Fr. Martin James Devenish
The birth of the London Province began to unfurl on 7th May 1903, through the mediation of the English Bishop of Southwark, Francis Bourne who was later to become Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. Whilst on his ‘ad limina’ visit to Rome, he had mulled about the possibility of a religious order to come and work in his large diocese of southwards, South London.
He was directed to visit the General of the Verona Fathers in Verona and his request was duly accepted fulfilling the Society’s desire to train personnel and send confreres to study English in view of their mission work in the British colonies of Africa. This remained a priority for many years to come.
Many communities were established In the forthcoming years in England, Scotland and Ireland. There was a constant flux of vocations through the Junior Seminary at Stillington, Yorkshire and later Mirfield, Yorkshire. Students then progressed to the Novitiate to study Philosophy, at Sunningdale, Berkshire, and then to Italy for Theology. In the late sixties, the Missionary Institute. Mill Hill, London, became the centre for theological studies with the attending scholastics housed at Elstree, Hertfordshire.
The London Province owes its development to the many confreres coming from Italy and also our own home-grown priests. Mission Appeal work has been the mainstay of our ministry and the means of fundraising and creating awareness of spreading the Gospel wherever we are present throughout the world. This has been helped with our quarterly mission magazine ‘COMBONI MISSION’ in getting friends and benefactors to pray and work on behalf of our missionary endeavours.
As noted earlier, until the ordination of Scottish, Irish and English confreres, the London Province was very dependent on personnel from Italy. As of now In 2017, we have gradually become a more Internationally-minded group with confreres from Mexico, Togo, Ethiopia. Eritrea and of course still some Irish, Scottish and English!
Currently. we have communities at Dawson Place, London, which offers hospitality to friends of our confreres and welcomes students of English. Also, the Provincial, Fr. Martin Devenish resides at Sunningdale where we also have a well established church (1938. We also have the newly adopted parish at Roehampton, South London. Moving northwards. we have a community at Leeds, Yorkshire, and community Scotland. In Dublin, Ireland, there Is also a community Which also welcomes students for studies at local institutes.
The ministry of the London Province centres around Mission Appeal works, editing our ‘Comboni Mission‘ and assisting mission offices keep in touch with friends and benefactors. Parish ministry and work with immigrants, coupled with Justice and Peace ministry form an essential part of our mission. At present, the London Province is composed of 21 members.
As a Province, we look ahead with hope and enthusiasm, inspired and founded on our great missionary, Jesus Christ and St Daniel Comboni!.