Monday, 28 November 2016

Farewell to Fr Kevin O'Shea

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Fr Kevin O'Shea
On Saturday, the Sacred Heart church in Mill Hill had a farewell celebration for the departing Parish Priest, Fr Kevin O'Shea. A special mass was held at 6pm followed by a reception. Fr Kevin is moving on after 9 1/2 years at Mill Hill. He is the longest serving Parish priest, as it has been the tradiition of the Vincentian community, who run the Parish, to rotate Parish priests every six years.

For those readers unfamiliar with the Vincention order, they are a missionary order, originally founded by St Vincent De Paul in France, and their focus has always been on helping the poor and needy in our communities. The order has grown into a Worldwide organisation.

It sometimes seems ironic to me that Mill Hill, which is one of the wealthiest Parishes in the country (if not the world), has a Vincentian community, but like all communities alongside the mansions Mill Hill has people who are struggling. Fr Kevin has made practical support of such needy people a focus of his time. He has organised a monthly foodbank collection for Colindale foodbank, on the first Sunday of every month at the Church. This gives local people the chance to drop off necessary items of food for local people in need. The church also holds regular collections of clothes and funds for The Passage, a homeless shelter in Victoria. Another scheme which Fr Kevin has been keen to promote is support for the Mill Hill Churches homeless night shelter.

During his time, Mill Hill Parish has seen a massive increase in the congregation with huge influx of Eastern European and African parishoners. Fr Keving has worked to make the new members of the congregation feel welcome as an important part of the community. A regular international evening is part of the calendar where everyone brings national dishes to share and entertainment is featured from around the world, provided by local people and groups. The local Nigerian community provide a free Christmas lunch for elderly parishoners, all are welcome. The local Phillipeano community have formed a choir, and even sang Danny Boy for Father Kevin at his send off mass.

In these difficult times, our local spiritual leaders have many challenges. Good ones build communities, give advice and wise counsel to those in crisis and try and guide their parishoners in how to make ancient scriptures relevant to modern times. Fr Kevin is known as a quiet and intelleigent man. He doesn't do fire and brimstone sermons, prefering a more quiet and collective delivery. On a spiritual level, he promotes prayer as a quiet time, for reflection and calm. He has spoken of the need to spend time in reflection to spend with God in a calm and relaxed manner. His view is that such periods of calm prayer are vital to help us cope with the challenges we face. For readers of this blog who are not religious, it is still worth giving some thought to taking such periods of calm reflection in your own way. I have found that stillness and calm are hugely beneficial. It is only when you start to make the time, that you realise just how stressed you can become and how much better you feel when you take time out for prayer and quiet meditation. I have come to realise that there is no problem that cannot be dealt with better in a spirit of calm and for that I really have to thank Fr Kevin's wise counsel.

For the last 5 1/2 years I've been a member of the Sacred Heart Parish Pastoral Council and have considered it a pleasure to work with Fr Kevin. He has worked tirelessly to ensure the church is relevant to the local community and works for the benefit of the parishoners and the wider community. It has been a pleasure and he will be missed by all in Mill Hill. The packed to the rafters church on Saturday was a testament to that.

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