Last evening, at the kind invitation of the parish priest, Fr Joe O'Connor, I returned to the parish of Our Lady of the Annunciation in Addiscombe where I grew up. There are so many memories for me in that Church, both happy and sad. I attended my sister Sarah's baptism there, I celebrated my sister Mary's wedding, and I was myself ordained there. I recall the formative discipline of walking regularly along Bingham Road to Sunday Mass (and later, often, to daily Mass); but I also remember the sadness of my brother's funeral and the funerals of my parents which I celebrated in the same Church. Through all of this, God did indeed give joy to my youth as I grew in the knowledge and love of the Catholic faith.
Our Lady of the Annunciation was also the Church in which I celebrated my first Mass - with Fr Guy Nicholls as Assistant Priest - on Sunday 29 July 1984, before going over to Holy Innocents, Orpington to concelebrate at the ordination of my classmate Paul Hendricks who is now an Auxiliary Bishop in Southwark.
The parish is thriving and full of life and, as always on occasions like this, the generosity of parishioners was evident with many people co-operating to provide a warm reception in the Hall afterwards. It was so good to see old friends and catch up with news, as well as enjoying reminiscences particularly of my dear father who was quite a local figure since he was Headmaster of the junior school in West Croydon for 27 years and therefore knew and was known by generations of families. People often tell me that I have become ratehr like him and I am happy to accept that as a compliment.