On Pentecost Sunday, Fr Carl Tranter MSC, Provincial of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, visited St Alban and St Stephen to announce the sad news that the Order would be withdrawing from the parish, following the retirement or death of a number of the MSC community in recent years. The following is an abridged version of his message.
With deep regret we have decided to hand the parish back to the pastoral care of the Diocese of Westminster later this year. Like many Religious Congregations in Europe, we are currently experiencing a period of rapid decline and diminishment in the Irish Province of the MSC. Sadly, the reality is that we simply do not have the personnel to provide continued ministry here in St Albans.
We began our service in St Albans 120 years ago, in 1899, at the initiative of our Founder, Fr Jules Chevalier, and it is our longest serving place of mission in England and Ireland. It has been a graced place to live and minister for successive generations of Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. It has been and is a wonderfully alive, passionate and committed parish and it has been a privilege to be part of the joys, struggle, growth and development of the Catholic community here for the last 120 years, a time which has seen enormous changes in our country and Church as well as in this city and the parish. Together as MSCs and parishioners many generations have lived and celebrated their faith here through the best of times and the worst of times, including two world wars, and despite challenges and failures along the way, I know we have all sought to be authentic and credible witnesses to Christ and his Church here in St Albans.
On this day of Pentecost especially, however, we are reminded that the Church is Christ’s, assured and animated by his Spirit. It is not the possession of any one of us. The parish of St Albans does not belong to the MSCs; we are simply missionaries, those who like the disciples have been sent by the Lord to serve. For us as MSCs our special missionary mandate is to give witness to a God who loves us with a human heart in the person of Jesus Christ. We have had the joy, honour and privilege of serving that mission here for 120 years. Now it is time for others to be sent and to continue that service.
I know there will be many among you who are saddened by this decision, as also there will be many MSCs. There will be ample occasion over the coming months to give thanks to God and to one another for the experience and memories of our shared Christian pilgrimage together over the last 120 years.
Thank you for the many ways in which you have welcomed, supported and worked with successive MSCs over the years, and thank you for continuing to work in close partnership with Frs TJ, Jimmy and Alan over the coming months as we prepare for September’s handover. May the Holy Spirit, who empowers us all to live fully and boldly our faith, continue to abide in and inspire the local Church here in St Albans now and in the years to come.
With effect from September, Fr Michael O’Boy has been appointed Parish Priest and Fr Julian Davies (to be ordained on 27th July) Assistant Priest.