Today’s news from Rome about the recognition of a second miracle attributed to the prayers of Blessed John Henry Newman was greeted with delight in south Oxfordshire in the two linked schools which he founded. The pupils of The Oratory School and The Oratory Preparatory School are celebrating the fact that they will soon be able to say that they attend the only English schools founded by a post-Reformation saint and the first English saint to be canonised in many decades.
“Newman was not only one of the greatest nineteenth century theologians; he was an educationalist ahead of his time,” said Mr Joe Smith, Head Master at the senior school. “His rich educational legacy lives on in the Oxfordshire countryside.” Founded in Birmingham next to Newman’s Oratory church in 1859, the school moved in the 1920s and was reorganised into senior and prep schools which, between them, now educate 700 children from 2 to 18.
“Newman’s global significance and influence is enormous” said Mr Rob Stewart, Headmaster of the Oratory Prep School. “Newman’s canonisation will be the greatest day in the schools’ history since the foundation” he added.
Newman spent half of his life as an Anglican and had an abiding influence on the Church of England. His study of the early Church fathers led him to the Roman Catholic Church in 1845. His conversion was one of the decisive moments of Victorian religious history. As a Catholic priest, and later Cardinal, Newman’s pastoral work took him to industrial Birmingham.
However, he never lost his dedication to the formation of young minds and souls which had been a priority as an Oxford don. He not only founded the school and managed its affairs but from time to time served as its bursar and even its violin teacher.
The Oratory schools are very proud of the direct link with their founder. Newman’s motto Heart speaks unto heart is used by both schools. Statues of Newman already greet visitors as they enter the sweeping grounds but plans are in place to dedicate new shrines in the schools’ chapels. Mr Stewart commented, “The singing of Newman’s famous hymns can be simply deafening.”