The Jesuits are to hand over the parish of the Sacred Heart in Wimbledon, south west London, to the Archdiocese of Southwark, after serving the parish for more than 130 years.
In a letter read at Masses on the weekend of 17 and 18 November, the British Provincial of the Society of Jesus, Fr Dermot Preston SJ, said that he understood that the news would sadden many in the parish and that the Jesuits shared that sadness. He went on to describe Sacred Heart as a parish “which we (the Jesuits) can hand over to others with pride, as it has shown that our ministry can and has succeeded … In many ways, Sacred Heart is our strongest and most mature parish – well-resourced and stable with a talented and capable community of parishioners who have proved themselves willing and able to take on apostolic tasks with both an enthusiasm and a giftedness which has been the envy of many other parishes in Britain,” he wrote.
Fr Preston reminded the congregations at the Sunday Masses how the Jesuits had first come to Wimbledon at the invitation of Edith Arendrup in the 1870s, when she asked the Jesuit community at Roehampton to start a Mass-centre for local people. This led in turn to the construction of Sacred Heart Church on the slopes of Edge Hill and the establishing of a parish. The Provincial explained how this had been a period of expansion for the Catholic Church in Britain and globally, when parishes were created, churches were built and missions were established. “However,” he said “these times have changed and although the Church is now growing strongly in parts of the globe which were formally seen as ‘mission territories’, the resources now available to the British Province in 2012 are a fraction of what were available in years gone by.”
The Provincial went on: “Our responsibility in times of scarcity, when assets are few, is to use our initiative to utilise whatever resources are to hand and trust the Spirit to provide what might be needed for the next step on the pilgrim road.” He said that as Provincial, he had been given the responsibility to try to ensure that as individuals and as a province, the Jesuits remain faithful to the spirit of the Order and to their founder, St Ignatius, who had prized their “flexibility of mission”, adding: “I have a responsibility, therefore before the Holy Spirit, to husband the men in the Province and deploy them wisely, in keeping with where I see the greater needs in our changing world.”
The decision to hand over the running and administration of Sacred Heart parish to the Archdiocese next year had been taken after discussion with the Archbishop of Southwark, the Most Reverend Peter Smith, who, Fr Preston said, “has been grateful for our work thus far in the Archdiocese; he is glad that we will still have a presence in Wimbledon and will continue to act as a resource both for the parishioners and the incoming diocesan priests.” Jesuits would continue to be stationed in Wimbledon – some will be connected with Jesuit Missions or Wimbledon College and Donhead (its preparatory school), while others will continue to be resident in Jesuit houses and be engaged in study and teaching at Heythrop College and in other ministries in London.
Sacred Heart parish in Wimbledon is one of the largest parishes in England, with a dynamic and active Christian community. In addition to being a place of worship for over a century, the parish also provides a valuable service to – among others – the elderly and housebound, the disadvantaged, sick and homeless, children and young adults, the bereaved and overseas missions. At the heart of the Parish are the many people of all ages who work, study, pray and share their lives together. The Grade II* listed building was designed by Frederick Walters who designed it in the late Decorated Gothic style. The nave of the church was opened on the feast of the Sacred Heart (17 June) in 1887, with further parts of the building being added and developed over subsequent years. In recent years, its historic organ has been restored, the nave floor has been re-laid and the parish halls have been refurbished.
For more information see: www.sacredheartwimbledon.org.uk/
Source: Jesuit Communications