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Parish History

Our Lady of Fatima Church, White City

In December 1951, on an area of wasteland created by bombing during the Second World War, a temporary church hall was built and dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. It was used as a mass centre to cater for the needs of the many families who had moved onto the new housing estate and was served by Fr Leonard Fletcher and his assistants from the parish of The Holy Ghost and St Stephen. It was not until 1955 that the parish of Our Lady of Fatima was formed in White City, an area that had grown up around the Olympic Stadium, and was now the site of a modern housing estate. White City is home to one of the most diverse multi-cultural populations in London. It is about 4 miles from all the famous sites in Central London, and is served by three tube stations. Less than a stone's throw from the parish is the site of the BBC World Headquarters. It is also the proposed site of one of the largest shopping malls in Central London, in which the parish hopes to feature in a proposed chapel for those seeking spiritual solace.

The first parish priest, Fr Thomas Daniel, was appointed on 8th March 1956. There was no presbytery at the time and some parishioners remember how he used one of the confessionals as his bedroom! It was not until 1964 that work began on the new church building; Bishop Cashman laid the foundation stone on The 20th February. In a foretaste of the part the parish was to continue to play in working towards Christian unity the local Anglican community allowed us to use their hall to entertain our guests and presented us with a fine silver ciborium. The parishioners, many of them of modest means, undertook to repay the debt of £30,000, and even in times of hardship they faithfully returned their Planned Giving envelopes. The enormous pride and gratitude that the community felt for their new parish was never more evident than when Pope John Primary School was opened to receive pupils on 13th September 1965 and the official opening of the parish and school was celebrated by Cardinal John Heenan on 14th May 1965 with local clergy from eleven local Christian denominations attending the joyful celebration.

The church building continues to be a source of pride and focus for the Catholic community in White City. The architect, Mr William Cassidy created a striking yet simple and graceful red brick structure, with the central focus a striking crucifix, which incorporates the cross used at the laying of the foundation stone, on the sanctuary wall. The parish has continued to care for their much-loved church, and although the essential simplicity of design has been retained there have been changes. In recent years the original lighting has been replaced by a modern and more sympathetic design. 

The feeling of welcome, for which the parish is so well known, has been enhanced by the addition of carpets. Still in place, in an alcove to the left of the sanctuary is the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, made in Portugal and donated by a Portuguese businessman. In the spring of 2000 extensive landscaping to the area surrounding the church, creating an oasis beauty and greenery around our church, was begun and will continue to mature over the coming years.

The Parish Centre was purchased in 1971 and although the Catholic community had priority on its resources it was very much the parish's intention for it to be used as a community centre. It was a meeting place for the Eritrean community, a Somali women's group and for many sports and social activities. One of the great sources of pride was that the centre enabled many people to use the computer facilities; taking courses to update their skills, for the unemployed it was a great opportunity to learn new skills and obtain qualifications. The centre applied for further grants to increase its training capacity and its vision was to remain flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of the White City community.

Through contacts made by Fr Gabriel the parish has developed close links with two missionary seminaries in London, The Mill Hill Missionaries and the Columban Fathers. We have been privileged to be hosts to a number of priests and seminarians from all over the world, giving us an invaluable sense of the universality of our Church. We have welcomed men and women from Ireland, Uganda, Tanzania, Chile, and Nigeria among others, their presence has enriched our lives immeasurably. The parish has shown its huge capacity for generosity and support in its fundraising efforts for Bugisi, a parish in Tanzania, which we have been supporting for some years, helping to build a small hospital and supporting the community in other ways. Some of our parishioners have been to visit our friends in Africa, further strengthening the bonds between us.

The White City area today is enriched by the many nationalities and cultures that now feature in this area. We are home to many refugees, from Albania, Kosovo, Slovenia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, all a reminder of the wars that are still fought in our world today. Within the parish we have a tradition of celebrating an International Mass, at which about 35 countries from Austria to Zaire were represented. It is an occasion which joyfully encapsulates the harmony and co-existence in our parish, united in love of Christ, and which we attempt to bring to the community as a whole. In recent years the religious landscape has changed significantly, with many non-Christians establishing themselves. We have the prospect of inter-faith dialogue and co-operation which can lead to mutual respect for each other, it is our aim that they will know we are Christians by our love!

Our parish life is rich and varied, there are many groups who participate and contribute to parish life. We are blessed with a talented music ministry, an artistic and prayerful team of flower arrangers. There are prayer groups, meditation groups and Bible study groups. Our justice and peace group work hard to educate us about difficult and challenging issues, they co-ordinate our fundraising efforts to Bugisi and persuade us to use Fair Trade products. 

The Sanctuary
The Union of Catholic Mothers continues as always to support the parish in practical ways and in prayer. The Pioneer Association meet regularly praying for those affected by problem drinking and offering up their own abstinence. There is an enthusiastic group of altar servers who have recently renewed their links with the Guild of St Stephen. We are blessed with a team of dedicated lay catechists who run our First Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation and Children’s Liturgy programmes. We share our youth club with the local Anglican church, further strengthening the links we have forged over the years. ‘Light in White City’ is a parish magazine, written and produced by parishioners, which appears every two/three months. All of us though are bound together in prayer and in the celebration of the Eucharist in a community that is striving to grow in faith and love. In 1999 the parish began its Oikos communities.

PARISH HISTORY BOOK is still available! Our beautiful Jubilee Year history of the parish and Pope John/St John XXIII School has 144 pages of wonderful reflections and stories from our various parish priests, head teachers & parishioners, packed with fantastic photographs throughout. Copies are £10 each to cover costs and raise a little bit of money for parish funds – our fundraising focus in 2016 will be to pay for the renovation of the current school hall when it becomes our new parish centre next autumn.