In January 2020, Rome will host a meeting of the Superiors General and Presidents of the Vincentian Family. We continue this series of posts to deepen our knowledge of the many Vincentian Branches. Here we interview Father Beresford Skelton, the warden of Company of the Mission Priests.

How and when did your foundation take place?

In January 1940 the Superiors of three of the leading Religious Communities of the church of England (the Society of St. John the Evangelist, the Community of the Resurrection and the Society of the Sacred Mission) called together the clergy to form a company of Mission Priests, who would remain free from personal and financial obligations of marriage and family life so that they could work, if necessary, without a full stipend, and would also be available to go wherever they might be needed. The suggestion was that these Mission Priests would not take vows as a religious community, but would bind themselves to this form of Apostolic Life by a solemn promise to be renewed annually. Since then the Company of Mission Priests has grown and has continued to serve both Church and people, primarily in the large housing estates and inner-city areas of England.

How does your Congregation reflect the Vincentian charism?

After the decision of the General Synod of the Church of England in 1992 to move towards the ordination of women to the priesthood, the Company faced an uncertain future. At the General Chapter in 1994, which took the form of Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham to ask her prayers for God’s guidance about the future, we faced four alternative courses of action: dissolution of the Company; hibernation (remaining in existence for those who were already members and thus slowly dying); amalgamation or linking up with another compatible body; re-launch. After pray and discussion the Company opted for Re-launch and to look at Amalgamation. In 1995 our annual chapter was addressed by Fr Fergus Kelly, who had welcomed us to Damascus House in 1994 as “fellow Mission Priests”. It was clear from his presentation that our ten precepts of membership were Vincentian: observe simplicity of life; remain unmarried; observe a Rule of Life governing prayer, fasting, study, pastoral work and recreation; observe the rue of our Houses; use the Company Prayer daily to pray for each other and our work; offer Mass once a month for the work of the Company; consult the Warden of the Company when a new work is being discerned; participate in the annual General Chapter and give an account of our work over the year and renew our promise; attend local chapter meetings and cells (if any) to support and encourage  each other in our work.

Your hopes and expectations for the Vincentian charism as we approach the meeting of the leaders of the Vincentian Family, scheduled for January 2020, in Rome.

The Company of Mission Priests would hope that the Vincentian charism would continue and develop Saint Vincent de Paul’s vision to work together in practical ways and on ventures that better the quality of life of those in most desperate need; that we continue to deepen our spirituality as individuals and as well as a Company to work in our various callings as we engage in the mission; that we continue to work for  systemic change in society and oppose structural injustice and work for justice; that we continue to serve and support those trapped in poverty.

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