ST. MARY OF THE ANGELS, ALDRIDGE – A CATHOLIC FAITH COMMUNITY

We are a faith community holding to and professing the Catholic Faith and at the same time living the Gospel as proclaimed by Our Lord Jesus Christ, his Apostles and the Church down through the centuries. In communion with the Church under the Pope chosen to lead the universal Church and our own Archbishop in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, we seek to make known the truths of the Christian Faith to those who have not heard it.

Our parish church is situated close to the centre of Aldridge village in Whetstone Lane, which is between Walsall and Sutton Coldfield.

Our church and faith community has its origins in St. Patrick's Mission which established a Mass centre in the Four Crosses Inn in Shelfield in 1890. In 1924 the Franciscan Order took responsibility for the church of St. Francis of Assisi in Shelfield and it was from there that the foundations of the parish of St. Mary of the Angels were laid.

In 1939 the first Mass was offered in the Avion Cinema in the village, now Weatherspoons. It was in 1941 that the site of the present church was purchased, providing a presbytery, and then the erection of a dual-purpose building in 1949 to be used as a church and hall. As the Catholic population continued to grow the present church was built in 1961/62, with the bell being rung to mark the opening of the Second Vatican Council in Rome in October 1962. The church was finally completed and opened for Midnight Mass at Christmas 1962.

The dedication is a reminder of the church in the valley (Santa Maria degli Angeli) below Assisi which St. Francis re-built at the beginning of his apostolate and the Franciscan mission of which the parish was a part. The Franciscan community handed the parish over to the Archdiocese of Birmingham in 1980 and it has been in the care of diocesan clergy since then.

Central to the life of the parish is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist which unites us with one another and with our Lord Jesus Christ. The main celebration of Mass is at 9.30am on Sunday with music provided by the organ with the choir and the folk group on alternating Sundays. Our Primary School leads a Family Mass at regular intervals when the church is filled to capacity with young people and families especially at times of First Holy Communion and Confirmation and the regular Family Mass.

Our Mission Group meets each week, usually on a Wednesday evening, to pray together, study the Scriptures and plan our programmes of evangelisation. From September to Easter each year it forms the basis of an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) Group known as Journey to Emmaus.

Many of our parishioners are young families since we are blessed to have our own Primary School, and close by, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Technology College which is only a short walk away. Both schools are involved in the life of the parish on a regular basis when pupils and students attend Mass during the week. Our youth work is being developed including our existing Children's Liturgy on Sunday morning, our young Altar Servers and the planned work with those over 11 years of age leading eventually to the John-Paul II Awards Scheme.

The regular life of the parish is lively with active groups providing a rich social life. Whetstone Over 50's Group is an example of this along with a Craft Club both of which offer opportunities for friendship, companionship and a chance to be creative.

The parish is also very active in responding to the needs of others taking seriously Our Lord's command to 'love your neighbour as yourself' (Mark 12:31). We have an active CAFOD support group looking towards the needs of the developing world. Our LIFE Group gives practical assistance to those who experience serious difficulties surrounding the birth of a child especially if the mother-to-be is being advised to undergo a termination. This includes accommodation, if needed, and help with all those essential items required with the arrival of a new born child.

We have an effective SVP (Society of St. Vincent de Paul) Conference responding particularly to the needs of the poor, most of whom are elderly. One of the members offers a day a week at St. Chad's Sanctuary in Birmingham helping with the care of migrants and asylum seekers.

We are planning to develop our pastoral role in the neighbourhood providing much-needed care for the isolated and elderly, active and not so active. We are already doing much in this area thorough the Whetstone Over 50's Group and the SVP but any further developments must also mean the demolition of our old hall, now beyond refurbishment, and the building of a new hall more suited to our present needs. Parishioners are excited about the future of this project.

All the other regular parish activities feature in our calendar: a Spring Market in May, a Garden Party in July and a Christmas Fayre in late November to raise much-needed parish funds.

All this is done within the life of a welcoming Catholic faith community celebrating the presence of Jesus Christ in our midst. We hope you will find your way to joining us on our journey of faith, whether you are a Catholic who has drifted away from the practice of your faith (whatever the reason you will be welcome) or a curious enquirer who would like to know more about the faith that the Catholic Church believes and proclaims.