The announcement by the Society of Jesus of their intention not to withdraw from the parish (there are at least three Jesuit houses within 50 yards of the Sacred Heart church in Edge Hill) but to cease running the parish from about October 2013 has already been the source of considerable debate by parishioners.
The much loved (US) parish priest Father Keith with Wimbledon's Father Rector having bravely announced the decision at masses last week, then positioned themselves outside after church where they could be praised encouraged or heckled by what are still the crowds of people leaving masses on Saturday night and all day Sunday.
This week the Society of Jesus in Wimbledon was bolstered by the attendance of Father Provincial who is due to speak at all masses. His words yesterday at the 6:30 pm Mass were imho very intelligent and thought provoking. He and they then again positioned themselves prominently outside so that they could be approached and supported or harangued by parishioners as we left the church.
Father Dermot is due to attend a public discussion about the Js' partial withdrawal in the parish hall on Tuesday night when as it happens I will be away on some Donhead (farewell to a family) duties at a Wimbledon Village restaurant .
The parish website has been relatively quiet for weeks but has now broken out into some interesting and not always supportive debate some of which slightly reminds me of comments made at the time when the announcement of the closure of Beaumont was made by father Provincial in about 1965. The current website comments may be found at:
However unlike the Beaumont history, the Jesuits are to remain in some force at Wimbledon and the peoples' friendships with them are bound to continue. The Jesuit schools in Wimbledon are continuing and thriving but the number of Society of Jesus members in England has reduced from about 1000 in the 1970s to about 200 today so much as I am sad to see them withdraw from running the parish, I can see why and wish them enormously well.
Wimbledon Sacred Heart parish is a very large and relatively dynamic parish so I expect we will have a huge amount to offer the new diocesan priests next year and beyond and at the same time will continue to enjoy working with and for the Jesuits.