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Parish Profile

Westminster Record October 2011

St Ignatius parish Stamford Hill

One faith – One nation

By Jo Siedlecka St Ignatius’ in Stamford Hill, north London, is a large and lively church with more than 1,900 parishioners. Founded by the Jesuits in 1894, the impressive Romanesque-style building has some fine mosaic work in the Stations of the Cross, Sanctuary and chapels. Offices, meeting rooms and presbytery back on to a peaceful garden – which is the scene each summer, of the Parish Fiesta, on the Feast of St Ignatius. The parish priest is Fr Peter Randall, who arrived in 2006. Before coming to St Ignatius he was working in Edinburgh. Altogether there are five priests serving the parish, including two dedicated to the Polish and Latin American communities. Several more are in residence. St Ignatius has a number of choirs singing in different styles: besides the Parish Choir there are Junior and Youth Choirs; a Caribbean Choir; Africa Society, Latin American and Polish Choirs. On a Sunday morning recently, the parish house was buzzing. Clara Akainyah, a retired college lecturer from Ghana, who also serves as a Eucharist Minister and RCIA catechist, was manning the door welcoming a constant stream of callers. Nancy Gregory and Cynthia Dawlson were doing a brisk trade in the repository which they have run for

Sr Eugenia

26 years at the back of the church. Outside, Obi Williams and Jordan Strubing had set up a stall selling beautifully decorated cakes to raise funds for a children’s home in Kenya. As people began pouring out of the 10.30 Mass, Jordan explained he is studying catering at Westminster Kingsway College and also runs his own business. Clara, Nancy, Cynthia, Obi and Jordan were just a few of the volunteers working at St Ignatius that day. Elsewhere catechists, parents, children and altar servers were holding meetings. St Ignatius has many prayer and study groups, social activities for all age groups and welfare projects such as the Social Outreach and Pastoral Care Office which provides information and help with the sick and housebound, homeless, immigrants and asylum seekers. Every Saturday night, parishioners help with a Soup Run in central London. In the winter, St Ignatius joins with 16 Hackney churches to provide food and shelter for the homeless. The parish has a strong catechetical programme. Rosemary Byrne, originally from New Jersey, is the new parish catechetical coordinator. She started in February and works with five RCIA catechists; 18 First Communion catechists, and

Parish Priest Fr Peter Randall SJ (back rt) and Fr Hugh Duffy SJ with a some of the 10.30 Mass crowd

five Confirmation ones. She said: I’ve been made very welcome. It’s exciting to be here. This is a very active parish, a joy to be part of. One of the wonderful things about the parish team so you are never on your own.” She said the priests were also very supportive. St Ignatius is near the area where the London riots first broke out and many parishioners were affected by the unrest. Sr Winnie, who is retired now but still helps as a Eucharistic Minister said: “It was worrying. There were helicopters all night. We thought it was a one-off but then it started again the next night.” Servite Sister Eugenia has been in the parish on and off since the 1970s. She was directly involved in St Ignatius’ response to the riots, through the interfaith community organising group North London Citizens. Hours after the riots began, they held the Vigil of Hope, an open-air prayer event near the centre of Tottenham. “We started at the top of the High Road with prayers in Holy Trinity Church” she said. “Then we gathered together. Our local MP and the Anglican

Bishop of Edmonton took part. It was a very powerful symbol.” Sr Eugenia said: “My last teaching job was in the riot area. I knew many people from the flats that were burnt down. The churches responded very quickly. St Mary’s put up those who had lost their homes; the Salvation Army collected clothing and other things that were needed. Volunteers from here went to help.” She explained that St Ignatius has always had strong links with other churches and faiths, with regular meetings and activities organised through Christians Together in Tottenham and the Council of Christians and Jews. Since the riots there have been many North London Citizens meetings. She said: “We are hoping to set up an enquiry. All the faith leaders are concerned about restoring relationships, and seeing how we can generate hope and do more with young people.” “I love this parish” she said. “Many people I taught as children are still parishioners here.” Fr Peter Randall praised the work of the parish team and strength of contacts with their Polish and Spanish communities. He said: “The parish has a tradition of good community outreach and is used to welcoming new groups of people.” He added: “In future we hope to contribute with others in North London Citizens, to rebuilding the community after the riots. This is an opportunity to work in an ecumenical and interfaith way.” One resident at the parish house currently, is Nigerian priest Fr James

Sylvester Urama, who is studying for a doctorate in psychotherapy at Regents College, He summed up what many parishioners said: “What I like about this parish is the incredible diversity – people from all over the world here. At the same time there is the strong sense of one faith – one nation.”

Parishioners Obi Williams and Jordan Strubing selling their own cakes for St Annes Baby and Children’s Home in Kenya.

Sunday Mass times: (Saturday 6.30pm) 9am, 11am. For more information visit www.rcdow.org.uk/stamfordhill Email: stamfordhill@rcdow.org.uk or Tel: 020 8800 2121


Parish profile stamford hill