Adoremus fringe events at St Francis Xavier

Fr Denis Blackledge SJ, Jimmy McGovern, and Shaun Duggan
Fr Denis Blackledge SJ, Jimmy McGovern, and Shaun Duggan

Months ago, the parish of St Francis Xavier in Liverpool was asked by the Liverpool Archdiocesan Congress Team to take part in the National Eucharistic Congress, Adoremus 2018, and to provide fringe events as a centre-city church.

Parish priest Fr Denis Blackledge SJ suggested trying to get Jimmy McGovern along as the writer of the BAFTA 2018 winning Broken series – which also won the prestigious Sandford St Martin Trust Award 2018 for best religious broadcast. Much of the six-part drama was filmed in the Jesuit church of St Francis Xavier and saw the strict collaboration of Fr Denis as religious advisor for Sean Bean in his role of Fr Michael Kerrigan.

The parish team decided on a programme for Friday and Saturday which began with quiet Holy Hour and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in the Sodality Chapel at 11am, followed by mass at 12 noon, on the 7th September. A few dozen attended Holy Hour, and about 100 were squeezed in each day to midday mass.

Holy Hour and Exposition

An amazing group of volunteers provided 120 cups of tea and a variety of nibbles in the lunch hour break, before Episode 1 of Broken was showed on a 12 foot screen in the main chapel at 1.30pm. Then Jimmy and Fr Denis were available for 45 minutes of Q&A. About 175 turned up on the Friday for that session.

The Episode shown on Saturday was the tough one about attitudes to gay people, and Jimmy brought along Shaun Duggan, who helped him to write that episode.

“The Q&As session was riveting! About 150 people attended that session,” says Fr Denis Blackledge SJ. “Apart from folk who had come from as far away as the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man, a number of clergy also came along. The level of sharing from Jimmy, Shaun, and some of the audience was deeply moving.”

Over the couple of days, the parish has also hosted BBC Radio Lancashire, Manx Radio, The Tablet, Crux Website, and Redemptorist Publications, with Jimmy, Shaun and Fr Denis giving interviews to them all.

A handful of folk attended the Sunday morning family mass, rather than go to the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. Throughout the weekend, which was also National Heritage Weekend, the parish’s troop of Friends of SFX were on hand to give guided tours and a warm welcome. And SFX’s own volunteer team of caterers and cleaner-uppers did a fantastic job.

The weekend was topped off on Sunday evening with a concert of 18th century music either written or inspired by Jesuits, not least Domenico Zipoli. The Ellen Ensemble, a couple of dozen musicians from Cumbria, offers their services free for charity, owing to their generous patrons, and on Adoremus’ final evening, they raised £500 for JRS UK.    

“People thoroughly enjoyed the events and some were visibly moved by the beautiful music, especially by the works of Jesuit composer Zipoli. It was a great weekend!” remarks Debbie Reynolds, Pastoral Assistant at SFX Church.

Ellen Ensemble in concert