ENGLISH SPEAKING MISSIONARY DELEGATION
When Fr Carlo Pensa, the Superior General of the order visited England in 1958 he suggested that a seminary was needed to ordain priests to carry on the work of the Sons of Divine Providence in Britain.
In the small town of Upholland in Lancashire there was a large residential college: St Joseph’s which not only provided general education for boys in the junior school but also prepared older boys for the priesthood. In 1960, Fr. Bidone was informed that a small farm in Walthew Green, a village on the outskirts of Upholland, was up for sale. He travelled north immediately to view it reckoning that it would make an ideal site for a seminary since it was so near to St Joseph’s college. Although the farmhouse was very dilapidated and the land was overgrown he purchased the property and in the winter of 1960-61 Fr. Joseph Tirello, Fr Angelo Quadrini and four students moved in and struggled to make it habitable. There was no running water or proper heating and the roof leaked. Their plight was discovered by a local lady of Italian descent who mustered her friends and neighbours and came to the aid of this “so cold, so poor” band of priests and students providing them with food and clothing. The farmhouse, hastily made barely habitable, became the first novitiate house for the students studying for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s college with Fr. Joseph as their novitiate master. Having got the farmhouse habitable they turned their attention to the stable converting it into a Chapel.
In the meantime the land was cleared and work was commenced on building the seminary. Archbishop, later Cardinal Heenan, laid the foundation stone in July 1961. The cost of designing and erecting the seminary was met almost entirely from money donated by generous benefactors prominent among whom, were the Colombo family from Italy. The seminary was completed in 1964 and was officially opened by the Archbishop of Liverpool on 5th September 1964. The seminary received postulants for the next ten years.
First Two Priests Ordained in England
In 1962, on Pentecost Sunday, Elio Frison and Bruno Parodi became the first two priests to be ordained in England. They were two of the students who had lived in the converted farmhouse and prayed in the small chapel converted from the stable while studying at St. Joseph’s college.
Chapel, Hampton Wick
In 1960 the Chapel at Hampton Wick was adorned with a mediaeval Gothic stone statue of Our Lady, which had been donated by an antique dealer. When Pope John XXIII was shown a photograph of the statue he signed it with the words ‘Hail, Star of the Sea, God’s own Mother blest. The chapel was extended and the extension blessed by Cardinal Heenan in 1967.
Don Orione had always commended the care of people with learning disabilities to his Sons. So having established homes for the elderly Fr. Bidone next turned his attention to the people with learning disabilities. In 1961, he found and acquired a large house, which had once been a private school, in Ferry Road Teddington, not far from Westminster House. The Colombo family from Cassano d’Adda in Italy met the cost of the purchase as a gift to the Sons of Divine Providence in memory of their son Angelo who was tragically killed in an accident. The house was converted into a residential care home for up to twelve children with learning disabilities aged from five years to school leaving age. It was officially opened in 1965 and named Colombo House in memory of Angelo Colombo.
St. Mary’s Nursing Home, Hampton Wick
In 1963 No. 13 Lower Teddington Road was purchased and converted into an eight-bedded nursing home to provide in house nursing care for ill residents. It was opened in 1966.
Hampton Wick Complex in the sixties
By the late sixties the Hampton Wick complex provided a residence for elderly gentlemen in Westminster House, a nursing home in St Mary’s, a hostel on the upper floors in St Stephen’s (No. 21) and offices on the ground floor in St. Stephen’s.
Invitation to Ireland
In 1966, Archbishop McQuaid of Dublin invited the Sons of Divine Providence to work in his diocese
In May 1967, John Perrotta and Diego Lorenzi were ordained in Liverpool Cathedral.
Malcolm Dyer – First English Postulent
In 1967 Malcolm Dyer from Kingston upon Thames went to Upholland as a postulant and so became the first Englishman to join the Sons of Divine Providence. He made his first profession on the 18th of February 1969.
In 1968, ten acres of land were acquired in East Molesey for the purpose of building a complex to provide accommodation and employment for people with learning disabilities.