One of Britain’s most successful Catholic university chaplaincies is on the brink of collapse. The chaplaincy at the University of Kent in Canterbury has been run for 22 years by Fr Peter Geldard, during which it has received more than 130 converts, confirmed many more in the faith and produced numerous vocations. However, when Fr Geldard retires later this year, it could in effect cease to exist.
Fr Geldard and his former students lay the blame squarely at the door of the Archdiocese of Southwark.
Former students talk highly of the chaplaincy. As well as providing the usual social activities, it organised regular pilgrimages and had more than 200 students attending Mass each week. It gave Catholics a home in an otherwise ultra-secular institution.
“The University of Kent Catholic Society is easily the most vibrant Catholic society I have ever seen,” says Patrick Cusworth, a former student. “It attracted hundreds of new students, including those who had never thought about becoming Catholic, every year.
“I consider the continued practice of my faith a direct result of the time spent regularly attending the University Catholic Society, hearing the various speakers, and talking, challenging, and occasionally being challenged by, Fr Peter Geldard.”
Gill Ryder, another former student, was attracted to Catholicism thanks to the chaplaincy. “I remember going to the freshers’ Christian event and, although I was a Baptist, as I looked at the stands I could see God clearly working in the CathSoc one. I cannot put into words how much spiritually, emotionally and mentally CathSoc was there for us.”
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