Part 3 - The Proposal

 

Cardinal Vaughan

Disappointed and frustrated, Vaughan endured some months of indecision before resolving to devote his life to foreign missionary work. He envisioned a great college that would send out missionaries worldwide. Vaughan went with some trepidation to put his proposal to his superior, Cardinal Wiseman. In the summer of 1861, while on a visit to the Isle of Wight with Cardinal Wiseman, Vaughan finally voiced the question that had long been in his mind – Did the Cardinal feel any need to do something for the foreign missions? To his surprise the Cardinal warmly supported the proposal. It was an answer to a long-cherished hope.  Wiseman confided in Vaughan that, at the outset of his life as a bishop, he had been counseled by Vincent Palloti (now a canonized saint) that he would never know spiritual peace he was seeking until he had established a college for the foreign missions in England.  Thus encouraged, Vaughan left for home and for days prayed at the tomb of his mother, asking her guidance on how he was to begin.  An answer came to him with the force of a revelation: “Begin very humbly and very quietly”.

Support and Encouragement

At Easter in 1862 Vaughan took the step of submitting to Manning, his Oblate superior, a written proposal for the establishment of a seminary for the foreign missions, a proposal that Manning agreed to implement as soon as possible, only to see it rejected by a chapter of the Oblates.   Soon after, Vaughan’s uncertain health took him to Spain where, at Seville, he sought spiritual direction and received encouragement from the Jesuit Joaquim Medina.  Later, on retreat at Puerto de Santa Maria near Cadiz, he was advised by Victorio Medrano SJ to resubmit his plan to Manning.  It was at this point that Vaughan made his personal resolution to do everything that was humanly possible to found a college for the training of missionaries.  Manning’s first  response, an order that Vaughan should devote himself exclusively to this work as an Oratorian, was followed quickly by a directive that he should instead make every effort to collect the funds that would be needed to even begin such a venture, and that, having begun, he should be devoted to it.

On the advice of the Farm Street Jesuits, Vaughan now approached Cardinal Wiseman asking that his plan should be presented for approval to the English hierarchy.  At Wiseman’s invitation the young priest himself addressed the bishops at Oscott in July 1863.   Even if they offered no material support, all except the Bishop of Liverpool, gave their blessing.  Once more at the invitation of Wiseman, Vaughan presented his project to the assembly of continental Catholics at the Congress of Malines which passed a resolution offering moral support.

A Beggar for Christ

An enthusiastic effort followed to acquire letters of introduction that would serve him on a fund-raising tour of the Americas, an undertaking to which the Oblates gave their assent.  Wiseman, who had spent the first few years of his life in Seville, supplied him with letters composed in Spanish, including introductions to the presidents of Bolivia, Guatemala and Venezuela.  Then it was on to Rome where the pioneer received the apostolic blessing from Pope Pius IX on 9 November.  The Prefect of Propaganda, Cardinal Barnabo, contributed a letter to church leaders introducing Vaughan as an Oblate of St. Charles, commissioned by his community and by Cardinal Wiseman to found a college that would train priests for the evangelisation of non-Christians in areas of the British Empire, and urging them to assist his efforts in fund-raising.  Thus equipped, Vaughan prepared to sail from Southampton on 17 December 1863.