Ken Vance SJ
I grew up in the Liverpool Jesuit parish of St Francis Xavier in the 1950s and 60s. My father was a joiner who worked for the famous shipbuilding company of Camell Laird and my mother worked for the John Lewis partnership. They both came from large families but I had only one sister who was to become a crown prosecutor. The 1960s was an exciting time for young people when Liverpool was the centre of the musical world and I regularly attended the Cavern Club, home of the Beatles.
In 1965, at the age of 18, I entered the Jesuit Novitiate in Edinburgh as a brother novice taking my first vows in 1968 and moving to the brothers’ juniorate in Glasgow. Having spent four years in Glasgow I joined the parish community in Worcester. It was here where I started my involvement in youth work.
Following my Tertianship - a final formation year of reflective study - I moved to our parish in Wapping, East London to take up the post of RC youth officer for the East London area of the diocese of Westminster. This covered Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Islington and Camden and consisted of over 40 parishes. I was chair of the Diocese of Westminster’s Youth committee for six years. Coupled with this was the post of vice-chair of the Catholic Youth Services Council of the Bishops’ conference. In this capacity I was appointed deputy convenor for the national youth event for the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1982.
After a sabbatical I was invited by the then provincial, Fr Jock Earle, to start a residential youth project at Southwell House in Hampstead. The team of Jesuit and lay people worked with young people and those working with them - providing a whole variety of courses from retreats or school leaver courses to experiences of homelessness or poverty. During this time I was also appointed a province consultor and trustee.
Following eight years in Southwell House I spent three months studying at Tantur in the Holy Land followed by a period in Egypt attempting to learn a little Arabic; the study of Ancient Egypt being a hobby of mine. On returning home I was sent to work as administrator at my home parish in Liverpool. My parents were still alive at that point and it was a privilege to be with them in their final years on earth. For seventeen enjoyable years I worked in my hometown, although the parish was very different from that which I knew as a child.
I am now on the staff of the Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy. Although the province gave up this work in the 1980s we returned in 2013 and are attempting to combine the work of the chaplaincy and adjacent Holy Name church into a beacon for the surrounding student community. I also work as the province pastoral assistant, co-ordinating the works of the ten or so Jesuit parishes and two pastoral centres in England and Scotland.