Saturday, July 01, 2006

Hope in the Heart of Soho

When Fr Alexander went to St Patrick's, Soho Square, he asked himself what was needed in that parish in the seedy heart of London where red bulbs still shine from the windows of first floor apartments. Obviously it had to become a place of prayer. So he started not just all day Adoration but also the SOS prayer line. Each evening young volunteers pray before the Blessed Sacrament in a makeshift Chapel in the Church's tower. They look after a phone line which people can call simply to ask for prayers.
As most English people know, if London's Soho looks a little less down at heel these days it is only because the gay community has moved in to the traditional domain of brothels and sex shops. A second task, therefore, was to offer an alternative understanding of sexuality. To that end St Patrick's now hosts a centre for Natural Family Planning.
The third thing Fr Alexander perceived as necessary was to get out onto the streets and evangelise the people of all backgrounds and nationalities who swarm into Soho each day. So he started SPES - the St Patrick's Evangelisation School, putting hope into the heart of Soho. Young people are invited to commit themselves to SPES for one year. In that time they will live a common life, undertake a formation course in the Catholic faith, and share the Gospel through outreach and mission on the streets of London.
I've had the privilege to help teach some of the courses the students take in their time together and am a first hand witness to how much they value the experience of SPES. For someone not sure about God's call, a year at SPES with other committed young Catholics might be just what you need. A number of former students are already involved with vocations activities here in Southwark.
Click on the link for more details.
Incidentally, St Patricks has a tiny resident population and very little income. With great trust in God's providence, Fr Alexander has nevertheless started a £4 million renovation project for the Church and its facilities. If you can help please do contact him.

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