Brazil

Part 8: The APF- Mill Hill

 

The administrative change came to a head in 1936.  This was the culmination of a set of problems which began to show themselves in 1928.  It was at this time that the APF (Association for the Propagation of the Faith) began to be active in England and Wales.  This organization had difficulty getting off the ground.  For control of English/Welsh financial support for the foreign missions had been effectively cornered by three organisations: the Mill Hill Missionaries, the Redemptorists and the Jesuits.  The APF found it difficult to gain  a foothold.  With the cooperation of all parties concerned, a compromise was reached in 1936.  This meant the amalgamation of the APF and the lay section of the St. Joseph’s Foreign Missionary Society.  Thus was formed a new Society, known as the APF-Mill Hill.  The Mill Hill Missionaries were to staff this organization.  They, the Jesuits and the Redemptorists would share a percentage of the financial contributions.  This event might have made little recognizable impact on the students’ daily lives.  It brought about, nevertheless, a fundamental change in the relationship of the college and the Society with the Church in England and Wales.

St. Joseph’s College during the Second World War

The Second World War brought the college a number of problems.  The Dutch students were no longer able to travel to London.   Most of the German-speaking students were drafted into the Wehrmacht.  The British and Irish students were left to rattle in a pod of a college that was far too big for them.  In November 1941, it was decided to evacuate the college to Lochwinnoch in Scotland.  The war ministry then requisitioned part of the buildings for the use of the civil service.  So, the college at Mill Mill was effectively closed for the duration of the war.

When the war in Europe ended, this did not mean the automatic reopening of the college.  It was to be sometime before ordinary travel in Europe was again possible.  It was also some time before the civil requisition of part of the buildings could be ended.  By 1945 it was possible for the British and Irish students to return from Lochwinnoch.  It would be another year before the Dutch and German-speaking students would be able to join them.  It looked at first as though they would have a repeat of their 1940’s experience.  They were too few to fill the building. The 1945 re-occupation was to be eased by the companionship of Scottish refugees.  The Archdiocese of Glasgow had decided that then was the time to perform overdue repairs to its old major seminary at Bearsden.  The St. Joseph’s misfortune was their opportunity.  For the duration of the repairs at Bearsden, the Glasgow seminary was transferred to Mill Hill.  The Scots had hoped that their stay among the Sassenachs would last but a few months.  As the Bearsden repairs neared completion, however, a terrible accident occurred.  A careless workman caused a fire that engulfed the whole building.  A new seminary had to be built for Glasgow at Cardoss.  This extended the Scots visit to one year.  When the Scots departed, students from the continent began to return.  The college returned to the even tenor of its old ways.

The Latin American Mission

In the 1960s, Pope John XXIII issued a challenge to missionary societies to become involved in South America.  In the 1970s, this led to Mill Hill Missionaries’ involvement in Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and Ecuador.  The general thrust of these South American missions was the provision of teams to respond to specific local problems.  Once these problems were under control, the Mill Hill teams withdrew and handed the missions over to local clergy.  At present, the Mill Hill Missionaries are active only in Brazil and Ecuador.

In the 1950s, tensions arose between the British government and Argentina.  As a result, the Mill Hill Missionaries were assigned responsibility for the Falkland Islands, St. Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic.  These are, generally speaking, holding missions without great prospects of expansion.

The M.I.L.

After Vatican II, Pope Paul VI’s request for cooperation and interdependence prompted some very grandiose plans that brought lots of excitement, but perhaps too quixotic to be implemented.  The initiatives that were to have some immediately tangible effect were those that were taken at local level.  One of these had surprising results and was the brainchild of Frs. Patrick Fitzgerald and James Cowan, the current rectors of St. Edward’s and St. Joseph’s respectively.  St. Edward’s was the missionary college that had been started at Totteridge in1958 by the Missionaries of Africa (otherwise known as the White Fathers).  These two priests realized in 1966 that, if the staffs of these two colleges could be combined, excellent economies could be made.  They managed to start the amalgamation of the two staffs in January 1967.

The other missionary societies active in the United Kingdom at the time recognized the good sense of this move.  In 1968, the Consolate Fathers, the Comboni Missionaries, the Divine Word Missionaries and the Society of African Missions joined.  The following year, the Spiritans also joined.  This grouping of missionaries became known as the M.I.L. (Missionary Institute of London).  In 1972, it became affiliated to the Catholic University of Louvain.  In 1995, it was affiliated to the University of Middlesex.

In the beginning St. Joseph’s and St. Edward’s provided the basic educational facilities.  The other missionary societies had to set up their own halls of residence.  While they were doing this, St. Joseph’s and St. Edward’s provided them a place to stay.  In 1977, Holcombe House came on the market.  The M.I.L. acquired the property and built up these the present M.I.L.  It acquired thus the status and independence which it now enjoys.

The establishment of the M.I.L. separated part of the training and placed it outside the direct control of the college.  This involved the academic courses and part of the pastoral training.  The college became directly responsible for spiritual and pastoral formation.

With the second cycle of training of many of these missionary societies being carried out elsewhere, it had become more and more difficult to keep the Missionary Institute going.  Plans are now being undertaken to close and to vacate the building by June 2007.