Hostel of the Resurrection

I was greatly interested in Professor Hulse’s article (Poverty: The Scourge of Humanity) in issue number 434 of CR: Quarterly Review and enjoyed reading of his early days in the north-west of England . It prompted further reflection on my own background and the major and influential part which the Community of the Resurrection played in it.

My birth place was Liverpool in 1940, the seventh child in an impoverished family with roots in Irish Catholicism and Orange Lodge Protestantism but without any religious upbringing whatsoever. Our family numbered nine children: one girl and eight boys (though two of the boys died, decades apart, in infancy). The home environment was one of desperate poverty, unemployment, violence and drunkenness. Frequently, as children, we were thrown out of the house by a drunken father after a family fight and made to roam the streets until he fell asleep. Often it was my job (I was small and thin) to break into our home so that we could tiptoe up the stairs and into bed. Along with many Liverpudlian kids in the early 1950s I was sent to a camp in North Wales for the summer in a bid to provide us with clean beds, wholesome food and fresh air.

I was the only one from the family (and indeed the immediate neighbourhood) to pass the 11+ scholarship and found myself at a Secondary Technical School – disastrous for me, as I was not the least bit handy with wood, metal or technical drawing, which formed the bulk of each school day. However, I did manage to leave school at 16 with two GCE ‘O’ levels, whereupon I plunged into a dead-end job as a junior clerk with British Railways. A year or two before I left school I had started attending the local Anglican parish church (St Dunstan, Edge Hill) where I met my future wife at its Sunday evening youth club (after we had been to a full choral Evensong, of course!). It was from there that my life changed. I was taken to Mirfield by a young Curate who persuaded me to have a talk with one of the fathers about a possible vocation to the priesthood. Soon after that introduction to CR I became a member of the Fraternity of the Resurrection, which has provided the bedrock of my spiritual life ever since. One of my frequent weekend visits found me out for a talk and walk through the grounds with Fr Donald Patey. I wonder how many vocations started thus? He pointed me firmly in the direction of the Hostel of the Resurrection in Leeds where, I was assured, I would be looked after. So it proved. In early 1961, at the age of 20, I presented myself to Fr Hilary Beasley for interviews. He said there was a place for me immediately and I should return at the beginning of the next term, when a course of study would be mapped out for me. The congregation at my home church, poor in this world’s goods but infinitely rich in things that really matter, had a whip-round to buy me some decent clothes. For the first time in my life I had a dressing- gown, slippers and a warm jacket!

It would be impossible for me to thank or praise the Community enough for turning my life round. For the first few years I had no grants or income of any kind and they never asked for a penny. In fact, they gave me (and lads like me, who were known as QCs – Qualifying Candidates) pocket money. It was dispensed, with characteristic gloom, by Brother Giles. Hilary, knowing my circumstances, always made sure that when I went home for the holidays. I took a few pounds with me to give to my Mother towards my keep. Truly wonderful Christian charity.

At the Hostel we lived under quite a challenging Rule of Life. It was gloriously and unashamedly Anglo-Catholic. When the Angelus rang each day, everything stopped and went silent; most of the ordinands had one of the brethren as a confessor; there was an annual retreat and a quiet day; rosaries often clinked in chapel. We were expected to be at Evensong every day – sung to simple plainsong, the student body itself providing an organist and precentor. If we missed the evening office, we went along to Compline. There was a daily Mass before breakfast and we were expected to attend on at least three weekdays. Sundays and Holy Days were marked by a full Sung Mass. The Warden would give an address to the students in chapel on a Saturday morning; afterwards he would sit in his office whilst a queue formed outside – students who had broken any part of the Rule apologised and their apologies were always gracefully accepted. The remainder of Saturday morning would be taken up by everybody – brethren included – taking their share of cleaning duties. There were times of enormous fun, too – after all, as I said, it was gloriously Anglo-Catholic! We put on a full play, usually a farce, each year, for the College on Collop Monday – the day before Shrove Tuesday. As there were no females about, my role was often as a young lady (I was still small and thin). College students responded by entertaining us with a similar play and a rugby match round about the anniversary of the foundation of the College, St Simon and St Jude’s day.

Most of the teaching to ‘O’ level and ‘A’ level GCEs was undertaken by the brethren who lived in the Hostel. I was blessed in having a young Daniel Pearce CR to teach me and to kindle an interest in Religious Studies and English Literature. Keble Prosser, Roland Langdon-Davies, Eric Simmons and Edward Symonds, Maurice Bradshaw and others contributed to the teaching in one way or another. What they could not manage was dealt with by correspondence course and occasionally by teachers living in the Leeds area. Thanks to all this, I scraped together sufficient qualifications to gain access to a degree course in Leeds University - English and Theology (bless Daniel Pearce!) and a miraculous BA at the end of it. For me, two years at CoR and ordination followed.

An undoubted highlight for many of us at HoR was the annual migration to the College of the Resurrection at Mirfield at the end of the summer term. Once exams were over and the College students safely out of the way, we took up residence in CoR and prepared for Commem Day, which was always held in July. We provided servers for the daily Mass – those were the days when it was the norm for priest members of CR to say Mass every day. We lounged about on the lawns if it was sunny enough, played vicious games of croquet and were heartily fed by Doris’s lovely Yorkshire cooking, went to the pub down the road (the College’s strict rules against drinking in the Airedale Heifer did not apply to us) and rehearsed for the Quarry Play. Come Commemoration Day there was High Mass, an afternoon service, the Quarry Play and Solemn Evensong for the gathered throngs and the following day we all went home, to leave the Community in peace for their Chapter and Retreat.

The Hostel closed, with little fuss, its work done, in the early 1970s. The building was sold to the University of Leeds and has since, I understand, been sold again. There are generations of priests and others whose spiritual foundations were made firm at the Hostel of the Resurrection and there is so much for which to be thankful – not least for the amazing generosity of the Community of the Resurrection which enabled so many young men, often from poor backgrounds, to prepare for the priesthood in such an idyllic environment. It is to be devoutly hoped that CR, once it has settled into its spanking new (and costly) monastery and church, does not lose sight of its vision of commitment to the poor.

Canon Sydney Connolly

Hostel of the Resurrection 1961-66

College of the Resurrection 1966-68

Companion of the Community of the Resurrection