self-acceptance towards an effective maturity that demands understanding and coping with feelings and emotions and an awareness of others.

Human Formation helps develop the human characteristics which are expected of a candidate for the priesthood:

  • That he is open to formation
  • That he is a free person
  • That he is a man of strong moral character
  • That he is a man of communion
  • That he is a man of integrity
  • That he is a good communicator
  • That he is a man of prudence and discernment
  • That he relates well with others
  • That he is a man of effective maturity

Spiritual Formation

'Lord, that I may see!'

(Lk 18:41)

Christian Spirituality is about the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The key to Spiritual Formation is a life of prayer and charity, living out the journey of grace that was first received in Baptism. Students are challenged by the Lord in these areas and helped with this Christian journey by the formation staff. Prayer, and especially generosity in the time afforded to prayer, is essential.

Throughout the year, the student will receive regular, fortnightly Spiritual Direction and input on the spiritual life and prayer life will be provided through classes in Spiritual Development, spiritual conferences, Lectio Divina and guided prayer.

The liturgical prayer life of the community is of paramount importance:

  • Mass
  • The Divine Office
  • Sacrament of Reconciliation
  • Devotion to the Blessed Sacrament
  • Devotion to Our Lady

This is supported by times of retreat, days of recollection and input from visiting spirituality professors.

Pastoral Formation

Pastoral Formation is a crucial part of laying solid foundations for any diocesan priest. At the same time as coming to know himself ever more deeply (Human Formation), the seminarian must come to know the work of the Church and its demands.

Pope Paul VI tells us that the Church exists to evangelise and Pope Francis challenges diocesan priests today to “have the smell of the sheep” about them. Diocesan priests are called to walk alongside the people of God in every situation, sharing their joys and sorrows, being agents of mercy and joyful messengers of the Good News.

By practical experience through placements and regular outreach, in the classroom and by a process of reflective practise, seminarians come to know the Universal Church and its mission and also build a robust and realistic picture of the pastoral challenges of the local Church that they hope to serve.

Intellectual Formation

Intellectual Formation in the Propaedeutic stage is in the context of the Church’s efforts to make disciples. Seminarians must take seriously their own lifelong journey into discipleship before they can hope to authentically help others to do the same.

Intellectual Formation provides a catechetical background to the work that is done in the spiritual and human development programmes.

The course hopes to bring about a deeper appreciation of what a vocational encounter with Christ really means, especially in the context of the Church today, in which the person now feels called to serve. It strives to encourage openness to God. Such openness should help the seminarian conform more to the mind of Christ, in spirit and in truth.

The course covers most of the themes and topics as presented primarily in the Catechism and elsewhere in the Magisterium or official Church documents. It draws on the underlying philosophical and theological themes that belong to the essential fundamental principles of our Catholic faith. This serves two important purposes – to offer the student an experience of the method of theology and philosophy from a Catholic perspective and also to emphasise the essential tenets of our Catholic and Apostolic faith. From a practical perspective and as the seminary’s natural point of reference, the course relates to and reflects on the life of the Church in England and Wales. Particular emphasis is therefore given to the major documents published by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me. - Psalm 120:1

Visiting The College

Although our primary focus is always priestly formation of the seminarians, when we are able to do so we warmly welcome groups and individual visitors who would like to learn more about St Alban’s crucial role in the life of the Catholic Church.

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