London parish holds Day for Dads

27 Dads at Allen Hall with Fr Pat

27 Dads at Allen Hall with Fr Pat

A central London parish held their first-ever 'Day for Dads' recently. Twenty-seven fathers  from Holy Apostles, Pimlico, turned up for the event, organised by parish priest Father Pat Browne at Allen Hall Seminary. This was  far in excess of expectations, and went some way to nailing the myth that modern-day fathers - at least those in our parish - tend to take a back-seat role in the upbringing of their children.

The day-long discussion on 28 February, which began with a family Mass in the historic Chelsea seminary, had been kicking around on Father Pat’s to-do list for about three years. It was targeted at fathers whose children were still at school, or who would shortly start, and it managed to attract a balanced mixture of the two - all of whom were eager to swap experiences and glean information from other fathers about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of bringing up children in 21st century Britain within the Catholic faith in cosmopolitan London. No one was disappointed with the result.

Perhaps the first surprise was the range of nationalities that Holy Apostles currently caters for. Participants hailed from all over Britain, mainland Europe, North America, Latin American and Africa. Our little church in Pimlico, which one might be tempted to think exists in a parochial backwater, turns out to be a veritable United Nations, with attendees from all corners of the globe and from all walks of life.

The day’s discussion was set in motion by David Payne, a former drug addict and father of three, whose Pauline conversion brought him back from the brink, and helped him to redirect his not inconsiderable energies into more constructive outlets - not least the work he now does as Director of CaFE - Catholic Faith Exploration - which produces films for schools and parishes that seek to deliver a traditional Catholic message in
contemporary form.

For anyone who still has distant memories of the hell-fire and brimstone approach of the bible-thumping preachers of their youth, the day-long discussion personified how far the Catholic Church has moved in recent decades from being coercive to a participatory faith. DVDs by the American story-teller and teacher, Rob Bell, particularly the short film 'Lump', explaining through the eyes of a child how our past always catches up with us, were both powerful and eloquent, helping to highlight the often neglected spiritual dimension of individual life experiences.

As is invariably the case with such encounters, discussion was a first hesitant. It takes time to break the ice - even among people that you may have greeted or shaken hands with at Sunday Mass. But the ice does melt, and the discussions soon became animated - even if not always entirely focused on the themes that were supposed to be under discussion. For the new friendships made, barriers broken, and experiences shared, we all left considerably richer than when we arrived. A Day for Mums is expected to be next on Father Pat’s  'to-do' list. For the fathers who took part in the Day -  all would happily attend again.

Share this story