The Church in the 1930’s

Father Johnson
Father Johnson

To return to the Sisters, the pages that record their heroic sanctity and endless labour in the parish of Kenton are written in heaven, and in accordance with the spirit of the Religious Life they will not be attempted here. Names, however, are common property, and that, of course, brings us to Sister. Which Sister? Why, Sister Catherine Lucy! For generations of young people in Kenton, Sister Catherine was the opener-up of the riches of our glorious Faith. She laboured on right till the end, and spent the major part of her life in Kenton.

Towards the end of Fr Johnson’s time she became more and more the tried and trusted support he relied on. Indeed, she felt her vocation to create in Kenton a truly authentic part of the Catholic Church, as keenly as he did. The Sisters finally left in 1963, having resided for several years at 75 Kenton Gardens, while a Priest lived at the Mission House. The succession of Priests who took charge of the Mission began with Fr Lury, continued with Fr Ovenden [himself a Kenton boy], then came Fr Taylor [subsequently an Archdeacon in British Honduras] and then Fr Edmonds. Fr Gibson returned to preach in 1977 during the Jubilee Year  at the Holy Spirit Festival, was in charge for several years, and had a nephew, who grew up in Kenton, in the Sacred Priesthood.

One of the Holy Spirit boys, James Amerasaka, also took Orders and became yet another Archdeacon, this time in Ceylon [at the same time as a Kenton girl, Sr Hazel SSM, was in charge of her Order’s house in Colombo]. So it will be seen that Kenton spawns vocations.

And these were not all. Four other men have been ordained to the Altars: Frs Pipe, Pilgrim, Smith and Richardson; and two other women have entered the Religious Life besides Sr Hazel [who became Mother General at East Grinstead]: Sr Barbara Hassall of the All Saints Sisters of the Poor [R.I.P.], and Sr Faith Mary, S.C. [R.I.P] of the House of Prayer at Burnham, who wrote a history of the parish [for the Silver Jubilee] called ‘In Touch with Glory’ [never published].

Winnie Brazell and the Brownies
Winnie Brazell and the Brownies

The work at the Mission has had its ups and downs. At one time there were so many people thronging the altars of the parish each Sunday that a full range of services at the same time as those in the Parish Church had to be provided. Towards the end of Fr Johnson’s time the Mission was all but shut up. It received a new lease of life during the incumbency of Fr Shearing with the work done there by the young Priests who were in charge at Holy Spirit. The phrase ‘in charge’ is not, of course, used in its legal sense implying any independence. Holy Spirit was the mission Church for St Mary’s just as the Chantry of St Mary in 1324 was a Mass centre for St Mary’s, Harrow-on-the-Hill. There was a Family Mass with hymns each Sunday at 9.00am, which was well attended, and, as Priests were available, a Mass on most days of the week.

The work Fr Johnson had so carefully planned in the parish was brought to its first and most glorious climax with the building of the permanent church. Originally this was to have been dedicated to St Leonard, as the Mission had been. But it became clear during 1933 that with the sale of the church of St Mary the Virgin, Charing Cross Road, the first claim upon the funds of that sale would be ‘the populous district of St Leonard’s, Kenton’ towards a permanent church there, and that a condition of this would be to change the dedication from St Leonard to that of the redundant church, St Mary the Virgin.