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Parish Profile

Westminster Record | March 2014

Our Lady of Victories, Kensington: A Church of Quiet Nobility parishioners and volunteers having been in the parish for much of their lives.” “Our Lady of Victories Primary School has also always been very involved in the life of the Church here.” For Fr Lorenzo, ordained in 2011, Our Lady of Victories is the first parish he has served and its youthfulness was what first struck him: “The church is full of young couples and families, especially the 10.30 Mass; it’s a nice noise, full of the sound of children.” Mgr Jim agrees: “One thing visitors always comment on is the number of children and young adults in the congregation.”

Youth and Young Adults: A Real Hunger for God When I ask how young people can get involved following Confirmation, Dan tells me that the youth in the parish are keen, with plenty of willing, charismatic volunteers, a combination which has led to the success of two projects: a post-

Confirmation group and Tutor plus. “The post-Confirmation group is a way to encourage further formation, based around what they want to do. Over the past year they’ve shown real interest in getting involved in a soup kitchen and now help out at the St Vincent de Paul Society at Holborn, and they really love it.” “Now, whenever I offer them a pizza night, they say ‘No, no, Dan we’d rather go help the poor’, which is inspiring to hear.” “We also saw a need in our own community, as many students do well in school because they have tutors, but those who cannot afford them are being left out. We now have a new tutoring group, Tutor plus, which provides free tuition for anyone who wants it and we’ve worked together with local parishes as well as the Assumption Sisters and Heythrop College to provide an army of tutors to help out in any subject.” Reflecting on the location I ask Mgr Jim if this presence of young adults is due to the

nearby Heythrop and Imperial Colleges: “There are some students in the parish, but it’s primarily young professionals we see here, many of whom are brought by their friends. Our Young Adults group has a long history in the parish; they come primarily to the 6.30pm Mass which has a popular gospel-style choir.” “Whether it’s through the Mass or by the work of the parishioners making this a place for young people, they have really grasped at it. There is a real hunger to get involved.”

The Challenge of Pope Francis This ‘hunger ’ has been fed by the impact of Pope Francis. Fr Freddie says that many whom he meets have been inspired in this way and Fr Lorenzo notes that talking about Pope Francis offers people who wouldn’t normally volunteer it a way to talk about their faith. Mgr Jim says that many groups in the parish have

The west front of Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church

by Alex Balzanella tanding back from busy Kensington High Street, Our Lady of Victories Church is set in a small courtyard giving it a quiet, tranquil atmosphere. It was at the nearby clergy house that I met Monsignor Jim Curry, Parish Priest, Fr Freddie Jackson and Fr Lorenzo Andreini, his assistants and Sr Maureen McNamara and Dan McNamara (no relation!), catechetical co-ordinator and youth worker respectively. This team is supplemented by a committed group of volunteers.


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“Always an International Parish” They are keen to underline each others’ strengths. Mgr Jim begins with Sr Maureen, whose experience as catechetical co-ordinator and teacher at Our Lady of Victories Primary School totals 34 years. She says: “This has always been an international parish. It was formed by French priests and has always welcomed communities from around the world: Italian, Spanish, Americans have all come here. There really is a strong sense of community though, with many

Mgr Jim, Fr Lorenzo and Fr Freddie in the site of the soon to be completed Parish Hall

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Parish Profile

Westminster Record | March 2014

My Parish: OLV, Kensington by Sarah Nagle

The ordination of Fr Shaun Richards 25 January

been inspired by the Holy Father’s message of solidarity with the poor. “We’re also looking at how to become more involved in West London Churches Homeless Concern and have been working with Caritas Westminster to develop a Contact the Elderly group in the Parish.”

“It’s important to discover and address the needs in our community” “We couldn’t have asked for a more generous response.” After talking to the Parish team we enter the Church. The building is in a ‘Festival of Britain’ style, yet very much in homage to the original Church destroyed in World War Two. The height, tall windows and impressive altar lend the Church what Mgr Jim rightly describes as a “quiet nobility.” A restoration project, initiated by former Parish Priest Fr Perry Sykes, has included a new floor, redecoration of the chapels and provision of greater accessibility. The generosity of parishioners will enable the completion of the Parish Centre by the end of March.

“All our groups have kept meeting, even without there being anywhere for them; neighbouring parishes have also been incredibly kind in offering their facilities to us, we couldn’t have asked for a more generous response.” The Church has already celebrated an ordination to the priesthood since the restoration. Fr Shaun Richards, Assistant Priest at St George’s Sudbury and former pastoral assistant at the parish, was ordained on 25 January by Archbishop Vincent. Mgr Jim tells me that the then-Cardinal

will be returning on 18 July to ordain Stefan Kaminski, a young man from the parish. Two elements of the project that Mgr Jim is keen to point out to me are the glass doors and roundel outside the front of the Church. The Church being set back from the road, the roundel acts as a way to draw the eye toward the Church, whilst the glass doors encourage people to step inside. I have a sense that whilst this may draw people in, there is much more in the parish that will keep them coming back.

I was drawn to OLV because whilst it is busy, transient and full, it also felt very real and somewhere that could become my new Church home. I usually read about once a month at the Sunday evening Mass, which is a vibrant and full occasion that sets me up for the week ahead. Last September Mgr Jim asked for volunteers to help with a post-confirmation youth club. I had some free time and so went along to the training sessions. The youth club is run in conjunction with St Mary’s, Cadogan Street and aims to encourage young people to develop and grow in their own faith as they become independent adults and hopefully stay involved in the life of the parish community. The activities of the evenings alternate between learning, discussion and fun and those that attend really seem to enjoy what we do. They keep coming back! I also help with the Confirmation group. We meet most Mondays until the candidates are confirmed in July. It is a great responsibility to be part of the journey that these teenagers are undertaking towards developing their own adult faith. They are the future of our Church and I feel it is vital to help demonstrate that being a Catholic is a joyful and amazing gift, something to be treasured and not just given up on as they get older simply because the majority don’t do it.

“WYD has left me inspired, spiritually enlightened and I loved every second of it.” Mgr Jim (Back, Centre) with Fr Freddie and Fr Lorenzo, Sr Mareen and Dan with two of the many volunteers in the Parish

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