A letter, sent on 2 March 1994, marked the beginnings of the Society of Catholic Priests. Its author was Fr Michael Hart and it was addressed to seven fellow priests, all members of the Society of the Holy Cross. It invited them to a meeting to consider the formation of a society for Anglo-Catholics who were in support of the ordination of women to the priesthood. That meeting took place seventeen days later in the Rectory of St Mary’s Newington.
After further prayer, discussion and theological reflection, a Rule of Life was born, based on traditional Catholic disciplines and devotions: the rhythm of the Office, the centrality of the Eucharistic, confidential pastoral care, mutual accountability.
Above all, the Society would be guided by two main aims: an inclusive priestly spirituality and Catholic evangelism.
It was agreed that members would be grouped in Chapters and meet bi-monthly. The structure of these meetings would be a concelebrated Eucharist, lunch and input from a speaker or member.
The first meeting took place at Christ the King, Salford and on 15 September 1994 at St Dunstan’s, Bellingham twelve male and two female priests concelebrated the Eucharist and made their commitment to God and one another.
The Society of Catholic priests was born.
Within a year, the Society had organised a pilgrimage to Canterbury, where one thousand pilgrims joined us at the shrine of Our Lady of Canterbury. Within three years, a Diocesan group had grown to a national society of one hundred and fifty priests with annual conferences, pilgrimages and gatherings great and small. The Society now has a presence across Europe, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The founder members were:
Fr Chuck Blankenship R.I.P., first Treasurer
Fr Peter Edwards R.I.P., author SCP Prayer
Fr Geoffrey Owen, designed SCP logo
Fr. Christopher Davies
Fr. Nicholas Davis
Fr. Richard Wallace R.I.P.
Fr. Nigel Worn, first Secretary
Mthr Pat Vowles, first Vice-Rector General
Fr. Michael Hart, First Rector General