Meet the Formators

Allen Hall is served by a formation team responsible for the formation of the men from all over the word to serve the Church in England & Wales. This team help the men discern their vocation to the priesthood and support them throughout their years of study.

Canon John O’Leary, Rector

Email: ahrector@rcdow.org.uk
Tel: 0207 349 5627

Born in 1967 of an English mother and Irish father, I am the youngest of six children. The Most Sacred Heart, Ruislip is my home parish. There I was baptised, made my first confession, received Holy Communion for the first time, confirmed and, in 1992, ordained priest by Cardinal Hume. Formation for priesthood took place at Allen Hall and the Venerable English College, Rome. I left Rome with a licentiate in philosophy from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Appointments include: assistant priest at Brook Green and Tottenham; assistant chaplain to the universities of London; parish priest of Shepherd’s Bush, Kingsland and Tollington Park; Private Secretary to Cardinal Nichols. Whilst residing at Lincoln’s Inn Parish, I obtained a doctorate from Heythrop College in 2009. From 1999 to 2006 I taught philosophy at Allen Hall as an external lecturer. I became Vice-Rector and Dean of Studies here in 2019, then in 2021, Rector. I still teach philosophy, as well as creation and eschatology at St Mary’s University. I am a West Ham fan. I know the importance, then, of our motto: Vivamus in Spe.

Fr Javier Ruiz-Ortiz, Vice Rector & Dean of Studies

Tel: 0207 349 5608

Born in Puente-Genil, half way between Malaga and Cordoba in southern Spain, I was ordained for the diocese of Westminster in 2004. I earned a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute and a Doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Gregorian University, Rome. I have served different parishes in London: Hillingdon, Kensington, Fulham and Bow.


Fr Antonio Ritaccio, Pastoral Formator

Tel: 0207 349 5617

Born in Bedford to Italian parents, I’m the youngest of five siblings. Aspiring to be an artist and teacher, an encounter with the Lord at 16 led me to consider priesthood. At 19, I met the Neocatechumenal Way and was greatly encouraged to respond to the vocational call, leaving behind a Ceramics degree. I found myself among the first four seminarians to open the Westminster Redemptoris Mater House of Formation in 1991, becoming its first ordained priest in 1999. My training has spanned the Philippines and South Africa. Before becoming the Director of Pastoral Formation, I served for 12 years at the Five Precious Wounds Church, Stonebridge. I began at St. Joseph’s, Bishop’s Stortford, then Westminster Cathedral, followed by Diocesan Youth Chaplaincy, overseeing Corpus Christi, Covent Garden. I spent three years amazing years as the parish priest of the Island of Nevis in the Caribbean. Inspired by St. John Paul II, my heart lies with the New Evangelisation, treasuring the daily grace of priesthood.

Fr Anthony Doe, Spiritual Director

Tel: 0207 349 5600

I am a priest of the Archdiocese of Westminster and I was born in Twickenham and grew up in Ruislip, in West London. I received a BA  in Classical History at University College, London University, after leaving the Cardinal Vaughan School and then spent three years in the L’Arche Communities in Barfreston Kent and in Ottawa in Canada as an assistant. I then went on to the Venerable English College in Rome to study for the priesthood completing the six year course in Philosophy and Theology with a Licentiate at the Gregorian University in Spiritual Theology. After spending four years in a parish as a curate I then went to the  West London Chaplaincy, London University, as a  chaplain and after six years working in student ministry I  was then asked by the Archbishop at the time, Cardinal Hume, to train as a psychotherapist. I attended the psychoanalytic course at The Association for Group and Individual Psychotherapy in London and qualified professionally as a therapist. I then engaged full time in therapeutic ministry, as well as spiritual direction, while living at the Carmelite Community in Notting Hill  in Londonn as resident chaplain. During that time I continued my studies and received an MA at Heythrop College in the Psychology of Religion following it up with a Doctorate, using the post Freudian theorist Donald Winnicott and St John of the Cross to examine the psychological and spiritual interaction taking place in the development of self identity. I maintained my therapeutic practice for seventeen years when I was then appointed to be the Spiritual Director at the Venerable English College in Rome where I ministered for five years. Having returned to London I have now been here at Allen Hall as Spiritual Director where I am now in my fourth year.  

Fr David Barrett, Human Formator

Tel: 0207 349 5600

I am a priest of the Diocese of Northampton and currently parish priest of Olney, Buckinghamshire.

I was born in Luton in 1968 of Irish parents and the youngest of six children. I was brought up in Luton too – quite a feat. I studied for the priesthood at the Venerable English College in Rome, completing a Licence in Dogmatic Theology. Bishop Leo McCartie ordained me priest in my home parish. I have served in a number of parishes – curate in Kettering and High Wycombe; parish priest of Brickhill in Bedford, Burnham and now Olney; and a year as priest-in-charge of Woburn Sands. Time as Bishop’s chaplain and chancellor also involved being vocations director.  A period at Douai Abbey involved training in counselling and psychotherapy, later helping with Human Formation at St John’s Seminary in Wonersh. Both at Wonersh and here at Allen Hall I have also been teaching Patristics. 

Fr John Hemer MHM

Tel: 0207 349 5618

I was born in Liverpool in 1957. I went to the minor seminary at Upholland, Lancashire from 1972 – 76 as a student for Liverpool Archdiocese, then in 1976 joined the Mill Hill Missionaries who sent me to do philosophy for three years at our seminary in Roosendaal, the Netherlands. In ’79 I moved in to our mother house at Mill Hill in north London and studied theology at the missionary institute next door. Graduated with STB MA. I was ordained June 18th 1983 at my home parish, St. John the evangelist I was priest number thirty-two from that Parish. After ordination I was sent to work in primary evangelisation in the diocese of Hyderabad, Pakistan. Then in 1987 went to Work in the diocese of Kisumu on Lake Victoria in Kenya. It was a huge rural parish, roughly 25,000 Catholics, 63 churches and chapels and for much of the time one priest – me, God help them! In 1990 I came home because of ill health and after a time recovering and then doing APF appeals they sent me to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome where after four years I gained a licentiate in Sacred Scripture (SSL). Then from August 1996-June 1997 I taught Scripture and Liturgy at Queen of apostles Philosophicum in Jinja, Uganda. After that from September 1997 -2007 I taught Scripture at the Missionary institute London.

I’ve also taught scripture to those preparing for the permanent diaconate both at Oscott and Wonersh seminaries, and to the seminarians at Oscott. Most of the time I’ve been back in England ( since 1997) I’ve been called on to give lectures in parishes, also to clergy in many dioceses, and have given innumerable retreats and days of recollection to all sorts of groups, both clergy and lay and I’m still quite busy with that to this day. In June 2023 I celebrated the 40th anniversary of my ordination. I could not imagine a happier life than this.

‘Be a preacher of the Gospel, a teacher of the Catholic faith, a faithful celebrant of the sacraments ‘as the Church hands them down’.’

CARDINAL VINCENT NICHOLS