Patronal Festival Day

Sunday, September 5th - 2004

After a summer of dreadful weather, we were all more than a little concerned for our day of festival! The organising team were expecting to feed about 350 people, and there was no way our hall would be able to accommodate such numbers.

However when at 9 am a team of workers began to gather to erect the tents and to sort out the bar-b-q it was already a dry and bright day. Little did we know that it would turn out to be the hottest day of the summer! What a contrast to the rest of the summer, by the middle of the afternoon it was too warm to be out in the sun.

The working team quickly erected the two gazebos, bought by the 'friends' as a result of seeing them in action last year. They really are a triumph and proved a Godsend this year. The hexagonal altar from our small chapel was carried out and dressed for Benediction, tables were laid, food started to arrive (in huge quantities) and we awaited the arrival of our principal celebrant.

Bp Alan Hopes, who had intended to be with us last year but had been ordered to take a break, came to celebrate the Mass for us, and we were very pleased to be able to welcome him. By 10.30 am the church was full to overflowing and by 11 am, the time that Mass was due to start there was not even room to stand in the porch.

The children who had made their 1st Communion earlier in the year, had been specifically invited to come along. Those who had chosen to do so were there in all their finery, and it was great to see them with us. It is of course a special privilege for these youngsters to accompany the Blessed Sacrament in procession.

The Mass began with the familiar hymn "For All The Saints". The congregation sang with vigour (which is not always the case!) and Bishop Alan preached movingly about our patron St. Gregory.

Immediately after this he received into the Catholic church two members of our parish family. This was a particular joy for all of us, there is something very special about such an occasion; for an adult to choose to join our Catholic community is deeply moving and I know that both Stella and Gail had a wonderful day. They certainly look splendid! If you have not congratulated them yet do take the opportunity of doing so when you see them at Mass. They both have wonderful stories to tell of their pilgrimage of faith.

The 1st Communion children were invited to approach the altar first at the time of Holy Communion, primarily to have the privilege of receiving the Blessed Sacrament from Bp. Alan and Fr. Dennis, but also so that the members of our parish family could see them and help to identify them for their ongoing prayer for them. At the end of Mass, Bp. Alan took a few moments to speak to them especially. His theme was to encourage them in their devotion to the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament. The importance of such words is hard to express, for as a Catholic community we are so blessed to have in our midst our Blessed Lord present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Two of our 1st Communion lads in their "cool" gear!

At the end of the Mass it was these children who lined up to walk immediately in front of the sacrament in procession. Bp. Alan, donning the humeral veil, carried the sacrament out into the garden where a simple ceremony of Benediction was conducted. Things were just a trifle confused at this point, but it did not distract from the beauty of the liturgy. Certainly glory was given to God and our devotion to our blessed Lord in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar was renewed.

We now adjourned for the less formal part of the day. The photographs shows a general overview of the lawn in front of our church, but gives only the smallest indication of just how busy things were.

Some of our 1st Communion girls in all their "finery"!

The festivities continued well into the late afternoon. Bp. Alan and Fr. Dennis moved around the garden for most of the afternoon taking the opportunity of chatting to as many members of the parish as possible. Bp. Alan then slipped away into the presbytery for a rest as he was due to go to the church of the Sacred Heart (our neighbour) in the evening to bless the recently re-opened church hall. Sadly the hall had suffered a terrible fire some months earlier the work of vandals I'm afraid.

A new feature this year was the flying of a splendid new Papal Flag which Fr. Dennis had had made for us on the island of Malta. The day being so hot and the air being so still it was not really appreciated until the end of the day when the wind picked up, but even so Bp. Alan commented on how fine it was to see it flying above our church.

Vast amounts of hamburgers and sausages were being cooked on the bar-b-q (many thanks to the St Swithun Wells friends for their loan of this) as well as salads, quiches, cakes and trifles, and a host of other delicious food, being collected from inside the hall. The music being played was very 60's, entertaining, but it made some of us feel rather old!!

An army of people helped with the clearing away, so although the last guests drifted off at about 5 pm, all was neat and tidy by 6 pm.

Such an event as this only works because of the vast amount of help given by a large number of people. Our grateful thanks go to them for making this, such an enjoyable day. A day to remember and to give thanks to God for the richness of our community, for it's fellowship and friendliness; and to remind ourselves always of the privilege we have in giving Him the glory.

St. Gregory the Great - South Ruislip, Patronal Festival Photographs
Particular thanks for the above photographs are due to Donna Clancy and Hisako Conroy.

I think I speak for everyone when I say that a glorious day was had by one and all.

Laudetur Jesus Christus!