Alumni of The Venerable English College, Rome, celebrate Mass in Exeter College, Oxford, on Martyrs’ Day
Alumni of the Venerable English College in Rome gathered in the historic setting of Exeter College, Oxford, for a Mass to commemorate the 44 students of the English College martyred in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Principal Celebrant, Canon Mervyn Tower, and twelve priests concelebrated the Mass, believed to be the first Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in Exeter College Chapel since the Reformation (Click for Martyrs Mass text and music).
In his sermon, Fr Mervyn focused on the first of these martyrs, St Ralph Sherwin, the Protomartyr, who had studied at Exeter College between 1571 and 1574, before converting to Roman Catholicism.
Ralph Sherwin was ordained in 1577 after his studies in the English College, Douai, before undertaking further studies at the Venerable English College in Rome. In 1580, he and thirteen other young priests left Rome for England as missionaries; later that year he was arrested while preaching in the house of Nicholas Roscarrock in London. Following torture and imprisonment, he was convicted of treasonable conspiracy and on 1 December 1581 he was hanged, drawn and quartered for his commitment to his faith. Ralph Sherwin was one of 44 former students of the College who were martyred for their faith. He was canonised in October 1970 by Pope Paul VI as one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales.
After the Mass, the alumni gathered around Fr Mervyn on the steps of the altar of Exeter College.