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Oratory priest heeds the call of home city
Buy this photo » Fr Richard Duffield at the altar of St Philip in the Oratory
PRIESTS at one of Oxford’s largest churches have been entrusted with the care of another one – nearly 200 miles away.
The Bishop of Middlesbrough has invited the Fathers of the Oxford Oratory to take over St Wilfrid’s Church in York.
This means Fr Richard Duffield, one of the Catholic priests at the Oratory, will return to his old home in York after a connection with Oxford going back more than two decades.
Fr Richard, who will be leaving on October 28, said: “I am very much looking forward to it but I will miss Oxford terribly. “I wouldn’t have said yes to go anywhere other than York.”
The 49-year-old was born in the city and baptised at St Wilfrid’s – a church which is nearly 150 years old and opposite York Minster.
He studied at St Anne’s College in Oxford before joining the Birmingham Oratory and being transferred to Oxford in 1991. He was ordained as a priest two years later.
The Oratory Movement was founded by St Philip Neri in Rome in 1575.
An oratory is a community of Catholic priests and non-ordained brothers who live together in a community bound together by no formal vows. Each oratory is an independent, self-governing community.
Fr Richard said: “When I became a priest, which is 20-odd years ago now, I was drawn to life in a community. I didn’t want to live on my own.
He added; “More people are now being priests within the context of being in a community. It is probably easier to live the celibate life like that.
“I think the bishop sees that you get a great deal of diversity in an oratory. It is useful to have several different people who can undertake the different work there is to do.”
There are 70 oratories globally including in Oxford, Birmingham, London and Manchester.
The Oxford Oratory, which attracts 1,000 worshippers every Sunday, was established in the 1990s when it took over the church which had been founded by the Jesuits.
Initially Fr Richard, who has also served as parish priest of St Gregory and St Augustine’s in Woodstock Road, will go to York on his own, but he will eventually be followed by another priest from Oxford.
The church in Woodstock Road was originally founded as the Jesuit parish of central Oxford.
Completed in 1875, the building is Grade II-listed and has recently undergone a redevelopment project to expand and restore it.
In the 1980s the Jesuits left the church and the parish was taken over by the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
In 1990, the Archbishop invited members of the Birmingham Oratory to take over the running of the parish and found a new oratorian community in Oxford.
Two priests from Birmingham arrived in 1990 and three years later, the Oxford Oratory had become an independent congregation.
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