Philip Wrigley arrived at St Joseph's at Easter and he has recently been accepted by the Bishop to begin to train for the priesthood at Oscott Seminary. Here, he shares with us something of his journey so far...
I was born and raised in Carlisle with my brother Matthew. My family parish is St. Edmund’s, Carlisle. Canon Dewhurst was parish priest when I was a boy, and he asked me if I was interested in serving on the Altar. I was shown the ropes and started serving for many years before I moved to University. During my time at St. Edmund’s I helped with Benedictions and Funerals. One of my highlights was Altar serving with the late Bishop John Brewer on his parish visits. I remember one Sunday we were waiting in the sacristy just before Mass and he asked me if I ever considered joining the priesthood. Without thinking, I quickly answered “No”, shy that the Bishop was actually talking to me. This was the first seed being planted in my heart. Bishop Brewer smiled at me and said “Trust in the Lord, as you do not know what he has planned for you”. Bishop Brewer was correct in his statement, I didn’t think my life would turn around like this. I believe this seed has grown within me, and reminded me of my trust in Jesus.
In Newcastle I was finishing off my last year, of a three year H.N.D course at Northumbria University (Years 1 & 2 were in Carlisle), then I stayed an extra year, to top it up to a degree studying B.Sc. Applied Business Computing. I continued with my faith and started going to a nearby Catholic Church - St. Andrew’s parish. After I graduated from University I was offered a job at Dumfries Royal Infirmary as a Technical Support Officer. I met lots of good friends, especially Dr John Rutherford an Anaesthetics Consultant who taught martial arts in Aikido, so I started going for lessons with him and passed many examinations.
I moved to Lancashire Teaching Hospitals in Preston with a job promotion. My Grandparents and cousins lived around the area so I didn’t feel too far from home and this gave me the opportunity to visit them more regularly. I started going to English Martyrs church and enjoyed the whole atmosphere; the sermons from Fr. Singleton (who was P.P at the time) opened up the Gospel message, and explained it easier for me to understand. I was asked to join the church choir as there were a limited number of male singers, so I agreed and started singing with them on the following Sunday.
I started thinking more deeply about my life’s direction, praying to Jesus for His guidance and grace, trying to determine whether a vocation to the Priesthood was my calling. I felt a desire in my heart to start going to Mass more often, because I felt one Mass on Sunday’s wasn’t adequate. I started going to a few daily Masses and I restarted my Altar serving duties. I loved getting more involved and becoming an active member of the Parish – Chair of the Liturgy sub-committee group, Altar serving, Sacristan, Reader and Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. Taking Communion to a nursing home “Kenmure Lodge” every Sunday and seeing their faces light up was a real privilege.
I have been on three diocesan pilgrimages to Lourdes, and on my last trip I helped as a Brancardier. I met so many new friends on these pilgrimages, assisting the VIP’s either by pushing them in their wheelchairs, or spending time with them at their hotels. The schedule is busy and requires early starts when working on the rota, but it is very rewarding seeing everyone enjoying themselves.
After two unsuccessful attempts getting through the interview stages for the priesthood, I was looking into the Benedictines at Belmont Abbey, then I had news about a placement opportunity with the Lancaster Diocese, so I had to pray and decide which path to explore. My commitment has always been with the Diocese, so I accepted a ten month pastoral placement with the Lancaster Diocese, in order to develop my Human Formation. I was sent to the parish of “Christ the Good Shepherd” in Workington, with Canon Paul Swarbrick, Fr Paul Harrison and Sister Eleanor Gilligan. During my time in Workington, I have been visiting and working closely with three primary schools (St. Gregory’s, St. Mary’s, St. Patrick’s), and St. Joseph’s Catholic High School. Spending time with the children in the playground and classrooms was really enjoyable which I wasn’t expecting. Seeing the pupils on a weekly basis over seven months made me relate with them on a more personal level. My other activities were to help train the junior Altar servers, and becoming a Catechist for both the Confirmation and the First Holy Communion programs, visiting the sick and housebound and giving them Communion. I really enjoyed my time in Workington and it came as a surprise to be given a second placement opportunity to assist Fr Philip Conner at St. Joseph’s parish, Lancaster. Saying goodbye to everyone in Workington, especially the children was the hardest part of the placement. I arrived at St. Joseph’s Lancaster after Easter (2016), and I am currently enjoying my time here. I have been introduced to my new parishioners at the church and visiting the housebound. I had an interview on 5th May with Bishop Michael Campbell, including six people on his Advisory panel. I was told shortly afterwards that I was accepted for priestly formation and that I would be joining Oscott Seminary College in September. Until then I will be based at St. Joseph’s Parish, Lancaster gaining as much experience as I can. I am really looking forward to see what the future holds, and the vocational path Jesus has in store for me.