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Westminster Record December 2008 - January 2009

Parish Profile Feltham: The ‘United Nations’ parish Parish life caters for all ages, not just the young. There are a number It’s a cold wintry day when I go to Institution. Sr Katherine runs prayer of different parish groups, including a liturgy group, a communications visit Fr Gerry Burke, parish priest and faith-sharing groups. group and the parish council. of St Lawrence’s in Feltham. The Membership of the different parish church and presbytery Parish life overlook a pond, an idyllic setting St Lawrence’s is an extremely committees is generally open to in the midst of the hustle and diverse parish; “a real United everyone and Fr Gerry is keen to tell Nations” Fr Gerry tells me. 34 me that, “It’s not ‘my’ parish – bustle of busy Feltham. different languages are spoken by it’s ours. We have a very St Lawrence’s is a parish that spans the pupils of the strong emphasis on a wide area, from Heathrow airport parish’s primary working and deciding in the north to Kempton Park school, “There is every People are together.” The parish racecourse in the south and from nation you could always so glad council tries to focus Ashford in the west to Hounslow in expect to find here”. on “the things to come back that matter, not the east. Fr Gerry has been the It is also an extremely parish priest at Feltham for ten and young parish, “there here after their just the nuts a half years, having moved here after are lots of children in and bolts issues” as holidays! working on adult development arms and in prams. Fr Gerry says. programmes in South Africa. He is The 11 o’clock Mass in He goes on to explain joined in his ministry by particular is packed to the point of a bit more about what this involves, Fr Emmanuel Ogunnaike, a member discomfort! It’s a very good sign”. “Our key focus at the moment is on of the order of the Missionary Children in the parish are able to evangelisation. We need to spend of St Paul. benefit from Catholic education at time on the welfare of our own Three Sisters of Mercy live in the several schools nearby. “We have community. We are putting together parish, who Fr Gerry says are a one of the best primary schools in a core group to reach out to people “great asset” and really help to the area and we’re lucky to be who were once associated with enrich parish life. Sr Mary works as surrounded by some of the best Church life as well as to the the Pastoral Assistant in the parish secondary schools in the Diocese – unevangelised.” and Sr Monica is the Associate people are spoilt for choice! We Prison Chaplain at the nearby have a very good school-parish- One of the biggest projects that the parish has recently undertaken is an Feltham Young Offenders home triangle.” ‘Audit of Talents’, which was carried out a couple of years ago. Based on Below: The interior of St Lawrence s Church. Inset: Statue ofabout the body of St Paul’s teaching the Virgin and Child in the church many parts, the aim of this project was to identify the gifts of all the faithful. Fr Gerry says, “as a result, things have really moved on. There are lots of people now doing things like greeting. Welcome is so

By Maeve McCormack

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important and it’s really caught on – it’s infectious! People now say that they’re always so glad to come back here after their holidays.” An increasing number of people are receiving instruction, with a view to being received into the Church. The parish is also involved in a lot of fundraising, particularly for CAFOD and Life. The local Life office is based nearby in Hounslow and many parishioners work there. Consequently the parish is keen to support them in this work! Fr Gerry also works closely with churches of other denominations in the area. He has helped to set up a monthly lunch with other Christian ministers, where they visit each other’s houses to share a meal together. “We’re all greatly helped by each other” he says. Advent and Christmas celebrations Fr Gerry tells me that, “We make a big deal of Advent: a time of preparation and penance.” This of course is followed by Christmas celebrations. There will be a Children’s Mass on Christmas Eve for children and their parents, and then there are two big Masses on Christmas Day for the rest of the parish community. The church We then step into the parish church. The parish has been here since 1904, but the current parish church was built in 1935. The original chapel is now the parish centre, and plays host to many of the activities that take place in the parish. The church building is dominated by the painting behind the altar, depicting the life of the parish’s patron,

Statue of St Lawrence in the church

St Lawrence. Parish life is very much in evidence: pictures drawn by the children on the First Holy Communion programme are on display on one side of the church and on the other there is a banner knitted by a parishioner. As I say goodbye, Fr Gerry says, “I’ve never been happier than I am here.” The vibrancy and enthusiasm of this parish clearly is infectious! Want to find out more?

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