It is a great joy for me to be asked to take over from Josh Dixon – and Joe Champion-Williams before him – in writing something each month of this seminary year for the Catholic Pic. For this first column, I just wanted to take a moment to introduce myself to you. My name is Peter Murphy, I am 27 and I grew up in St Marie's Parish, Southport and went to school at St Mary's College, Crosby.
This month I am going to start my fifth year of formation for the priesthood at St John's Seminary, Wonersh. Before entering the seminary I completed a degree in Business Management at the University of Hertfordshire.
Although my monthly letters will be coming from much closer to home than the offerings of the previous two years – Valladolid and Rome – it is still a reality of seminary life that seminarians can, at times, feel distant from the normal week-to-week life of the parish and the diocese. This, I feel, will especially be the case as I return to Wonersh (near Guildford, Surrey) this month.
The reason is that for almost all of the last seminary year, I was on an extended pastoral placement at St Matthew's, Clubmoor and St Cecilia's, Tuebrook. It was a wonderful and grace-filled experience, and I am extremely grateful to Father Conor Stainton-Polland, Deacon Eddie and Deacon Ronnie, and all of the parishioners for their welcome, example, prayers and support.
Yet while acknowledging that I will miss being 'in the thick of it' in the parish and in the diocese, I am very excited to be returning to St John's. It is unusual for a Liverpool seminarian to find himself in formation at Wonersh, but I am very pleased to be able to be formed for the priesthood under the patronage of St John the Evangelist – the beloved disciple of our Lord. The house is much smaller than the other seminaries – with only about 28 seminarians and five resident formation staff – but this makes the atmosphere very pleasant.
And although I might not have the Vatican on my doorstep, Wonersh has the bonus of being the best of both worlds. For most of the time we are in the very quiet and beautiful Surrey Hills, but on days off, we are able to get into the centre of London in just under an hour.
I hope you will enjoy reading about the various things I will be getting up to over the coming months. I hope too that you will continue to pray for me and for my brother seminarians as we seek to follow the Lord each day of our lives.