Sponsor a parachuting priest! £5000 needed!

What is St Benedict’s Academy all about? We are a part-time academy based in Preston, Lancashire, looked after by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, and welcome children from age 5 to 18. In September, the academy will be entering into its third academic year, having started in January 2018.

The education provided at St. Benedict’s is all deeply rooted in the Catholic faith, as all subjects lead back to Our Lord. Whether in the study of History, with the Incarnation as its centre-piece, learning about and admiring the wonderful creation of God through the sciences, or in the study of the sacred language of the Church, Latin, through looking at the texts of the Mass, as well as passages from the Vulgate, Christ is always at the centre.

As priests, it is a great privilege to be able to teach the children, and to pass on the faith to them. The Sisters Adorers teach Catechism and French, as well as Gregorian Chant and Polyphony. It is wonderful to have religious around the school, as an example and inspiration to the children!

Every Friday, at 12 noon, there is a sung Mass at English Martyrs, at which some of the boys from St. Benedict’s serve, and the rest of the children sing the Kyriale of the Mass, as well some of the Ordinary, along with one or two polyphonic motets.

While the majority of the teachers at St. Benedict’s are volunteers, there are in fact many other essential costs needed to run the formation of the children, which include: heating of the building, electricity and water bills, textbooks, insurance and maintenance of the Academy.

As the academy is a charity, we never wish to turn a family away if they are not able to afford the fees and at present the majority of families do not pay fees. In order to keep the Academy running and to provide a strong catholic education to as many children as possible, we rely on the donations of generous benefactors.

As we read in our dearly-beloved Missal at Christmas time, “Thine almighty Word, O Lord, leaped down from heaven”. Priests must always imitate Christ in all things. Therefore, Canon Vianney Poucin, accompanied by Philip Russell (a trustee) and Kevin Russell-Young (a parent of three of the children) will also be leaping from the heavens (15000ft), but by means of an aeroplane and a parachute in order to raise funds for St Benedict’s!

The planned date is the 4th September in Lancaster

Will you help make Catholic Education great again? Will you sponsor them?
#If you feel able, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/parachuting-priest

Teaching Chant at St Benedict’s – an Interview

Sister, tell us where you are from and where you first met the Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus.

I am French and I discovered the Sisters thanks to the Canons who were accompanying a youth group of which I was a member.

And you made your vows in …

In 2010, on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel with 5 other Sisters

Wonderful! Did you ever imagine that you would end up in Northern England?

No, I admit that I would never have imagined that.

Have you fallen in love with Preston, or is that putting it a little too strongly?!

Yes, the Preston apostolate is really charming as are its faithful.

How do the Sisters see their mission here in Preston?

Consecrated to the Royal Heart of Our Lord, our primary vocation is to adore It. In second place, our apostolic vocation puts us close to the Canons by praying for them and helping them with their care of souls. This support is given above all by the chanting of the Mass and of the Divine Office.

So, your life is a union of the contemplative and the apostolic?

Yes indeed, our life has its foundation in the contemplation of, and the union with, God. The apostolate, always in obedience to the orders of the superior of the house, is like an ‘overflow’ of this union with God and this charity received in the life of prayer. This life with God finds its most beautiful expression in the accomplishment of His will. In fact, it’s only by our obedience that we are religious.

And you and another sister are involved in another new foundation – the Saint Benedict Academy – in the liturgical life and in the teaching. What subjects do the sisters teach at St Benedict’s?

We teach French, Gregorian chant and some Catechism lessons, (the Canons and the Abbés having the biggest responsibility).

Teaching Gregorian chant is a demanding task. As well as the technical and musical dimensions, it is always a prayer.

Yes, Gregorian chant is a prayer; it is the most beautiful expression of the prayer of the Church.

There are several different ‘schools’ of Gregorian chant. Which one do the Sisters Adorers follow?

Through the formation that we have received from our superiors, we follow the method of the abbey of Solesmes. Its most illustrious representatives are Dom Mocquereau and Dom Gajard who, in the 19th and 20th century, were the big theorists of this chant and who contributed to its restoration in the liturgy of the Church, on the request of some Popes.

What is it about the Solesmes Method of Gregorian chant which has made the Sisters Adorers adopt it? I mean, how does it help you in living your religious life?

This method, which is inspired by some ancient manuscripts and which brings out what is essential in Gregorian chant, is a prayer and a petition to God. We sing for God, we give our voices to the Holy Church and to the liturgy in order to glorify, adore and carry our petitions to God, our Father. It’s simultaneously an attitude of humility, of filial love and of profound joy that Gregorian chant gives to the soul.

And for the pupils of St Benedict’s, they’re being formed in this school of music and of prayer. This must be a wonderful formation for young hearts and minds.

Yes, we hope so. Our primary desire in the teaching of Gregorian chant, is that the children don’t stop at the technical aspect but that this chant supports their prayer and their spiritual life. Just from the human point of view, Gregorian chant is already a school of self-forgetfulness, of generosity and of attention to others. No egotism possible: to make only one voice, it’s necessary to listen continuously to each other.

Sister, thank you very much and thank you for all you are doing at Saint Benedict’s.

Soft, Strong and Astronomically Long

Pupils in years 3 and 4 are enjoying their astronomy course and have been amazed at what they have learnt about God’s wonderful creation. They have been learning all about the solar system; the sun, the planets, the asteroid belt, the international space station and more.

One of their activities has been to compare the distances of all the planets from the sun. Toilet paper, laid down one of English Martyrs’ corridors was perfect for representing the distances. The terrestrial planets all seemed ‘close’ to the sun – only 93 million miles for ours! – but the distances of Jovian planets were incredible. Neptune disappeared out of the corridor and into the hall.

Singing at Friday Mass (recordings)

The pupils and staff of Saint Benedict’s Academy are blessed with the opportunity to hear daily Mass said by one of the Canons of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

On Fridays, Mass is sung – what a beautiful end to a week of hard work! The Ordinary of the Mass (such as the Sanctus from Mass IV below) is prepared and sung by all the pupils under the direction of the Sisters Adorers of the Sacred Heart.

Additional motets are often sung at the offertory and communion, prepared by the senior choir and Mr Walton.

The Propers are usually sung by the Sisters Adorers or by the staff, but last Friday, the girls of the senior choir had the honour of singing the Propers with the Sisters for the first time. Congratulations, girls.

(Can’t see the videos above? Click here to find this and similar videos on our YouTube channel.)

A great job!

The decorators have been busy decorating our new classrooms, office, toilets and cloakroom – and have done a lovely job! Following plastering and the replacement of some of the woodwork they have been making the place fresh and bright. All the rooms are grade II listed and so the new woodwork has been made to the same design as the original. In fact, even the toilets are grade II listed.

The electricians finished some time ago, so now all that remains is to sort out the flooring, curtains, blinds and furniture.

We can’t wait to get using them.

Corpus Christi and St. Angela Merici

Our first week back after the half-term break was crowned with the beautiful feast of Corpus Christi. The St Benedict Academy choir was again privileged to sing at the Mass in the shrine of St Walburge. They sang Giueseppe Baini’s Panis Angelicus for three voices.

Each day, before lessons start, one of the Canons or Abbé lead pupils and staff in prayer and give some inspiring words for the day. Usually these are based around the season or the feast of the day. Today, Abbé spoke about St Angela Merici…

When St. Angela Merici founded the Company of St. Ursula, the initial idea was that these women would live a consecrated life, but without a distinctive habit and serving in the world, much like St. Angela herself lived as a Third Order Franciscan. They would go out to the poor and needy, and dedicate themselves to the work of education. St. Francis of Sales had very much the same initial concept for the sisters of the Visitation. Nevertheless, in both cases, the Church, in her prudence and wisdom, saw fit to nourish these apostolates with a cloistered life of prayer. Thus, both the Ursulines, after the death of St. Angela, and the Visitation Sisters became religious orders wearing habits, following the rule of St. Augustine and dedicated to all sorts of apostolic work, but with a strong focus on contemplative prayer. Our own Sister Adorers draw extensively from the vision of St. Francis of Sales and St. Jane of Chantal for the Visitation.

The Ursuline sisters are particularly devoted to the work of education. They formed dozens of generations of Catholics all over the world, providing them with not just a religious formation, but a comprehensive education. In our days, in which the need for Catholic education is most pressing, this same apostolic spirit of St. Angela and the Ursulines animates initiatives such as The St. Benedict Academy. Providing a solid and Catholic education, forming young men and women for all states of life and, particularly, instructing them in the Catholic faith and its defense against all sorts of error, is a crucial building block for the restoration of Christian culture.

May St. Angela Merici bless our endeavours with her intercession!

If you haven’t had chance to subscribe to our YouTube channel, please do. Our latest recording is of Giuseppe Baini’s Panis Angelicus for three voices.

Green fingers

Lessons come in all forms here at St Benedict’s. An afternoon of practical horticulture left us all with muddy-knees and rosy-cheeks, and has really brightened up our outdoor classroom. Pupils and teachers worked together, weeding, pruning, cutting grass, digging borders, eating chocolate (thank you, Sister!), and filling the brand-new composter to bursting.

The garden is used every day at break time when the weather is fine, and even for the occasional lesson. Everyone’s hard work has paid off. The garden looks positively springlike now, but how long will it last? Only thyme will tell. Good work, everyone!

From Brazil to Preston, a conversation with our Latin teacher.

Abbé Marcelo de Oliveira, you’re originally from Brazil. When did you leave your home country?

I left Brazil for the first time to move to Ann Arbor, Michigan (Go Blue!) in America, where I went to pursue my PhD.


So, your first degree was in Brazil and then you did your doctorate in Michigan. What was your area of research?

I majored in Biomedical Sciences in Brazil, and then I did a Masters in Pharmacology in the same department. My PhD was done in the department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Michigan, which is basically an umbrella department for all non-evolutionary biology labs. My research, in Dr. Mohammed Akaaboune’s lab, focused on the development and the plasticity of the neuromuscular junction, which is the contact between a nerve and a muscle cell that controls the contraction of the latter. This junction is studied due to its importance in neuromuscular diseases, as well as because it provides us with a better known and more easily accessible model to how neurons communicate in the brain.


Fascinating. When did you experience a call to the priesthood?

I began discerning the priesthood in July 2012, after a diocesan barbecue that hosted a talk by Fr. John Linden, director of vocations for my then diocese of Lansing. Some of the material he brought had some vocation stories of the priests in the diocese, including my very own pastor’s, who left his Biochemistry PhD to go to seminary.


A clear precedent! And so, you entered the seminary of the Institute of Christ the King in Italy.

Yes. I first met the canons of the Institute at their 2013 Sursum Corda event for young adults in Chicago. Their liturgy, particularly the Divine Office, and their dedication impressed me right away. In the following years, it became clear to me that the charisms of the Institute made it the ideal place for me to live my vocation: the Traditional Mass, the solemnity of the liturgy, the delightful spirituality of St. Francis of Sales…


And how did you end up in Preston?

Our seminarians are usually assigned for one or more years of apostolate as part of their priestly training. I was blessed with being chosen to come to Preston, a wonderful apostolate, with excellent priests and very kind faithful. Furthermore, I get to be involved with the St. Benedict Academy and to teach, which has long been one of my great passions.


What subjects are you teaching at The Saint Benedict Academy?

I teach Latin and French grammar, as well as catechism (moral theology) to seniors.


But no molecular biology!

If the Head Teacher will grant me the hours, I will gladly teach it as well…


Hang on; that’s a few languages: English, French, Latin, Portuguese of course. Are there any others?

I can manage Italian, though not as fluently. My Spanish withered away from lack of practice, but I can still easily read it.


What’s your method in learning and in teaching a language?

I have found that one of the greatest challenges of teaching a language in our day is that students are not familiar with the grammatical structure of their own native language. The result is that they speak it by memorizing patterns throughout the year, but never understanding what they do unconsciously. Learning another language like this is possible, but very fatiguing, especially when you are no longer a child. On the contrary, I was lucky to have received a very classical view of the grammar of my own native language (Portuguese). Therefore, when I learn a language, I start with the grammar; understanding how the language works. On the side, it is important to read it and listen to it as much as you can, even if in the beginning you might understand little of it. In teaching a language, I have followed the same line: grammar is crucial. It is not sufficient to memorize constructions: the student should know the general rule that explains why it is so and be able to apply it in all particular cases, and even extend it to other languages, when applicable.


You clearly like the intellectual discipline of the Latin. Why do you think it’s an important subject for children to learn? What type of formation can it give them?

The structure of grammar parallels the structure of thought. It’s unsurprising, then, that many young men and women have difficulty with reasoning – they do not know how to order it! In a lot of ways, our Latin program should serve to instil this structured understanding of all languages, including English, whose grammar we often painstakingly review in our Latin sessions. Nevertheless, this view of a language exclusively as a set of rules would appeal to only a very small minority of people, and rightly so. Therefore, we also make sure to examine this structure in context, with a wealth of Latin texts, in particular related to our living usage of Latin in the liturgy, as well as French. In addition to the enormous spiritual richness, Latin is also a key to a body of classical literature that is at the base of our civilization, of its history, politics, philosophy etc. One of the best ways to understand the modern world is to read classical and medieval authors.


It’s very interesting that you come from this intensely scientific background and now you are teaching Latin and moral theology, but clearly you see a continuity…

I do see a clear continuity. Prescriptive grammar, especially in a language like Latin, is almost mathematical in its way of proceeding. As I mentioned, its logic mirrors the natural order of reasoning, which is at the basis of all science, including Theology and the natural sciences. As for Theology, there could be an apparent discontinuity to those in today’s majority, who believe Theology to be a matter of opinion, and something completely foreign to the domain of science. On the contrary, as paragoned by our patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, Theology is a science, grounded in reasoning even when its premises are revealed, and its conclusions are more often than not of greater certainty than those of the natural sciences.


Abbé, thank you very much and thanks for all your hard work at the Academy!

Thank you.

Saint Benedict’s senior choir sing at the Easter Triduum

Saint Benedict’s is on holiday, but senior pupils from the Academy were singing at St Walburge’s for the Easter Triduum.

The Institute of Christ the King held all its Preston Easter liturgies in at St Walburge’s shrine this year. They were beautiful and very moving ceremonies.  The Sister Adorers chanted most of the Propers with the help of the St Walburge choir. Our senior pupils sang sacred motets during two of the ceremonies, from the choir loft.

It was a great privilege for pupils to be able to contribute to the liturgy and also a good opportunity to experience the amazing acoustics of the St Walburge’s choir loft. It was very encouraging to receive so much positive feedback from clergy and congregation.

Two important milestones.

Yesterday was the last day of our first term at The Saint Benedict Academy. There is much to be thankful for. Two especially important milestones have been; the granting of the title “Catholic” by the Rt Rev Michael Campbell and the granting of charitable status by the Charity Commission.

We are extremely grateful to the Rt Rev Michael Campbell for granting the title “Catholic” to our young Academy. Canon Law states that “…no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority” (CIC, can. 216). Bishop Campbell has been very encouraging to us in these initial stages of St Benedict’s and this is a real confirmation of his support.

The Charity Commission has registered St Benedict’s as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). This is the body that runs the Academy. In years past, gaining charitable status was fairly easy, these days it has become harder, with the Charity Commission being (rightly) more cautious. The CIO model is a relatively new entity, only having been around for the last 5 years in England. It is another important step for us and we are grateful to our trustees for all their hard work.

Celebrating the feast of St Benedict

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of our patron, Saint Benedict. The celebrations started with sung Mass in the little chapel where the day usually begins with prayers and a short talk from one of the Canons. Then it was tea and cake in the hall.

After tea, pupils were set to seek the ‘stolen rule of St Benedict’ by answering a wide range of questions – from historical, to religious, to mathematical. This led them on a quest that took them through the university, to St Warlburge’s shrine and back again to English Martyrs. The Canons, sisters and seminarians were all involved as characters from history. (The prize for best historical character was undecided – maybe Canon Tanner as Pope St Gregory?)

When the code was cracked and the treasure found, it was time for Benediction back in the chapel, followed by a feast day lunch in the hall. Thank you, St Benedict.