Since The Oxford Catholic Chaplaincy was entrusted by the Bishops of England and Wales to the British Jesuits in 2007, it has been part of the pastoral outreach of Campion Hall. At present the Hall provides two official Catholic Chaplains resident in the neighbouring Old Palace, Fr Dushan Croos, SJ, the Senior Catholic Chaplain, and Fr Keith MacMillan, SJ, an Assistant Chaplain; while other members of the Hall make important contributions by helping regularly with Masses, confessions, spiritual guidance and other ministries.
Father Croos writes: One might imagine that the University Chaplains' work consists mainly of serving tea to students, but although we do that a lot, often accompanied by cake, it is as a means of comforting and encouraging them when they need to talk. We remind the students regularly that our most important role is to welcome students and other members of the University for conversation about whatever might be helpful to them, and that all the other activities are only to impress our management committees so they continue to fund us!
Nevertheless, as the parish for members of the University, we also have regular celebrations of Mass and prayer times, and we prepare for and cel-ebrate marriages and baptisms. We accompany the vocational discernment of students individually and in a Samuel Group [if puzzled, see 1 Samuel 3:1-10!] On most evenings in term, we also cele-brate Mass in different College Chapels. It is one of the great privileges of the Catholic Chaplaincy to the University to be welcomed by the (Anglican) College chapels to celebrate Mass there each term. The requests are so generous, that there aren't enough evenings in the term to fulfil them. Somehow, these celebrations of Mass build up our relationships with the Anglican and other Christian communities in each College, despite the still existing obstacle that we cannot invite non Catholics to receive Holy Communion.
The Chaplaincy flourishes because many groups of students organise activities themselves with the help of the Chaplains. The Newman Cathsoc (The Newman Society) cooks and serves a hot meal and organises a talk each Thursday during term on a wide variety of topics, as well as mounting social events. There are numerous prayer groups, including the Christian Life Community, inspired by St Ignatius. The St Vincent de Paul Group takes tea and coffee to the homeless each morning; and last term an Aid to the Church in Need group started up in response to the persecution of Christians around the world.
Each term, students organise a Nightfever prayer vigil, during which some pray before the Blessed Sacrament while the Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated; some play quiet prayerful music; and others invite passers by to come into the Church, to light a candle, to stay in quiet listening to music, and perhaps to write an intention of prayer. This has resulted in a group called Intentional Disciples, who plan to lead in the Spring a Catholic Alpha Course, which will offer a basic understanding of Christianity to those who know little about it.
Each November we offer a Week of Guided Prayer, coordinated by Steve Hoyland, the experienced lay outreach worker of the Jesuits in Britain who takes Ignatian Spirituality to University Chaplaincies. This year no fewer than sixty five students came, some from other Christian communities, and were accompanied by fifteen guides, some from the Hall, in the busiest or most difficult week of term.
In all, the canopy of the Old Palace covers a rich spectrum of activities, and I hope that those choosing to attend the Chaplaincy experience here what the founders of the Chaplaincy desired, the nurturing of their faith, leading them as men and women for others to transform the world as their Creator wishes.