Violent thunderstorms, which suddenly broke out on Sunday evening brought to an abrupt termination a special farewell service, which was being held in the open air at the Grotto of Our Lady in the grounds of the White Fathers at Heston.
The service, which was arranged to bid farewell to nine White Fathers leaving to take up missionary work in central Africa, was about half way through, when torrential rain commenced, and dozens of people were literally drenched, and there was a hurried rush to gain shelter. It was finally decided to complete the service in the church of Our Lady Queen of Apostles, which stands in the grounds.
Five of the Fathers are German, two Dutchmen, and two Canadian.
The service, which was attended by about 600 people, was conducted by Father Howell in the presence of Bishop Bernard 0' Riley (of Cape Town), The Rt. Rev. Monsignor Basil Grudeon, ( Director of the Association for the Propagation of the Faith) Monsignor Canon Hall, Father C.C.Martindale, Father Edward King S.J., and Dr. Healy (Edinburgh). There was also present a contingent of White Sisters.
As illustrating the splendid feeling, that exists between the local church and the White Fathers, Father Musgrave (Rector of Hounslow) cancelled his evening service at the church of SS Michael and Martin, Bath Road, in order that members of the congregation could attend the Heston service.
The service opened with singing of the hymn "God Bless Our Pope", followed by a prayer to Our Lady of Africa. A powerful discourse on the need for missionary work in Central Africa was being given by Father Martindale, when vivid lightning and heavy thunder occurred, but he had completed his address, when rain fell. As stated the remainder of the service was held in the church, and during Benediction and before the Blessed Sacrament each of the departing White Fathers knelt at the altar and took the following oath:
"In the presence of here assembled, and before you, Reverent Father, I swear on the Holy Gospels to consecrate myself unto death to the work of the African Missions accordance with the Constitutions of the Society of Missionaries placed under the protection of Mary Immaculate, Queen of Africa. I therefore swear to the Superior of the aforesaid Society submission and obedience in everything, which concerns the practice of Apostolic zeal and community life in accordance with the same constitutions. May God and his holy Gospels come to my aid."
The Benediction was given by Bishop 0' Riley, and the service closed with the singing of the hymn "Faith Of Our Fathers."
Afterwards a banquet was held in the Hall at which there was about 60 guests. Fr Howell presided and in addition to the clergy already mentioned there were present Father Cohen ((Northfields), Father Lieverty (North Hyde), Fathers Nagel and Davey ( Brentford), Father Van Eerden (who recently returned to England after twelve years Missionary work in Central Africa), Alderman A.A. Bergin JP, and Mrs Bergin, (Mayor and Mayoress of Heston and Isleworth), Councillor J. Woulfe. Mrs Howell (mother of Father Howell), Dr. Mc Carthy, Dr and Mrs McGing, Mr. J. Renton (Secretary of the White Fathers Association), Mr Felton (Treasurer) and Mrs Felton, and fifteen White Fathers. The catering arrangements, which were excellent were carried out by members of the Legion Of Mary, under the direction of Mr and Mrs Titcombe.
STRANGERS WHO HAD BECOME FRIENDS
Proposing the Toast of "The White Fathers" Mr. Renton. said they had several White Fathers, who were leaving them to go to missionary work in Africa; they had been called by Almighty God, and were setting out with joy and self -forgetfulness. Joyful serenity characterised each one of them, and if they were to say, that they were sorry at their departure, they would be insulting them. But it certainly left one with an awful sense of debt, that should be repaid, but no one seemed to knew how.
The White Fathers had given themselves entirely, whereas they had given nothing: all they could do was to try and help them in the great work, which they were undertaking by giving, alms, their prayers and publicity. He need hardly say, what good wishes they carried from all of them in the work they were setting out to do. They were the instruments through, which our Blessed Lord was working in Africa. Alluding to the departure of Father Howell; Mr Renton said he would be greatly missed by all of them. To his successor he was sure, that all would give the same support, help and encouragement.
The toast was enthusiastically received, and responding Father Serra-rens in the names of all the young fathers leaving for Africa said he would like to express thanks for the kind sentiments, which Mr Renton had so eloquently expressed on behalf of all those present. They also desired to express gratitude to the clergy in their churches, and for their great and unfailing kindness to them, and they would never forget the great kindness of the people of Heston. They also wished to express their deep thanks to the Father Superior ( Father Howell).
In the coat-of-arms of Cardinal Lavigerie (Founder of the White Fathers), were the words "Kindness, Charity." This was the definition of his whole life and the animating principle of all his works.
Father Howell was leaving home and country to carry out missionary work, and although many of them had enjoyed for one year only; the great advantage of his close company, care, and direction, they had found, that he was guided entirely by this principle of character. That day the moment for the last farewell blessing had come, and they could not have any better occasion for expressing their deep gratitude to Father Howell for all, that he had done for them.
The Right Rev, Monsignor Basil Grudgeon having also spoken of this work the White Fathers were doing. Father Howell extended a cordial welcome to the guests, specially mentioning Bishop 0' Riley, Mon Grudgeon, Canon Hall, Father Martindale, and Father King. In a reference to the local clergy, Father Howell said, they had been extraordinary kind to him during his three years at Heston, and there had not been the slightest sign of difficulty or disagreeableness. Father Howell also welcomed Mr Norman (Director of Heston Airport), and the Mayor and Mayoress of Heston & Isleworth, and remarked, that he was leaving his successor, a heritage of perfect relationship and friendliness with the municipality, - Father King responded for the guests.
Speaking on behalf of the parish of Heston Councillor Woulfe said the people of Heston were never likely to get into a rut. The parish as it stood had been formed five years and had never been in anything like a rut. Every year they saw White Fathers come and go, and although it was a yearly happening they never seem to get used to it.
They came to them strangers, but for some reason took them to their hearts, and the people of Heston did the same.
While they were there they mixed with socially, and strong friendships were formed. Councillor Woulfe also spoke of the great work done by Father Howell, whom he described as a personal friend of the people, and who had made the parish into a solid WHOLE, all working together.
Father Martingdale also spoke, after which Mr Backner proposed the toast of Father Howell'. Responding Father Howell expressed his thanks for all that had been said about him, and remarked that, that evening he relinquished his authority and it was the close of his official life at Heston. He thanked all for their help and support.
Father Howell, who is shortly leaving England for missionary work in central Africa, has been Father Superior at Heston for the past three years. His successor Father Bernard Brown at present a teacher of theology at Cathage.