Evening Mass was cut short at St Edmund’s in Southampton on Wednesday night when the Parish Administrator, Anna Smyllie received a call from Southampton City Council’s Emergency Planning Team. The Church was needed as an emergency Rest Centre for twenty residents of nearby properties which had been found to be structurally unsafe. Monsignor Vincent Harvey, Parish Priest, distributed Communion and ended the Mass before asking the congregation to leave in readiness to receive the evacuees.
A Journey in Faith/RCIA meeting was cancelled as soon as the news came through and some of the team, including Dcn Andy Philpott, stayed behind to welcome the residents and offer hot drinks and biscuits.
Thankfully, no one was injured but it was determined that no one could go home, at least until further assessments were carried out in daylight. The evacuees, who are all private tenants of the terraced properties which were built in the 1800s, included an elderly man in a wheelchair with his carer, three students, one child, two Romanians – one of whom is here on holiday and four dogs.
Fr Vincent was around all evening chatting to the evacuees and was still at the hall when the parish volunteers left in the early hours; Anna, the Parish Administrator, remained with the City Council Team until 1 am when all the evacuees had been rehoused. While it was not the evening that anyone had planned, the volunteers commented that ‘it was uplifting to have played some part in the parish’s response’ and that they were ‘glad to have been able to lend a hand and feel like we were really being church and doing something that really matters’.