No, 41: St Peter's, Leicester
SOMETHING resembling the abomination of desolation is not everyone's picture of the ideal parish. But that is how the Fr Joseph Jones, parish priest of St Peter's, Leicester, describes his place of work.
The image has nothing to do with the spiritual state of St Peter's, which is healthy enough even if to some it might seem a trifle old-fashioned. The phrase refers to the consequences of a redevelopment. scheme at present in operation there under the direction of the local council.
The project has resulted in the decimation of some of the city centre. Among the buildings to go will be the church, church hall and presbytery of St Peter's.
This could herald the start of a new chapter in the parish's history. As compensation for the loss of the old plant it hopes to receive about £250,000 and the property will be replaced next year by new buildings some 300 yards away.
Fr Jones himself is also relatively new to St Peter's, having been there only seven months. His predecessor, Canon Gilltran, had been priest for more than 30 years before that.
One feature of parish life, however, that seems certain to continue is the St Peter's St Vincent de Paul Society (Overseas Development) Twinnage Project, which arose in 1975 as a response to the 1974 UN World Food Conference.
The Primary recipient of money from the scheme is a twinned parish in the state of Kerala, South India. But donations have also one to finance other projects in India as well as to aid relief work after the earthquake in Guatemala and in war torn Lebanon.
Contributions are put in special envelopes and given with the normal Sunday offering: this has the important effect of uniting the entire project closely with the offering of the Mass itself.
Within the boundaries of the parish, opportunities exist for working alongside people of differing cultures and colours. There is a chaplaincy for Italians, and a Ukranian priest, and every month a Latvian
priest celebrates Mass for his people.
Meanwhile, the number of coloured immigrants living in the city has also risen. The congregation includes a lively group of Indian Catholics who have come from the former Portuguese colony of Goa.
And recently the Catholic Committee for Racial Justice in Leicester arranged for representatives from the Sikh and West Indian communities to speak at eachMass one Sunday about the problems faced by black people in the town.
St Peter's is one of the oldest parishes in Leicester, with an estimated 2,500 parishioners. Historically it has a tradition for being a training ground for priests in the Nottingham diocese.
At least 25 men now working in the diocese started their priesthood there as curates. That is, perhaps, an indication of the scope for Christian ministry existing there.
Clearly the scope at the present time is still broad — broad enough, no doubt, for the last word, on St Peter's not to lie with the abomination of desolatio*!