Venerable English College, Rome
Greetings, my name is Toby Duckworth (24), originally from the parish of St Anne’s, Streetly.
Although a cradle Catholic by birth, and nurtured in faith by a loving family and two Catholic schools, I perhaps didn’t really fully start to embrace my faith and what it means for life until I was about 17 years old. As sixth-form drew to an end, I realised that my original plans to study Chemistry at university were merely because everybody was off to university. After some discernment and a repeat pilgrimage to Lourdes, I committed to doing something rather different. For the next couple of years, I lived and worked as a youth minister in Alton, working in both of our residential retreat centres. Here I lived in a mixed community of young adults, all witnessing to our faith. I grew in love for the Lord, established rhythms of prayer and studied the likes of youth ministry, catechetics and pastoral theology all at the same time.
During these years it seemed more and more apparent that the Lord may have been slowly pulling me in the direction of the Priesthood. I wasn’t sure, and simply didn’t know if I could live the life. The following year I lived and worked in a parish in Wolverhampton, where whilst completing my first undergraduate degree in Theology, I also got involved in the full breadth of parish ministry; from visiting the sick in their homes, to catechesis in preparation for the sacraments and teaching the faith in the local Catholic schools. I had never been so joyful, so fulfilled and so encouraged by the prospect of accompanying people through the highs and lows of life.
The following year the Archbishop asked me to begin my studies at the Venerable English College in Rome. Two and half years later, I am so thankful for this time thus far. I spent two years learning about the history of philosophy and therefore about the world and its attitudes and about the desires of the human heart, whilst also learning more about myself and how I can become less of a barrier and more of a bridge for the Lord to work through. Now the focus of my study is theological, spending time understanding the Scriptures, what we know about Christ and the Church over time.
Being with people, in fact all things pastoral bring me great joy and I look forward to the day when I can call a parish home and I can say the priesthood is me - God willing!