The farewell party for the Society of Jesus last night was an occasion both sad and happy.
Sad because they have been terrific parish priests over the many years we have lived in SW19/20, illustrated by the farewell mass being concelebrated by I think 25 priests. Also a little sad because it reminded me slightly of my last year at school when a boy at Beaumont College from 1962 until 1967, which was the year that that school was closed by the Jesuits.
The occasion last night was happy however because the SJs will still have two schools, Jesuit Missions and two or is it three houses in Wimbledon, full of Society members, also of course the election of the first Jesuit Pope Francis, gave and gives a huge positive dimension to the changes.
The party was happy too for other reasons. There were so many people attending that both parish halls were full to overflowing with well wishers old and young; food prepared by parishioners, wine and other drinks were freely served and of course there was ample opportunity to converse and chat with many people.
Especially enjoyable and interesting was meeting with a couple who despite years of seeing them I had not been able to talk with previously beyond the 'good evening' type of greeting. I learned that they married on exactly the same day as mrs maytrees and I a few years back. They met because one evening years ago she apparently sneaked into the long since closed catholic Challenor Club which at the time was I think a male members only institution, and by chance met her now husband there.
This led to some conversation about how the ways in which boys met girls and visa versa have changed. For example The Young Conservatives used to be an organisation which many young men and women joined who were virtually apolitical, because of the safe meeting places it provided at the time for young people, though I do recall once attending a talk given there by Sid French the then Communist Party of GB leader.
Young people have long since moved on with eg the internet Facebook etc having arrived so that the YCs have diminished to a very small number. Much the same can be said I think for the young peoples' sections of the Labour and Liberal parties - these days such sections associated with political parties all seem to be for ardent young political members rather than for young people more generally.
It was good to hear from the prospective new parish priest that he was born and bred in Wimbledon, having attended the local Jesuit schools and in any event unlike the Beaumont era, there is no closure being proposed but simply a development soon to take place (January 2014) which will surely be positive.