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St Mary's Hampstead Celebrates Centenary

Cardinal Vincent Nichols presided at a special mass at St Mary's church in Hampstead on Sunday 11 September to mark the bicentenary of the Church's foundation.

 The church was filled to overflowing for the mass which formed the climax of a year of special events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the church on Holly Place, which was established in 1816 by Abbe Jean-Jaques Morel, a French priest forced into exile after the French Revolution.

Amongst those concelebrating on Sunday was Abbe Julien Palcoux, the current parish priest of Verneuil, the small town in northern France which was the birthplace of Abbe Morel and to which group of St Mary's parishioners had made a pilgrimage earlier in the year as part of the bicentenary programme.

Mgr Phelim Rowland, for whom 2016 also marks his 10th year as Parish Priest of St Mary's, said: 'Birthdays and anniversaries play an important part in peoples’ lives. Blessed and dedicated 200 years ago, St Mary’s is a very strong link with a Catholic community living and worshipping before the Catholic Emancipation act of 1829. It was built, of course, for French political migrants in what was a small village five miles from London. Its construction was inspired by Abbe Jean Morel, a French Priest who had to leave his home town of Verneuille in Normandy in that terrible period of the “reign of terror”. He would be well pleased that his little Chapel is now at the heart of a vibrant cosmopolitan Catholic community. We are so grateful for his courage, zeal and energy in building it.'

 Following Mass, a reception attended by the Cardinal was held at St Anthony's school in Hampstead.

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