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Fr Jim Kennedy is enjoying the sun

February 8, 2010

11th January 2010

Blessed Sacrament church on Copenhagen Street

Until the late Summer of 2009, Father Jim Kennedy was the redoubtable Parish Priest at Blessed Sacrament, Copenhagen Street. Now his vocation (and a love of scuba diving) has taken him to a new parish in Cyprus.

He had served as the Borough Dean – he had a managerial responsibility for all the Roman Catholic parishes in Islington. He was chair of the Borough Council’s Standards Committee – which is the independent ethical oversight body for Councillors – and Jim also founded an ex-servicemen’s association in the Borough. He was a stalwart of the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies at Islington Green. In this neighbourhood, he chaired the Trustees of the Copenhagen Youth Project and the Sparkplug motorcycle project on the Bemerton.

More importantly, Jim was at the forefront of almost everything that happened in the area. Usually when a disaster or distress occurred in the neighbourhood, the church and hall would become a place of refuge and Jim would stay up for days making sure everyone was safe and cared for. It was where the survivors and relatives of the 1987 Kings Cross underground fire gathered. In 2006, the church hall became home for many of the evacuated residents from Tiber Gardens and York Way Court during the potentially catastrophic accident on the Kings Place construction site. Indeed, Jim was fondly known as the ‘vicar in a van’, on notice to move anywhere in the event of an emergency. The mobile phone, green flashing lights for the car and a high visibility jacket were supplied by Islington’s emergency planning officer.

The CYP youth club on a Monday was based in the church hall below the church – also the place where Anna Scher set up her “revival” stage school in 2004. The church more recently was filled by a thousand worshippers for the funeral and Mass for Ben Kinsella whose terrible murder in June 2008 shocked the Borough.

A typical Jim situation ... York Way had been closed so buses and trucks were diverted onto Copenhagen Street. Jim organised a sit-down protest ... that's him wearing hi-vis vest and flanked by Emily Thornberry and Paul Convery

Jim had expected to remain as the priest at Blessed Sacrament only for a year or so further whilst a succession was arranged and he had spoken privately about how this would all work out. Jim lined up a couple of very promising potential priests – including a Franciscan who would have followed in Jim’s activist tradition.

But in the late Spring of 2009, the Archdiocese abruptly decided that Jim would retire – more worryingly – that the Copenhagen Street Parish would merge with the Clerkenwell Parish (church of St Peter and Paul on Amwell Street). Rumours emerged that the Archdiocesan education board might also merge the two parish primary schools. In May 2009, Rupert Perry wrote to the Archbishop protesting these moves but got a bland reply from some functionary. Although Jim accepted it was time to move, he was not happy with the amalgamation of the two parishes. We still do not know whether the schools are to be merged but the parishes have been and Rev Perry Sykes is the Priest serving both parishes now.

Then, came a further shock. Just before Christmas 2009, the basement of Blessed Sacrament church was declared to be dangerous and was closed. This was quite a blow for the many community uses that the church hall previously accommodated. Within a year our neighbourhood has lost a dedicated Roman Catholic priest and now its Church hall too.

Despite all this, the news of Jim’s latest deeds is inspiring. A few days before Christmas he sent a message saying that his “life has been moving fast”. Having gone to Cyprus for an extended holiday, he decided to stay. With the “Archbishop’s blessing” he was asked to establish a new Parish in a “very poor area” on the island serving British expats a sizeable community of local Roman Catholics. Jim says he is “saying Mass in a shed” but his message cheerfully reported that “it’s 22 degrees today and sunny, sorry couldn’t resist!”. He signed-off saying “it looks as if I shall be here for the foreseeable future … thank you for all your help and support over the years, I am truly lucky and grateful”.

Well, it’s the rest of us who were lucky to have had Jim ministering to this parish for almost a quarter of a century. And we did not really get a chance to say thanks to Jim either. Rupert and Paul have now proposed that Jim should be honoured by the Borough Council for his many years of service to our community.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Diana Shelley permalink
    February 25, 2010 5:56 pm

    Glad Father Jim has found a new parish and that the sun is shining there! But we do miss him in King’s Cross. I particularly remember all the help and support he gave Cally Rail Group over the years, from giving evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee when the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill was going through Parliament in 1996 to hosting a big public meeting just before York Way was closed and rerouted during the final stages of building the rail link in 2005. Whatever went on in King’s Cross, Jim was always there, working way beyond his parish duties for everyone in the neighbourhood. He most certainly should be given formal recognition for his immense contribution to Islington over many years.

  2. Mary Kulka permalink
    October 3, 2010 3:02 pm

    Hello all at Blessed Sacrament, Copenhagen Street.. Thank you for the interesting article/news of Fr Jim kennedy. Well he is now looking after us very well in Paphos. You would think he is his younger brother as he looks so much healthier, rested and has become even slimmer…. I say rested but you would not credit the workload he deals with. He is very popular with everyone. He is even saying Mass in Polish for our Polish Community. My husband, Jozef (Joe) Kulka has found Fr Jim to be a brilliant student and today dear Fr was complimented for his expertise in saying this Mass especially introducing the Our Father. Polish is not that easy to learn but Fr Jim has proved himself very talented…

    Im sure you miss him very much especially as your Parish was likely to have a lot of other serious changes. Our sympathies to you . We hope it has sorted itself out somewhat less drastic and painful. You are in our prayers.

    Jozef and I moved here less than 4 years ago but we had holidayed here for many years so were familiar with Paphos and had made a number of acquaintances over the years. We had lived off The Holloway Road for a number of years before we moved to Rainham, Kent in 1974. We still have our house there, our two daughters and our Grandchildren live in the same area. It was a ;lovely surprise to learn we actually knew Fr Jim’s Mum, were in her house and enjoyed hospitality from her. A delightful lady RIP.

    I have no idea if this will be read but I just wish you to know we appreciate your loss, we are enjoying Fr Jim’s Spiritual care of us and we do appreciate him.

    Regards to you and the Parishioners
    Mary (Mae) Kulka.

    • Diana Gibbs permalink
      November 17, 2010 1:23 pm

      This is mainly a reply to Mary as I for one wanted you to know your message has been read and very much appreciated! I was not a parishioner of Father Jim’s but had the privilege of serving with him on the Standards Committee for Islington Council. Sadly I only joined in 2007 and so had all too short a time to get to know him before he was whisked off to Cyprus.

      I thought you would like to know that here in Islington last night we celebrated Father Jim being given the Freedom of the Borough. It was a truly inspirational evening with councillors Catherine West and Terry Stacey lauding Fr Jim’s work and local MP Emily Thornberry adding how much personal and professional support she had from him. We then watched a video from Jim himself, speaking to us whilst sitting in the Paphos sunshine. He was as always humble and self-effacing, but the good people of Islington know how important he has been to the community and at the end he got a standing ovation!

      It is great to hear about your Paphos community so thank you for sharing it with us and thank you to Cally ward councillors for posting all the news here. Father Jim does indeed have the formal recognition he deserves.

      • Mary Kulka permalink
        May 24, 2011 6:56 pm

        Dear Diana ,

        I am hoping you are still at the same address. Goodness me, it is 6 months since you sent me a lovely reply. Not sure if I have been in touch since as I have been grieving for one of my brothers who died Christmas Day RIP. Actually two of my brothers died in 2010 RIP.

        However this is not a sad reason I am contacting you. As you know dear Fr jim Kennedy is here in Paphos helping our new PP, Fr Carlos Ferrero administer our Parish needs etc. Fr Carlos who recently celebrated his 25th Anniversary of his Ordination, will tell us about his priesthood which was spent mostly in Africa. It is a Bring and Share Evening and you would be amazed at the variety of dishes that will be provided… Now last Wednesday, 18th inst, Fr Jim Kennedy celebrated his 31st Anniversary as a Priest. He does not know it BUT this Evening is also in his Honour and we sincerely hope it stays that way until Fr Carlos springs it upon him…

        I am wonderfing at this late date if you could round up some or as many as possible of Fr Jim’s Parishioners and ask them to send me their Greetings on this great occasion. We, my husband and I, will down load them and present them to him during the Evening. It is short notice and I am sorry for this but as you may guess, Fr Jim kept the date quiet. Meanwhile it has been all systems GO GO GO organising the Evening and not letting Fr Jim have a clue we are being devious….

        Needless to say we are very fond of Fr Jim. He is so very good at sorting things out and making situations work. He is very busy but seems to be thriving on it. He and Fr Carlos work well together and there is stability in our Parish again TG,

        My warmest wishes to you and the parishioners


        Mary (Mae)Kulka


  1. A letter from Father Jim « Labour councillors representing Caledonian Ward in Islington

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