A new book just published, (April 2004) charts the 90 year history of Campion House, the Jesuit-run pre-seminary college in Osterley, west London. The Story of Campion House is written by Ann Smith, who, along with her husband Jim, taught English for many years at the college. The 200 page book includes over 40 photographs as well as a number of cartoons of former staff. Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue, a former student, has provided an introduction.
Opened originally by the Jesuits as a retreat house in 1911, it found its true role when many young men came forward for the priesthood after witnessing the horrors of the battlefields during World War One. Under the direction of Fr Edmund Lester (1915-1934) and Fr Clem Tigar (1935-1966) the college established a reputation as a place of rigourous learning, discipline, spartan conditions and a tremendous community spirit. And Stella Maris, the monthly college newsletter, became a popular publication amongst those serving in the armed forces. Following World War Two, there was another major surge in priestly vocations. In the early 1960s, with the annual number of students passing 160, a new building was added.
In the 1970s, the college provided a home for Vietnamese refugees. Latterly, it has opened its doors to refugees from Eritrea and Kosovo. However, with the steady decline in vocations to the priesthood, the college has been utilised more as a retreat centre in recent years. Last year, the Jesuits announced that Campion House will no longer function as a pre-seminary after this academic year. It currently has only two students.
The Story of Campion House by Ann Smith is published by James House and available in paperback, priced £11, and hardback, priced £16. This story was first posted on ICN - LONDON - 3 May 2004 - 306 words