Remembering Fr Michael Hollings

 People came from as far away as Europe and America to remember Fr Michael Hollings last Wednesday, the fourth anniversary of his death. St Mary of the Angels in Bayswater, was packed for the memorial Mass, concelebrated by his cousin Fr Jock Dalrymple, Fr Alexander Sherbrooke, Fr Neil Hannigan, Fr Edward Corbould, from Ampleforth and his successor, Fr Mark Langham. Afterwards there was a party to launch a book about his life: 'Press On' - published by McCrimmons. Among those attending was Fr Michael's brother Tony and his wife Jennifer, who had flown in from Alexandria, Virginia, with three of their four children, Paul, Crispin and Jean. Tony, a retired naval officer, bears a striking resemblance to his brother and was surrounded by old parishioners eager for some contact with the Hollings magic. The celebrations continued beyond midnight at a nearby restaurant. Tony Hollings said: "Although we lived on the other side of the world and he was so busy, Michael had a knack of keeping in touch with us all with brief messages and calls. He married us at Douai and baptized many many members of the family. It is good to be among his friends again." Priest, charismatic preacher, author, retreat-giver - Michael Hollings lived out the advice he gave in many of his books including: 'Living Priesthood' which is now set reading for seminarians. He transformed his 'fortress presbytery' into an open house. The doors of the church and parish house were open every day from 8.30am-8.30pm. In the room in which he lived slept and prayed, (which had a sign on the wall which read: 'Bless This Mess) he individually counseled thousands of people on their journey through life. One parishoner said: "There was always a noisy queue outside Fr Michael's door. But when you got to see him things felt quiet and he always gave you his undivided attention." Writing in the Evening Standard after his death in February 1997, AN Wilson wrote: "It is in human lives as that of Michael Hollings that the power of religion is revealed. Figures such as Michael Hollings or Mother Teresa have an electrifying appeal." St Mary of the Angels has continued Fr Michael's ministry caring for the poor and homeless each day. Fr Mark Langham said: "We are also trying to reach out to the elderly, refugees and young people in the area. This summer the parish is opening the Michael Hollings Centre - a drop-in for the local community, in the basement of an old school next door to the church,which has been empty since 1985. The upper floors are being converted into flats for the Notting Hill Housing Trust and a parish hall." If you would like more information about the project visit the website of Parish of St Mary of the Angels, through our Links pages.

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