Our Lady Help of Christians, Rickmansworth

The Catholic Mission, later parish of Rickmansworth, was founded in 1886 by the Rev. Henry Hardy, a secular priest who acted as Rector until 1904 when he handed it over to the Augustinians of the Assumption. They continued to use the corrugated iron chapel built by Fr Hardy in the High Street until, looking for a more permanent home, they bought the premises and two acres of land belonging to the Salter Brewery Company in Park Road. The existing buildings were converted into St Augustine’s Priory and Hall, and the present church of Our Lady Help of Christians was built adjoining the latter and opened on 26th October 1909, being extended by the addition of the Lady Chapel in 1935. 

The Assumptionists ran the parish for 75 years, opening three chapels of ease in the area that between 1958 and 1974 became the centres of the present parishes of Croxley Green and Mill End. 

In September 1979 care of the Rickmansworth parish was transferred to the Verona Fathers (official title – “The Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus”) whose national postulancy was established here. On 8th April 1981 the church was consecrated by His Eminence Cardinal Hume Archbishop of Westminster. 

During this time the Daughters of Jesus had a great presence in the parish and were a much loved part of the community. Originating from Brittany in France, they were responsible for the establishment of St Monica’s School, (which was on the site of the current Parish Hall), and St Joan of Arc School in 1904, close to the Church, and worked in the parish until 2019, when it was decided to close their house in Rickmansworth. 

In 1985 the Verona Fathers left and the parish was adopted by the Westminster Diocese. Fr Michael Garvey was Parish Priest for one year and Fr Jim Duffy took over care of the parish in 1986. Fr Jim was in Rickmansworth for many years and as well as his pastoral care, undertook many projects in the parish, including rebuilding the Presbytery, reorganising the Church and adding a Memorial Garden of Rest in the grounds.  

On Fr Jim’s retirement in 2013 Fr Shaun Church became parish priest, as well as parish priest of Mill End and Chorleywood.  He oversaw the restoration of the Parish Hall, but also spent much of his ministry bringing our three parish communities together, particularly trying to focus on moving from being solely focused on maintenance to rediscovering our mission to spread the good news of the Gospel. Fr Shaun left the three parishes in 2021, and was replaced by Fr Andrew Gallagher. Fr Andrew continues to work with the parishioners to bring the three parishes together, whilst maintaining their independent character. 

Our Patron – Our Lady, Help of Christians 

Feast Day – 24 May 

 When Napoleon left Elba and returned to Paris, Murat was about to march through the Papal States from Naples. Pius VII fled to Savona on 22 March 1815, where he crowned the image of Our Lady of Mercy on 10 May 1815. Following the Congress of Vienna and Battle of Waterloo, he returned to Rome on 7 July 1815. To give thanks to God and Our Lady, he instituted the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians for the Papal States on 15 September 1815; it was celebrated on 24 May, the anniversary of his first return. Soon it spread over nearly the entire Latin Church. 

It is the patronal feast of Australia, and is celebrated with great splendour in the churches of the Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Paris. It has attained special celebrity since Saint John Bosco dedicated the mother church of his congregation at Turin to Our Lady, Help of Christians. The Salesian Fathers have carried devotion to Our Lady Help of Christians to their numerous establishments, and prayers for her intervention are credited with the miraculous cure of Blessed Artemide Zatti.