Dear North American Friends,
Greetings from across the ocean. Greetings from Rome, the city of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the seat of Popes, the heart of the Church. Greetings from the place where the vocations of so many English martyr-saints were nurtured — the Venerable English College in Rome.
For nearly four and half centuries, the College has been a seminary, training priests for the mission in England and Wales. In the early years it was a very dangerous mission, because at that time it was a capital offence for a priest to set foot in England and Wales. Forty-four of our alumni were cruelly put to death — martyred — and ten of them are now canonised saints. We are proud to continue today the mission in which they believed so passionately.
Our history makes a fascinating study. But the value of history is that it inspires and shapes the present. Our martyrs, like Saint Ralph Sherwin, Saint Robert Southwell and Saint Luke Kirby, show us that our faith is worth living for and worth dying for. They encourage us by their example and they support us by their heavenly intercession. The mission is less dangerous today, but no less difficult, in the very secular environment that our young priests find when they go back home.
We’re pleased to welcome you to become Friends of the College — our North American Friends. Our history is your history as well. You can support us in our continuing mission to form good priests. You can be part of our wider family. We’re happy to welcome you to the College when you’re able to visit.
For a period during the early years, the College was run by a very new order, the Jesuits, recently founded by Saint Ignatius Loyola. They gave the College its motto which quotes Our Lord’s own words: “I have come to set fire to the earth” (Lk 12:49) — “Ignem veni mittere in terram”. You can help us to “set fire” to the earth today, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, and to rekindle the flame of faith in the hearts of his people.
God bless you all!
Mgr Philip Whitmore
The Venerable English College, Rome