Caritas St Joseph’s celebrates 45 years


Caritas St Joseph’s has celebrated its 45th anniversary at a celebration Mass at Westminster Cathedral on Saturday 8 October.

St Joseph’s is Caritas Westminster’s service for adults and children with intellectual disabilities and their families, although it pre-dates the existence of Caritas Westminster by some 35 years.

Opened in 1977 by Cardinal Basil Hume, St Joseph’s Pastoral Centre in Hendon was established by Fr David Wilson, to realise his vision that those with intellectual disabilities can access their faith through symbols instead of verbal or written language.  Fr Wilson and his team developed a method of faith development appropriate to children with learning disabilities.

Subsequent directors introduced workshops for adults with learning disabilities, and this grew to be the main activity at the centre in Hendon, now a Lifelong Learning Centre, as well as at two hubs in Feltham and Hounslow. The training of symbolic catechesis is no less important, with hundreds of volunteers across the diocese able to help young people with intellectual disabilities to develop in their faith. In addition, there is outreach into parishes such as the support of Saturday Clubs, and support of carers and parents as they navigate the world of disability benefits and entitlements.

Bishop Paul McAleenan, who presided at the celebration Mass said in his homily:

“St Joseph’s isn’t just a place in Hendon, it is a way of looking at the World as Jesus looked at the world. It is a way of looking at the world so that everyone can reach their potential and be the person God intended them to be”

Gail Williams paid tribute to founder Fr David Wilson, who died last year, and thanked all the previous directors of Caritas St Joseph’s for their work changing and developing St Joseph’s in response to our changing society.

“I stand here simply as the next steward of this great work” she said “I am extremely blessed to have formed and strengthened my faith alongside the families and students of St Joseph’s.”

An estimated 150 people connected with St Joseph’s attended Saturday’s celebration, including past and present staff and students, as well as priests who have been involved in this work. Paul, one of the earliest students, enjoyed the celebration tea party afterwards and he was keen to re-live his memories of the early days. Paul said that St Joseph’s had helped him become a calmer and more confident person, not just through the pottery and music classes he enjoyed but through the friendship of fellow students like Keven. Paul still attends regular Tai Chi classes even though it is now quite a journey for him to get to Hendon.

Here are some recent comments from the students at St Joseph’s expressing how much the centre means to them: 

“I love my classes very much, I Love dancing” – Andy

“Yoga helps me stretch, it’s so nice to stretch” – Anisha

“My hands get dirty but I like the pottery class” – Francis

“Bocce class is great. I like throwing the balls, close to the white ball. I like playing with my team” – Kadr

“I look forward to the book club every week and I can see my friends and I love having a chat.” – Barbara

Bishop Paul greeting the readers from St Joseph's before the Mass startedBishop Paul greeting the readers from St Joseph’s before the Mass started

Mass started with a procession of banners

Mass started with a procession of banners

Bidding prayer reader. The event was BSL interpreted thanks to the Caritas Deaf Service.

Bidding prayer reader. The event was BSL interpreted thanks to the Caritas Deaf Service.

Find out more about Caritas St Joseph’s

Caritas St Joseph’s places a lot of emphasis on creativity, as can be seen in this video

See also Art exhibition demonstrates talents of people with intellectual disabilities


Latest News

Read more…

Skip to content