In 1970, the Mill Hill Missionaries commissioned a firm of London business consultants, McKinsey and Company, to make an efficiency study of the Society. As a result of this study, the government of the Society was remodeled into four main directorates. This was to gain more efficiency in promoting the work of the Society throughout the world. The McKinsey concept has been maintained though the definition of directorates has changed from time to time. The result of each refinement of this approach has been greater cohesion in the worldwide activities of the Society. The role of the College has changed to become the hub from which all these activities area facilitated.
The seminary role of St. Joseph’s College has changed considerably in the past thirty-five years. The College’s role is no longer restricted to being a pre-ordination training centre. In the post-Vatican II period, it has proved necessary to provide training and updating for missionaries who were ordained many years ago. This brings it to a whole complex of activities which come under the heading of Renewal. The processes and programmes of Renewal in the Society are also coordinated and facilitated from St. Joseph’s College.
Over the years, St. Joseph’s College has also opened its doors to lay people who were willing to become missionaries for a short time. After a period of training at St. Joseph’s, they become lay associates after signing a contract for a particular length of time.
Entering a New Phase
The 1980s saw a steady decline in the number of candidates for the missionary life from the West. The 1982 Chapter opened the door for the Society to recruit candidates from countries where Mill Hill Missionaries have worked. Formation centres were established in countries like India, Africa and the Philippines for the first cycle of formation and these candidates would proceed on to St. Joseph’s College for the second cycle. With no more candidates coming from the West and due to spiraling costs, it became more feasible and logical to continue with the second cycle elsewhere. It was decided therefore that the second cycle would be in Nairobi. A suitable location was discerned and the students started moving into rented properties consisting of two houses for the students and one for the staff at Otiende in August 2004. The formation of the students now would take place among the people they were going to work with. The last student from St. Joseph’s left in 2005. The students in India continue with the Second Cycle in the Regional Seminary at Hyderabad.
The Sale of St. Joseph’s College
From as early as 1997, the General Council had already begun the process of discerning the possible future of St. Joseph’s College. The Society engaged John Gould & Co. to carry out a valuation of the College. In May 2004, the General Council decided to embark on a different approach, coming up with an “enabling development” plan. The idea was that in and around the site of the farm buildings, permission would be sought to build houses and apartments which would pay for the refurbishment of the College, including some demolition and new buildings. Form early on it was clear that Barnet Council Planning Development and the Mill Hill preservation society were against the idea, as from their perception it infringed on the Green Belt. The Society’s plans were dismissed in a meeting of the Barnet Planning Committee. A more conciliatory approach was pursued with the appointment of a liaison person to act on the Society’s behalf. After many meetings with eight consultors and developers, three options were put forward: sell and vacate with an “overage” agreement, meaning that the Society would share some of the profits a developer might make, sell and stay with an “overage” agreement, allowing the society to hold on to a corner of the property and stay and develop, meaning that the Society would enter into a business arrangement with a developer to seek planning permission to either sell or lease the College to another institution or for apartments. Chapter 2005 would have to decide between these options.
With the departure of the last student from St. Joseph’s College and the centre of training moved to Nairobi, the inevitable had to happen. Considering the huge expense in maintaining an empty College, the 2005 Chapter made a clear decision to sell St. Joseph’s College. The decision to sell and vacate St. Joseph’s College was not only a pragmatic response to changing circumstances. Contained within it was the willingness to let go of an icon of the past. On Saturday 1 July 2006, at the official celebration marking the closure of the college, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor led a celebration of Mission: Past, Present and Future in the College Chapel with friends and well-wishers along with representatives of groups which were part of the history of St. Joseph’s College to give thanks for the tremendous impact the College had made through training and sending missionaries all over the world for the last 135 years. At the end of the celebration, the General Superior, Tony Chantry declared the college officially closed.
The task to vacate the college got underway as soon as it was decided that the college would be sold. This arduous task involved dispersal of sacred items and disposal of movables. New homes were sought for many of the items including the pipe organ and the side altars. The library books were distributed among the formation houses and the Archives were transferred to Freshfield.
On 29th November at the offices of Trowers and Hamlins (Lawyers) Tower Hill, London, St. Joseph’s Missionary Society exchanged contracts with Matterhorn Capital St. Joseph’s Two, associated with the Matterhorn group of development companies which has bought St. Joseph’s College with the expressed intention of converting it into a care home for the elderly.
0n 20 December 2006, the doors of St. Joseph’s College were closed for the last time to the Mill Hill Missionaries. However, this does not signal the end of her mission. With the headquarters now located at Maidenhead in a cluster of twelve houses, the Mill Hill Missionaries continue to carry out her mission.