History

History: Father Charles Plater SJ and the Catholic Workers College

Fr.Plater and his faithful companion Jim

Charles Dominic Plater was born in London in 1875; he was educated at Stonyhurst College and entered the Jesuit novitiate at Roehampton in 1894, going on to read Greats at Oxford. Whilst still in seminary, he wrote on the situation of working-class men and the pursuit of social justice through education, a subject he would later pursue through “study circles” in the early 20th century and in his extensive work with the Catholic Social Guild. As a champion of social reform, his wit and compassion won him many allies, and his energy led him to tireless writing, speaking and organising in pursuit of a fairer world. When he died in 1921 aged just 45, he was hailed as “a man of very great gifts; a powerful organiser, a dominating speaker, a reliable moderator, a splendid priest.” Editors proclaimed that “in the field of social action his death is an irreparable loss. The Catholic Church in England has every reason to mourn over the grave of this remarkable priest, a pioneer in many movements and the writer of many books.”

Father Plater was honoured nine months after his death by the foundation of the Catholic Workers’ College, which subsequently became Plater College, Oxford. The college offered educational opportunities – with an emphasis on Catholic social teaching – to those who were in the working world or who had seen their studies interrupted; Plater College helped generations of Catholic lay adults to become active leaders in their communities.

The college closed in 2005, and a steering committee of education leaders recommended that the vision of Fr. Plater should be maintained by the creation of the Charles Plater Trust, supporting the twin goals of education and social justice through annual grants to worthy organisations throughout England and Wales.

Sources:
Chiles, Dennis; A Silken Thread: The History of Plater College; 1996.
The New Catholic Encyclopaedia; 1981.