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Durham University

Centre for Catholic Studies

News

Rev Dr Michael awarded an honorary doctorate from Durham University

(22 January 2014)

In a ceremony at Durham Cathedral, Rev Dr Michael Sharratt, long time archivist and librarian at Ushaw College, was presented with an honorary Doctor of Letters by Durham University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Higgins. The award was preceded by a special conference in honour of Dr Sharratt entitled ‘The Treasures of Ushaw: Secular and Sacred’ held at the former seminary.

A distinguished Catholic historian, philosopher and theologian, Dr Sharratt was born in Northumberland and entered Ushaw College as a junior seminarian. He studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and won scholarships to study at the Universities of Munich and Oxford before returning to Ushaw College in 1967 as Lecturer in Philosophy. He has been resident at the college since that date.

Dr Sharratt had been nominated for the university award by Professor Paul Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology and Dean and Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies, and Jon Purcell, the University Librarian. Explaining why Rev Dr Sharratt had been given the award, Prof Murray said, “Dr Sharratt has made a significant scholarly contribution to UK Catholic intellectual life.” “Thanks to his sustained efforts over more than 35 years, these holdings have remained intact and available to scholars worldwide. They are now the focus of significant fresh possibilities for Durham University.

The conference in honour of Dr Sharratt was attended by more than 80 people and was opened by a Mass presided over by Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Séamus Cunningham. Held in Ushaw’s historic St Cuthbert’s Chapel, the homily was delivered by the Abbot of Downside, Aidan Bellenger OSB, and saw some of the college’s ecclesiastical treasures being used.

Speakers at the conference included the well-known historian, Cambridge University’s Prof Eamon Duffy. Special panels of contributors explored a range of topics including a panel on Ushaw’s library featured papers on the books that had survived from the pre-Reformation Durham Priory; the panel on the archives heard from Durham University’s Prof Bennet Zon on the importance of Ushaw’s music collections and Dr Jonathan Bush, who is cataloguing the Ushaw archives, explored the college’s vast collection of photographs. A further panel considered the more surprising items held at Ushaw, including some of the Protestant works, such as a book from Thomas Cranmer’s library; whilst a final panel, which included the involvement of Tessa Murdoch from the Victoria and Albert Museum, explored the college’s artworks, vestments and silver.

Ushaw College Trustees signed a Heads of Terms agreement with Durham University at the end of 2013 which could result in the former seminary becoming a new college of the university.

A copy of the oration is available for download here

A copy of Rev Dr Sharratt's presentation to the conference in honour of himself can be downloaded here. 

Dr Michael Sharrat (Centre)