On 26 October, Cardinal Vincent celebrated a Mass at Our Lady Help of Christians in Kentish Town to conclude a week-long commemoration to mark the 150th anniversary of the parish, which included liturgies, parties and an exhibition recounting the history of the parish.
During Mass, a table with the parish registers and symbols of the sacraments was placed at the front of the church, bearing a visual reminder of the importance of sacramental life at the heart of the parish.
Cardinal Vincent began his homily by paying tribute to the parish’s history and continued, ‘As we celebrate, we are right not to simply look backwards but also also to look forward.’
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel reading about Jesus’ reply to the Pharisees’ attempt to disconcert him about the greatest commandment (Mt 22:34-40), Cardinal Vincent reminded all present that the words ‘”You must love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” come from the very heart of the Jewish faith.’
He explained that observant Jews teach these words to their children from a young age and pray them daily. Encouraging those present to take this as a model for cultivating a habit of praying as a family, he said, ‘We can learn much from that: to keep those words at the heart of our daily life. If we have that basic foundation in our daily life we will be ready for the next 150 years.’
Turning to the second part of the commandment, the Cardinal explained that Jesus’ command to love one’s neighbour is not sentimental, but practical advice. Echoing the words of Pope Francis in the Joy of the Gospel, he pointed to Mary as the star of evangelisation and our model too. ‘We are encouraged to bring forth the presence of Jesus to others through our own lives. Pope Francis said, “Mary is the one who turns a stable into a home.” That is our work too: turning what is rough and ready and hostile and harsh into something that is filled with love, gentleness and kindness.’
He went on to say, ‘Mary is the one who brings to us the riches and joy of life and helps us to celebrate. That too is part of the work of evangelisation: to show that there is joy in the Gospel.’
Turning to sorrow and pain, again he points to Mary as our role model: ‘She has stood at the foot of the Cross; she knows human suffering. She shares the pain that we experience. That too is an act of evangelisation, when we walk alongside someone helping them to bear that pain, gently relating it to the suffering of Christ and making it part of the offering of our lives to God.’
He thanked God ‘for the gifts of the past 150 years of this parish and we look forward and ask His blessing in these next 150 year, that this parish will be known for its missionary endeavour, its outreach to those in need and to be faithful disciples of Jesus after the fashion of Our Lady Help of Christians.’
The week-long celebration also saw a homecoming for some priests who once served in the parish. Fr Tom Forde and parishioners welcomed back Archbishop George Stack, Canon Pat Browne, Canon Stuart Wilson, as well as Fr Patrick Cormac from Tipperary.
You can find out more about the week-long celebrations here.
You can read about the history of Christianity in this part of North London and the more recent history of the parish on their website.