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Parish Profile - Palmers Green St Monica’s: A Diocesan Pioneer

Westminster Record April 2013

By Alex Balzanella When first entering St Monica’s church you cannot help but be hit by both the calmness and warmth of the place. The combination of ornate stained glass, candles and mosaic decoration in the Sacred Heart chapel contrasts wonderfully with the spacious and well-lit nave, helping to create a prayerful and spiritual atmosphere. For the parish priest of St Monica’s, Canon Shaun Lennard, Palmers Green was a drastic change as he had spent the six months prior to becoming parish priest on sabbatical, working with the Sisters of Mercy in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Whilst such a move presented challenges Canon Shaun said what had really been helpful in making the adjustment was “the combination of competent, committed, well-formed parishioners and great priests to work with.” In regard to the parishioners, one cannot question their level of engagement. The parish celebrates seven Sunday Masses, including a Polish Mass. The award-winning parish magazine is filled with a whole host of social activities, including quiz nights, walking groups and keep-fit classes. The editor of the magazine, Monica Maxted Jones, said: “The broad news in it is a reflection of life in St Monica’s parish, both in Palmers Green and the work of parishioners more widely.”

Stained glass and Mosaic in Sacred Heart Chapel

There is also a strong commitment in the parish to include all people, young and old, in parish life. In the last year St Monica’s has sought to bring young people into the heart of the parish through creating the new role of Youth Work Co-ordinator, appointing Anna McMullan, who facilitates activities for young people. Although this, in Canon Shaun’s own words, was “new territory”, it has provided greater opportunities for the catechesis and formation of young people. The Year of Faith has given even more impetus for St Monica’s to reach out even wider to help people develop their faith. Canon Shaun spoke of the outstanding popularity

The Contact the Elderly tea party, held on Sunday 17 March

of faith-sharing groups, with over 150 parishioners regularly involved. As well as a parish mission, there have also been a number of short courses, such as ‘Life to the Full’ and one directed especially for parents, entitled ‘What can parents do?’ The formation of young people is something which Canon Shaun clearly feels passionately about, as he began his career as a science teacher before deciding to look further at his vocation. He was ordained at Our Lady of Hal, Camden in 1994 and went on to be a Chaplain of Westminster Cathedral and later parish priest of St John’s, Islington. It was after ten years at St John’s that Canon Shaun was granted his sabbatical in South Africa. With all that happens at St Monica’s one shouldn’t be surprised to hear that it is involved in a pioneering project in the diocese. Indeed, such an occasion happened on 17 March when parishioners from St Monica’s became the first in the diocese to hold, in collaboration with Contact the Elderly and Caritas Diocese of Westminster, a tea party for housebound members of their community. Canon Shaun spoke of how the parish, which also offers senior lunch clubs and coffee mornings in the parish centre, was keen to get involved in the initiative and quickly gained enough volunteers for the running of the parties. The tea parties are hosted by parishioners in their own homes, with volunteers acting as drivers for those who would otherwise be unable to attend. The first tea party was hosted by Mrs Breeda Bourke, who provided a wonderful selection of sandwiches and cakes, and had six older people, their drivers and Sr Joyce Dionne - parish sister of St Monica’s – in attendance. Speaking at the event Helen, one of the older guests said: “it was a wonderful day, getting out to meet all these nice people, I’ve really enjoyed myself”. A further 10 parishes over the next year who will set up similar groups to St Monica’s providing a host and drivers for a monthly tea party available open to all housebound people in their community. The next parish to launch a Contact the Elderly is Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St George, Enfield on Sunday 14 April. The initiative

Main entrance to St Monica’s Catholic Church, opened in 1914

between the parishes and Contact the Elderly is being coordinated and funded by Caritas Diocese of Westminster, the diocesan agency to identify and address poverty and social exclusion. Canon Paschal Ryan, the Chair of Caritas, Diocese of Westminster Advisory Board spoke of how the initiative with Contact the Elderly “is a fitting example of the expression of love through charitable works; such love is not an optional extra to the Catholic faith but part of its very nature.” Clearly such expressions of love through charity are available in ample supply at St Monica’s!

Did you know? As the part of “Moral Living and Generous Giving”, the theme of the third season in the Year of Faith, on 28 April 2013, all homilies will focus on caritas (Love in action). For more information and to get involved with the work of Caritas Diocese of Westminster, email:

Mass Times Sunday: (Vigil Saturday 6pm) 7.45am, 9.00am, 10.30am, 12noon, 3.30pm (Polish) & 5.30pm Monday – Saturday 9.30am. Morning Prayer 9.10am. Confessions Saturday : 10am – 11am and 5.15pm – 5.45pm. Signed for Deaf people by appointment

Missionaries of St Francis 5 x 2

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April palmers green  
April palmers green