Tees firms join forces on Spanish project for Catholic church

An historic Catholic college in the middle of Spain that trains English-speaking men for the priesthood has turned to four Teesside businesses to produce its new high-quality website and a series of short films.

The Royal English College of St Alban’s in the Spanish city of Valladolid has a rich history dating back to 1589 – times of the Spanish Armada and Gunpower Plot – when Catholicism was banned in England, leading to the church accepting an offer from the Catholic King of Spain to set up a training college in the city.

The college is now the propaedeutic – or foundation year – seminary for the formation of Catholic priests in England and Wales but also attracts men called to God from across the English-speaking world.

The college currently plays host to 17 prospective priests who are walking in the footsteps of saints and martyrs, as several of their early predecessors were hung, drawn and quartered for being priests when captured back in England and Wales.

The college’s rector, Canon Paul Farrer, spent 20 years as a Middlesbrough priest before moving back to Valladolid – having studied there for six years in his younger days – two years ago.

When Hull-born Canon Paul decided to update the college’s image and communications, he was determined to utilise the professional skills of businesses back in his adopted home of Teesside.

He turned to his friends, former Middlesbrough Football Club PR colleagues Michael McGeary and Dave Allan, to pull together a wide-ranging project fitting for a college that remains hugely important to the Catholic church.

Michael, who runs his own ghostwriting and PR business, and Tees Business co-editor Dave, who owns DNA PR & Publicity, talked to several Teesside businesses before appointing Yarm-based Happy Leaves to create the college’s new website, with Middlesbrough’s Ithica Films creating videos to feature on the site.

The videos feature stunning drone footage of the college’s beautiful chapel.

Michael and Dave managed the projects, while writing the content for the website, films and the college’s new Facebook, Twitter and Instagram social media accounts.

The website tells visitors of how Jesuit priest Father Robert Persons founded the Royal English College in Valladolid in 429 years with the support of Spain’s Catholic King, Philip II, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Twenty-seven of the men who had trained in Valladolid were captured and tried back in England and Wales for the “crime” of Catholic priesthood, and were subsequently martyred. Six of them have since been ordained as saints by the Catholic Church.

The college has an unbroken tradition for its key role in the formation of priests to this day.

Canon Paul said: “The need for a new college website was clear to me but I was unsure about the content and the direction we should take. I needed to work with people who understood the issues and who I could trust to give good advice.

“My years on Teesside meant that I have good friends there who are at the top of their game. What we have produced is absolutely fantastic. I was confident that the skillset existed on Teesside to make the necessary changes and I was right.

“It’s great that Teesside businesses have had the chance to play a part in the history of the college.”

Dave added: “Right from the start, Paul made it clear that we were only to consider Teesside businesses for the work as he wanted to give something back to an area he called home for such a large part of his life.

“It was a privilege to work on this unique project, the result of which means there is a special little piece of Teesside in the centre of Spain.”

Michael said: “Working on this project gave us a fascinating opportunity to learn about the college and its special place both in English history and the history of the Church.

“Writing about the brave men who studied in Valladolid and were later put to death for their faith, including several from our region, was a deeply moving experience.

“Although they lived 400 years ago, that timespan suddenly seemed to shorten as we immersed ourselves in these harrowing yet inspirational events. It was an honour to be able to help keep their stories alive.”

• Pictured above: Canon Paul Farrer, rector of the Royal English College of St Alban’s in Valladolid, with Dave Allan, Michael McGeary and Karl Ridley of Teesside companies DNA PR & Publicity, McGeary Media and Happy Leaves on the project for the Spanish seminary.

 

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