As we celebrate 400 years of Priestly Formation at the Scots College this week, we consider, especially, the role of benefactors in our history. Vice-Rector of the College, Fr. Gerald Sharkey reflects on what has come of the gifts the college has received from benefactors across the centuries.
The Scots College, Rome founded and endowed in 1600 by Pope Clement VIII, has its current funding and upkeep from the Bishops of Scotland who pay fees to send their seminarians to the College. In this way we are dependent on the generosity of the Catholics of Scotland who support the collection for ecclesiastical students, i.e. student priests. The staff and students of the College will always be mindful of this. However, the College has also been fortunate throughout its long history to have had some particularly generous benefactors who have assisted with donations large and small. Some assisted with building projects – the Dowager Duchess of Huntly in 1644 gave a major sum to the College for the national church of the Scots in Rome, Sant’Andrea degli Scozzesi, which was the College chapel. The mid-19th century was a time expansion of the college: Miss Plummer gave money to purchase houses adjacent to the College so that it could increase in size. In the early 20th century others supported the major refurbishment of the old College on the Via delle Quattro Fontane and the former college Villa at Marino. Others left legacies in their wills – including, among others, former students and staff members. Dr. Grant (former rector of the College), Archbishop Smith of Edinburgh and Mgr. Fabi-Altini of Rome all left large bequests of often rare and precious books for the College library.
In more recent times, when the college moved from its historic city centre location to its current location on the Via Cassia, the new building was provided with altars, vestments, church furnishings and many works of art – including our stained glass windows, mosaics, sculptures and frescoes – through the generosity of many individuals, parishes and schools, who wished this little part of Scotland in Rome to be a truly inspirational and uplifting place, both for our students and our many guests. All these donors are recorded in the guide book to the College.
More recently again, the College’s library was refurbished and provided with better heating and air-conditioning in 2005 thanks to a wonderful gift from Sir Tom Farmer. When in 2013 the theatre area was reorganised and refurbished to create the Henry Benedict Room with modern audio-visual equipment, a number of donations were used to pay for this important and useful work. However, these are only some of the more visible benefactions: we have also been blessed through the kindness of parish groups and individuals visiting us, leaving a parting gift to support the daily work of the College. Many associations including the Scots College Society and the Union of Catholic Mothers also regularly send donations to provide a little more comfort for the seminarians in the midst of their studies.
Without the generosity of so many good people, the College would not be the place that it is. All deceased benefactors are remembered each Wednesday at the College community Mass which is offered for them. At the end of lunch each day, the College community prays in these words: “Please reward, O Lord, those who are good to us for your sake.” Whether their gift was large or small, we remember and thank God for all who have supported and continue to support the work of the Scots College.