Feast of the Ascension and a message for Pentecost from the cardinal

Happy Solemnity of the Ascension today! In a pastoral message, the Cardinal has recorded a video in which  he reflects on the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, in a week’s time,  particularly in the context of the circumstances in which we are living at the moment.The video is available online at https://vimeo.com/421046273 and on the diocesan website. he asks us to  participate, from their homes, in a short vigil of prayer next Saturday 30th May, the Vigil of Pentecost. There is no specific time or format for this: what is important is that as many people as possible engage positively with the Cardinal’s invitation. A meditation on Pentecost, based on Christian art, will be available in the coming days via the diocesan website as one possible way to help with this time of prayer.

Church opening. There is still a very unclear picture and I believe that the safety of each person, young, middle-aged or old must be a top priority. Every single person is of unique importance. We live in a fallen world and to enjoy its fruits, working within it and limited by it  but we are not obliged to be conformed to the world. We are called to enjoy and celebrate the liberty of the sons and daughters of God.  My understanding is that ultimately in the present circumstances  it will be up to each person, consulting his or her sovereign, sanctified conscience and understanding things in the light, not of economics, nor of the demands of the educational system, nor of the maintenance  of a particular way of life or life style or forms of ritual behaviour whether they decide to send their children to school or to attend divine services or attend any other institutional activity that does not put the holiness of the individual first.

On my part I will do what I can to make coming to church as holy as possible, by which I mean a place where each and every person feels safe and of value. If I cannot do that then I don’t think the church should be open.  I will only be able to do that with a great deal of help and co-operation from each person.  By now we all know what makes for safety, cleanliness, space, respect for each other, calmness. In practical terms the following must be foremost. 1,Cleanliness, we must have clean hands before we come to mass and keep them clean. 2, We must give each other space – at least two meters between each person all the time including when we arrive, when we receive communion (if we do) and when we leave. 3.Respect for each other, a: we must not come to mass if we have any doubt whatsoever about our own health as a possible carrier of the virus, b: we must be willing to cooperate with what is asked of us in church even if we want something different (like sitting in the place where we are asked to sit, only leaving in the order in which we are asked to leave and attending only those masses that we have already indicated that we will attend  and for which we know there will be a seat for us) and finally calmness; it is lovely to sing and display our joy in the Lord yet that will not help keep people safe, what will keep people safe is calmness, and that very much includes children.

All this runs so contrary to our normal cheerful family get-together that it begs the question is it worth it. That is something each must decide for themselves. These are the headings I think that we will see emerging, they are not set in stone and we are waiting for official guidance but they are the result of thinking and consulting about the issues. I would be very glad to have your reactions ((by email ideally)  to this as we still have time to find the best way forward. Numbers: No more that 20 in mass during any service to keep two meters apart. (We usually have up to 40 at the Saturday mass, 40 to 50 at the 9am mass and around 80 to 100 at the 11am sometimes of course many more so this is a big change)  Timing: a,Masses each weekend and during the week. b, much shorter masses, half an hour maximum  as the longer people are together the greater the danger. Frequency: each person will probably be asked to come to mass only once a fortnight  and to come to the mass which they have already agreed with the parish priest that they will come to (this is a way to try and get everyone in) . If more people come than agreed they will be asked not to come into the church. If there are too many people than can fit in with fortnightly attendance then either you will be asked to attend a weekday mass instead  or we will reduce the individual  mass attendance to monthly.

Some other details. There will be no hymn books or missals or newsletter. You will be encouraged to bring a smart phone if you have one and can follow the mass on line. Details of the readings  will be published on the parish website https://parish.rcdow.org.uk/stephendaleroad. I will expect to celebrate the mass but as because of my age I am in a vulnerable category  I will not communicate the host to you directly but an extraordinary eucharistic minister who must not be over 60 years old ( also for safety reasons) may do that. To avoid any danger that I might be communicating the virus, the hosts that I consecrated the week before  will be taken from the tabernacle and distributed. There will be no choir and no singing as that is unsafe. The toilets will not be open under any circumstances whatsoever and there will be no access to the sacristy. There will be either no or only one server. The pews will all be cleaned between each mass.  You may very well be asked to wear a mask. The offertory. The church has been very badly hit by the loss of weekly income from the offertory. Please give by direct debit or bank transfer.   Finally, there will also inevitably be lots we will learn on the way and we may make and see many changes and to live is to change and to learn, we are a pilgrim people and this path, strange though it may seem, is the path chosen for us by Christ the Good Shepherd, let us be attentive to his guidance and help as he helps us not to stumble on the way.

Urgent! Action to help leper charity by Sunday 24th May! 
“We have the opportunity to receive a £1000 donation from the Ecclesiastical Movement for Good awards, but to do so we need your help please! £1,000 could make a huge difference to our work, especially now, and your nomination could be the one that wins us £1,000. In total, 500 charities stand to gain £1,000 and we’d love to be one of them. It’s quick and easy to nominate Lepra – just visit https://www.movementforgood.com/#nominateACharity and enter our details. You’ll be asked to enter a charity number (213251), and then Lepra should auto populate below. Lepra’s charity type is Health. Then you just need to enter your name and email address. The closing date for nominations is 24th May.

Two new prayers written by Pope Francis, asking for Our lady’s Help have now been moved to Sacramental Preparation

Government guidelines about the future of worship on church. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-taskforce-developing-plan-to-reopen-places-of-worship. The Bishops are expecting to tell us more in the next few days. Meanwhile do ring if you would like to talk to me, the parish priest on 07399805360. 

 Any more stories about the lock-down? If so, email them to me and I will put them on this site stephendaleroad@rcdow.org.uk.

Dateline 13/5/20: yesterday I hazarded a guess that we might see worship back in the church building at the beginning of July. Today that guess looks more unlikely. The problem is that the more I look at the space within the building the harder it is to find a way of getting more than a very few people in and out safely and keeping them safe once they are there. The three main problems are 1. keeping two meters apart, 2. the length of time people are in the building, because the longer anyone is in the presence of a possible source of infection, the greater the danger and 3. the sheer difficulty of getting people to do what they are meant to do (and not to do) and to remember  what that is. 

For all our lives, church has been a place to which we can come freely and go freely, greet each other, sing and relax, use the toilet if the kids needed it, have coffee afterwards . These things are now difficult, often impossible, indeed forbidden (like we won’t be able to access the toilets).

My mind is turning again and again to the model of worship based on the home, where worship and religious learning is what happens at home. This combined with the maximum use of the web – such as our Zoom masses (and perhaps people could offer a sacred song, as well as the readings and the prayers), the Zoom meditation,  even Zoom coffee mornings and  Zoom meetings, some  face-to-face private ones, others  restricted ones and still others open ones.  (We already have our Parish Pastoral Council meetings on Zoom on Tuesday evenings and our Asylum Seekers support is now by email.).

What do we do with all our buildings that would be left empty and idle? It’s not a new question but it has suddenly become very real.

How we pay for clergy and administrative staff is going to be a big question as the financial model falls to bits. Can we afford to have large scattered buildings containing records and equipment which could be stored on-line or held centrally? In my clerical life-time I have seen heroic giving by tiny parishes who wanted to keep their churches going, but is that what people would still want to do if we can use the churches only in such restricted circumstances? A new way to pay is through the scheme under “Appleals” on the left hand column of this page,

Will priests operate more on-line and from their own homes, especially if that’s what so many others are doing? Will mass be something said by a visiting priest (checked as virus-free)  in your own home, with people who you know are also virus-free? Missionary priests were doing something like that for nearly a  century during the harshest of the Penal Laws against Catholics when so much had to be done in secret. Or what can the model of monasticism and the cloistered life tell us about our own church future? 

These are likely to become pressing questions as the economy nosedives and everything has to be rethought. Meanwhile I will continue to plan for an easing of the lock-down for the church, but with more reservations than I felt yesterday – and please, do come and join us in the Zoom mass on Sunday at 10am, maybe we should have virtual coffee afterwards and a chat?

My email is billbowder@rcdow.org.uk and I can send you the Zoom link for you to keep. My new parish mobile is  07399805360. Zoom masses on Sundays at 10am ,Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9am  and Pia’s mediation Zoom on Wednesdays at 6.25pm Join Zoom Meeting
https://us04web.zoom.us/j/4500920893?pwd=K0p4UkJIUHJNRmI3cEp1S04rbDdSUT09Meeting ID: 450 092 0893
Password: Pia92.

Under “News” (column on the left)  a  parent describes some fun activities for toddlers and pre-schoolers “Here are 20 ideas which have been tried and tested with my 2 year old daughter (pictured below) and I hope you would find them helpful too.” 






A marble run


meanwhile … Catherine has sent me a recipe for Easy Lemon Polenta Cakes which I have published in News … maybe try it while think about new ways forward for the Church!

Our Lady in May


Stop press! If you would like to start baptism preparation during this lock-down, contact Fr Bill Bowder and we could start preparation via Zoom. I am already helping a couple get ready for the baptism of their child in this way. See the side bar “Sacramental Preparation.”

There is a new letter today Friday 1 May from the archbishops of England and Wales about our response to the Coronavirus. I have published it in “News.”

New way of contacting the parish priest by phone: my new parish mobile number is 07399805360. This replaces the old parish mobile number which no longer works. My apologies to anyone who has tried to contact me on my old mobile recently as I have not been able to access your calls and have no record of your calls or texts, nor do I have your telephone numbers stored on that phone as I cannot access my contact list. The parish landline remains the same 0207 736 4864.

Schools: Schools are looking for new ways to help Catholic parents apply for places. Could you check with school sites to see if they are inviting self-authenticated applications by parents via emails? The school would then seek confirmation from the parish priest.  See under Schools on this website. 

MeditationFor some time now Pia Huber has been leading a meditation group in the parish on Wednesdays at 6.25pm meeting in the church. This has been on hold since the lock-down but she has now started a Zoom meeting at the same time and is inviting us to join her for a time of meditation. I did so on Wednesday evening and I can thoroughly recommend it.   Here is the Zoom invite: Topic: Pia Huber’s Zoom Meditation. Time: This is a recurring meeting Meet anytime. Join Zoom Meeting
https://us04web.zoom.us/j/4500920893?pwd=K0p4UkJIUHJNRmI3cEp1S04rbDdSUT09Meeting ID: 450 092 0893
Password: Pia92

Julie Roberts, the School of Meditation Co-ordinator for the World Community For Christian Meditation has also written of: A Contemplative Path through the Crisis:  A wonderful new WCCM website has been launched to bring together essential resources to help us all find a contemplative path through the crisis see http://acontemplativepath-wccm.org/ . And as part of this initiative, it has recently been announced that the inspirational Rev Sarah Bachelard will be giving a series of talks entitled ‘A Living Hope; the shape of Christian Virtue’ over the next six weeks. The talks start on April 21st and you can join in live or listen after. To register your interest and find out more visit the new website.

 Online meditation groups on Zoom (see above): As well as our own group you can join other online groups at https://www.onlinemeditationwccm.org. If you are currently at home with children, you might like to look at the wonderful new WCCM and CCS videos which are aimed at children in isolation to help to continue their meditation practice or to take it up. Whilst aimed principally at those who have a faith, those who follow the practice do not necessarily have to believe in God and it’s a useful resource to help reduce stress and loneliness for any child during this difficult time. They videos can be found via the links below, the first developed for primary school children and the second link for young people at secondary school. If you have connection with a local school, you may also like to share with the resources with the head teacher.



New writing from the parish by Ines Gutierrez has been moved to “News” 

 Behind the closed doors of the church, behind the railings, (see the photograph below) mass is still being said every day. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays I say mass without a congregation at the main altar, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9am and on Sundays at 10am I am also Zooming a short mass from a room in the presbytery (where unlike in the church building I have wifi cover) on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9am. I also offer a Zoom mass on Sundays at 10am. If you would like to join me (and have not already got the recurring Zoom link), please email me at billbowder@rcdow.org.uk and I will send you the invitation. Once you have the invitation it can be used for all subsequent Zoom meetings.  Masses continue to be offered each day behind closed doors either by Zoom or  at the main altar.  


Easter Candle, the Risen Christ and a saint. Anyone know who this saint is? She has been in my family for generations looking after us but I don’t know her name, (click on the image to expand the picture if it is not showing in full.) 



Palm Crosses waiting to be blessed

Palm Crosses on the altar waiting to be blessed

I pray for our nation and for the world in this huge and critical moment and that we may come through and emerge as a loving and caring world and I pray for those who have died, especially as a result of this virus. may they rest in peace. Further meditations on this theme until 14 April have been moved to Pages and appear under date headings) 

Day 2 18/3/20. The Bishops of England and Wales have announced that no Catholic Churches will  be holding public worship from this Friday for the following weeks (and possibly months) until they tell us to do so again.

I will be celebrating mass each day, including on Saturdays and Sundays either  in the  closed church or in room in the presbytery next to the church in which we have wifi connection for Zooming. These celebrations  will be an act of public worship as I am a Public Person and so I am saying mass as the public community, even though I will be on my own. 

Please email me with your personal intentions immediately before the daily mass and I will incorporate them in that day’s mass. You could also telephone me with your requests on the parish mobile 07399805360 (note that this is a new number).

Wednesday 18th March. At the end of Day 1 of the new order: this is the first day of social distancing. When this is all over, the world will look a different place, the Church will have a different face, the clergy and people will have a different relationship and faith itself will present itself in a new and I hope even more attractive way. We will be a church that works with all people of good will to affirm the priceless gift of human life and everyone’s absolute value. That is what politicians affirmed on 17th March and on St Patrick’s day the church applauded how deeply and widely that truth has now been affirmed across the world

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Stephendale Rd, SW6 2QT
Fr Bill Bowder, parish priest: billbowder@rcdow.org.uk Parish mobile: 07399805360
Parish administrator (currently on furlough because of the restrictions),  Susan Keogh: emails: stephendaleroad@rcdow.org.uk
Head Catechist, Jackie Charles: emails: jackc58@hotmail.co.uk
Parish Safeguarding Representative, Victor Scalzo emails: stephendaleroadsg@safeguardrcdow.org.uk
Website: https://parish.rcdow.org.uk/stephendaleroad/ Telephone: 020 7736 4864

Adoration of the Blessed sacrament

This is an excellent cup of coffee! Enjoying Sunday’s BBQ

Nina at the BBQ on Sunday welcoming the police as part of our community

Bride and Maureen at the BBQ



With Our Lord of Pardon Catholic Charismatic Group on Sunday afternoon


Blessing of St Barbara Patron Saint of Tunnellers before tunneling starts from Carnwath Road to Acton


We will be blessing the statue of St Barbara on
Tuesday at the mouth of the 7k tunnel to be driven through to Acton



Holy Saturday morning and the team of flower arrangers have been busy making the church look lovely for Easter


Palm Sunday Procession

procession on Palm Sunday

Our pilgrimage sets off to enter the Holy City! (Actually not, this is a picture outside the Armenian church and convent in Jerusalem in 1894 taken from the book The Earthly Footsteps of the Man of Galillee and the journey of His Apostles, by Bishop John Vincent, the Rev James Lee and photographer R E M Bain. However, 11 of us did go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in February 2019.


Domenico our organist. After nearly two years, in November 2019, Domenico went to further his studies and his career in Rome and his very able assistant Eric Chan is now playing for us. Eric, I will get you picture onto the website ASAP!




Mudbug: The Nativity seen from the point of view of a lobster. Performances on 15th and 16th December 2018 after mass. Performed by the parishioners of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. A short play set in 1st century Cornwall and Palestine.  Above: The birth of Jesus. Below: 1. Joseph of Arimethaea and Burt the Tin (Grania’s husband)  barter dried fish from Galilee for tin from Cornwall. 2. the fish gather around the lobster pot to say farewell to Mudbug. 3. the cast take a bow (left to right) : Joseph of Bethlehem/Nazareth; Mary;  The Angel (and the robber); the stall holder in Jerusalem and the Inn Keeper:  Melchior (the Wise Men) , Jonah, (Simon Peter’s father and Joseph of Arimethaea’s brother); Burt the Tin; Mudbug (the Great Cornish Lobster); Caspar (The Wise Men); Joseph of Arimethaea; Balthazar (the Wise Men); Simon Peter; Grania (Burt the Tin’s wife and The Star from the East).4. Holding onto the scripts!  Music by Caroline Bowder, Set (Lobster Pot by Sylvester Baptiste), lighting and sound effects by Terence O’Connor). Play written and directed by Bill Bowder



Enjoying the first of our fortnightly community lunches cooked in our new kitchen in Our Lady’s Hall, Since October we have provided lunch once a month on a Tuesday and Sands End Adventure Playground in Pineapple Park has  providing lunch two weeks later. We will start again in the New year.


At our first community lunch in the hall cooked in our new kitchen. Now, a year later, at the end of 2019,  the community lunch is still going strong. It is on the first Tuesday of the month, except in January. Anybody is welcome!


Fr Bill waiting with an estimated 200,000-250,000 pilgrims in Phoenix park,   Dublin, on a rainy, windy, lovely day as the Pope arrives to celebrate Mass  in August

Caroline, one of our delegation of two from Our Lady’s keeping dry as we waited for the Pope to appear

Irish music at the RDS during a break at the World Meeting of Families


Pilgrims at an afternoon Mass in the main arena at the RDS Dublin during the World Meeting of Families

Rain had soaked the worshippers at the Mass in the RDS as we received communion,  then the rainbow appeared, a great promise of hope for the Church.

The icon of Christ appears in glory lit by the late evening sun

Bishop, one of our asylum seeker family members, drew this card for us.



Francesco opens a bottle of wine for us; he cooked a wonderful BBQ on Pentecost Sunday, many thanks.

Marie at the BBQ on Pentecost Sunday

George talking to Megumi at the BBQ on Pentecost Sunday

Maria at the BBQ on Pentecost Sunday


The Blessing of the Statue to St Barbara patron saint of miners and tunellers at Tideway West, Carnwath Road.

The church is made ready for the First Communion Celebration Day 22 April 2018

Baby Alexander in foreground with Baby Theo by the font after they were baptised on Saturday 21 April.

The organist, Domenico, and the choir in April

Sarah, one of our two volunteer co-ordinators who organise our team of volunteers to provide food, clothing, toiletries, a little cash – and thousands of nappies to our asylum-seeker families who visit us on Sunday afternoons once a month.


Flowers on the Altar in the Lady Chapel.

Sunset over Pineapple Park


The shop in the hall after 11am Mass


Above: neighbours and friends met outside the church on 18 June, 2017 a beautiful day for the Great Get-Together lunch as we recognised, as the late Jo Cox MP said, we have much more that unites us than divides us.


Above: The Church Tower at evening time.

 Catechists and flower arrangers prepare for Sunday’s First Communion celebration 2017

Happy Easter

 Easter Flowers and (below) front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, flowers in church and camellias blossoming outside as Spring arrives


Easter Font  2017





stephendale road exteriorOur Lady of Perpetual Help here in Fulham, near the Thames  is open for each and everyone of us all through this coming year. The church that carries her name is in Stephendale Road in Fulham, SW6. We have had many occasions to thank her for her intercessions to her Son in whose name we live and move and have our being. Here there is a welcome for everyone of goodwill, a place of prayer and beauty.

Our postal address is Parish House, 2 Tynemouth Street, Fulham, SW6 2QT. You will find Sand’s End east of Wandsworth Bridge Road, south of New King’s Road, north Imperial Wharf. You can contact us on 020 7736 4864. Fr Bill’s email is billbowder@rcdow.org.uk  and the parish email address is stephendaleroad@rcdo