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In the wings stood Fr Thomas Hall. A convert to Catholicism, he brought his training at art school, a considerable eloquence and a capacity to make influential friends with people like Philip Tilden, the architect of Shrigley Church, Lady Bovey-Tracey at Blaisdon and the Lomas family at Shrigley. All of this made him a welcome alternative to the previous Provincial. Fr Hall, during his 12 years in office, supervised a considerable programme of rebuilding in the Province, including the new school buildings at Bolton and Farnborough and the new hall at Chertsey, as well as opening an international centre for theological studies at Melchet Court, near Romsey.

This put a considerable strain on the Province's finances and necessitated his successor engaging in a major programme of seeking financial aid from friends and benefactors and summoning funds from the Irish houses.

In turn, this put strain on the traditionally difficult relationship between Irish and English Salesians and led ultimately to the separation of Ireland and South Africa from the English Province in 1969. Malta's position in the English part of the Province became increasingly anachronistic and they became a delegation of the Irish Province in 1980. South Africa became a separate Visitatoria in 1988.

At another level Fr Hall tried to rebuild the Province by promoting a programme of university education for the younger confreres, encouraging them to read for external degrees from London University via the infamous Wolsey Hall courses, usually while they were teaching and looking after dormitories. While this undoubtedly promoted the intellectual level of the Province and allowed the Salesians to operate two direct-grant grammar schools at Bolton and Battersea, it put extra pressure on the confreres themselves and tended to make them feel inferior to their lay colleagues on the staff who had attended university.

At the same time a small number of confreres were encouraged to study for higher degrees, mainly in theology and philosophy. There was sometimes a perception that these were privileged or favoured and therefore the others sometimes resented them. When, in the changes that followed Vatican II, many of them left the society, a certain suspicion of so-called intellectuals developed in some sections of the Province.

Last modified on Friday, 09 May 2014 09:54


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