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Given by Bishop Nicholas Hudson on 4th December 2022 for the induction of Fr Moses Enehizena as parish priest of St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, Archway.

Did you know that Fr Moses is your 8th Parish Priest? And, by my reckoning, he’s the 41st priest to have served here in Archway! The induction of a new Parish Priest always marks the start of a new chapter in the life of a parish.

It’s a moment to take stock. And it’s doubly appropriate to do so in Advent; because Advent is all about taking stock of all that God has done for us.

The only reason we’re here is that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to be Our Saviour. He came that we might have life. And what life there is to celebrate here in Archway!

You go back such a long way – nearly a century, to 1928, when you started life in the tin church on Hatchard Road. Your future was unclear. The site was leased on just a yearly basis from British Rail. Of course, your first priests were Passionists. They’d been atop the hill at St Joseph’s since 1858. It was in 1928 that they sent you Frs Callistus, Cornelius and Kenneth to be your shepherds.

But it remained unclear a long while more whether Archway and Tollington Park should be one Parish. But Canon Groves made a decisive move in 1953/54 when he purchased the land we stand on, here at the junction of Holloway Road and St John’s Villas. Under his leadership, along with Fr Lyons, this became a Parish in 1964.

It fell to Canon Groves’ successor, Fr Thomas McNamara, to build a church on the land that had been acquired here. You can still see, on the outside wall, the foundation stone which was laid by one of my predecessors, Bishop Casey, Auxiliary Bishop of Westminster, in 1967. It took the parishioners fourteen years to pay the debt – a wonderful achievement really - thus allowing the church to be formally dedicated forty years ago, in 1981.

Fr Kevin McDevitt was the last diocesan priest, in a noble line of Westminster men. His retirement opened the way for the arrival of the Spiritans, for whose presence we are truly grateful. Fr Moses is already the third Spiritan priest to lead this Parish. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to Fr David for all he did for the Parish. And I think we were all very proud – though not surprised – when his predecessor, Fr Ugo was made Provincial.

This account of your Parish’s history would be incomplete if I didn’t also mention the wonderful presence of so many Sisters too: the Sisters of St John of God; the Sisters of Providence of Ruille-sur-Loire; the Marist Sisters; the Sisters of Mercy; the Sisters of Loreto. The very first ones arrived here in 1964; and, right up to the present, they have been an essential part of the Parish’s mission.

There is so much to be grateful for! On this day, we should turn especially to your patron, St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows; and ask him to come alongside us in prayer for the Parish. St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was, of course, a Passionist himself; and wonderfully brave. I always think the choice of his patronage was an inspired way to help us never forget that your roots are up the hill – and that we must always include the Passionists in our giving thanks to God for all the graces received in this Parish they began.

Let’s do that right now. Let’s close our eyes and give heartfelt thanks to God for this wonderful Parish; and ask God’s blessing particularly on Fr Moses whom we shall shortly induct. As we do so, let’s hold in our hearts just one image – the image of fire: not just any fire but the fire of God’s Holy Spirit.

Because John tells us Jesus will baptise not simply with water but with the Holy Spirit - and fire. So it is that we are called to be fire.  Jesus came, he said, “to bring fire to the earth”; “How I wish it were burning already” he added. Pray, dear Parishioners, that, with your new parish Priest, you too will bring fire to the earth in Archway; that people will see in you and in this church a beacon of excellence; and seek to meet Jesus here in you and in this, your home.

Header: Jennifer Pamboe