Foundation and Mission

  1. The Old Palace
  2. Foundation of the Catholic Chaplaincy
  3. The Catholic Chaplains
  4. The Second Vatican Council and After
  5. List of Chaplains

There was much discussion and paper reading, as well as missionary outreach. He founded the St Thomas More Housing Association to help overseas students, and instituted an annual working pilgrimage to Lourdes which still continues. The expanded activities and changed circumstances meant that the existing buildings were no longer adequate.

Over the years Fr Hollings had been astutely purchasing adjoining properties, and with the help of the City Council who were planning to redevelop the area behind the Chaplaincy, a large plot of land was pieced together. The Newman Trust, the owners of the Chaplaincy, commissioned the architects, Ahrends, Burton and Koralek to design the new building. Their plans involved the destruction of the 'Nissen-hut' as well as the Newman Room and original Chapel put up by Mgr Knox. Fr Hollings oversaw the planning and beginnings of this new building, doing an enormous amount of fund-raising himself. He left Oxford in 1969 but returned for the opening of the new premises in 1972 that were the result of his energy and vision.

The New Building has its critics, who claim it is soulless. Certainly many of the architectural features of the time, such as in-situ cast concrete, brown carpet and exposed brickwork, might seem rather dated. However, money during construction was extremely tight, and the building has many good facets, with more than adequate public spaces and rooms for students. The use of the Newman Room for public events, and rents from student rooms all contribute to the running costs of the Chaplaincy

Fr Michael's financial acumen, as well as a recent appeal, has helped the Chaplaincy to continue to function in very different circumstances. No longer does the Chaplain have to be a man of independent means. The Chaplaincy does not receive any funding from the Bishops and relies entirely on its own sources of income. A constant eye has to be kept to ensure the continuing financial well-being of the Chaplaincy. Fr Hollings brought down from Harrogate, to act as Administrator, Frank Ashby, a larger than life figure, who with his wife, Mary, was a regular fixture of the Chaplaincy community through the next 30 years. In the late 1980s, Mr Ashby was followed by Peter Vaughan-Fowler, who served here for six years and coordinated the Chaplaincy's centenary appeal. He in turn was succeeded firstly by Sydney Boag, and in 1997 by John Prangley.

Fr Roger Francis Crispian HollisFr Holling's 'modus operandi' continued relatively unchanged till the end of the 1980s. All the Chaplains of this period, Fr Crispian Hollis, Fr Walter Drumm, and Fr Roderick Strange continued with the policy of 'open house' to one and all. The Teresians continued their pastoral work with the undergraduates, while the Newman Society acted as the Catholic Society for junior members. Many former students speak very fondly of their time at the Chaplaincy, the kindness of the Chaplains, and the support the Fr Walter Gregory DrummChaplaincy gave them throughout their time at university. This can be explained by the dedication of those Chaplains during this period.

The English 'post-conciliar' consensus Fr Ian Turnbull Kerbegan to break up in the late 1970s, partly in response to changes in secular society with the election of the Conservative government in 1979, and to changes in religious sentiment, with the rediscovery of tradition, what might be called the 'Brideshead' factor. Students began to change, becoming more 'conservative' and 'traditional'. The Chaplains' response was to create, in the late 1980s, a University Catholic Society to counter-act the overt conservatism of the Newman Society.

Fr Charles Roderick StrangeThe 1990s has provided a greater challenge to the Chaplaincy. The Oratorian Fathers, in fulfilment of Cardinal Newman's dream, finally arrived at Oxford. This provided an immediate alternative focus for students, especially those living on the north side of the city. The more traditional liturgy and obvious church-like architecture are very attractive to many University members. The Chaplaincy is now working within a very different environment, since the numbers of junior members attending Mass has decreased. However, it still remains an essential focus for Catholic undergraduates and graduates, spiritually, intellectually and socially, as any reading of the termcard will show. How history will judge the work of recent and current Chaplains, only time will tell


The Second Vatican Council and After

Fr Michael Hollings presided over a period of profound change within Oxford University as more and more undergraduates arrived from State Schools. He welcomed them into an Oxford, not just of privilege but one in which they were exposed to the underprivileged. He made the Chaplaincy a bail hostel, and welcomed into the life of the Chaplaincy tramps, ex-prisoners, and residents of Cowley, alongside students and the wives and children of Dons