The formation of the parish really began in 1876 when a small church was built in London Road and dedicated to Ss Alban & Stephen in 1878. In 1899, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSCs) were invited to take charge of the mission of St Albans. By 1900, it was decided a larger, more ornate church was required, so in 1903, the current church was built in Beaconsfield Road. The church was dedicated and blessed on New Year’s Day 1905. In 1959, a Mass centre started at Skyswood Primary School and later transferred to St John Fisher’s School.

In the mid-1960s, side aisles were added, the Church was lengthened towards the railway, and the tower added. The Church was then very much as we see it today. Following construction of a modem presbytery and new parish centre, and with all debts cleared, the church was solemnly consecrated on the 4th May 1977. The new presbytery building includes another great spiritual resource, the Prayer Room, where Parishioners can come privately or in groups to pray.

In 2005, the church roof and all the top windows were replaced. In 2013, the Sacred Heart Centre was opened, following a complete renovation of the meeting rooms and hall, and provides a welcoming space for parish groups to interact.

Over the years, parishioners have responded to the need for collaborative ministries in sacramental preparation and liturgical participation. From the 1970s there has been a continuing outreach to other churches. This is a very active parish with over 40 groups serving its various needs. Many small Christian communities meet to share their understanding of the Faith.

The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart were founded by a diocesan priest, Fr Jules Chevalier, in Issoudun, France, in 1854. He was touched by the sufferings of the people and saw this human tragedy calling for compassion. He became a missionary of God’s love and dedicated his life to a single goal: ‘May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved.’ He envisioned three groups working together to fulfil his mission: Religious men and women, an association of diocesan priests, and a group of Laity who would take this mission to their homes and to their work places. Today the MSCs and the lay branch of his Spiritual Family are represented in all continents, where they continue Fr Jules’ work to make God’s love known wherever and whenever it is needed most, empowering, educating, and inspiring hope in poverty-stricken communities across the world.

In June 2019 the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart reluctantly decided that they would have to hand the parish back to the pastoral care of Westminster Archdiocese. Since the beginning of 2018 three members of the St Albans MSC community had died. While Frs Sandy Murray and Henry Twohig were retired members of the community, Fr Tom Hewitt was very much a key member of the Parish Team. The Parish Priest, Fr Tom Plower, had a health problem and was urged by his doctors to retire from full-time ministry; Fr Alan’s appointment as Vocations Director would soon come to an end and he would be moving on to another appointment in the Province; and Fr Jimmy was also due to retire. As a missionary congregation, the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart are committed to continuing their presence and ministry in North America, Venezuela and South Africa, but even there the last remaining Irish and English missionaries were about to retire. Sadly, the reality was that the MSCs simply did not have enough priests to provide continued ministry here in St Albans. So it was that in September 2019 the Parish came under the pastoral care of the diocese and we welcomed Fr Michael O’Boy, formerly Vice Rector and Dean of Studies at Allen Hall Seminary as our new Parish Priest and Fr Julian Davies, newly ordained, as Assistant Priest.

The influence and ethos of the MSCs for the past 120 years continues to permeate throughout our parish. Fr Chevalier’s vison of clergy, religious and laity working together is evident in the many activities that fulfil the command to love one’s neighbour. As well as the strategy groups there are many other voluntary organisations in our parish who care for the disadvantaged, and others who prefer devotional activities.

Our St Albans Group of the Lay Chevalier Family remains allied to the MSC Irish Province and is committed to keeping parishioners informed about the importance and continuing relevance of the Spirituality of the Heart in the world today. A Newsletter entitled “Heart to Heart” is freely available and there is an online presence at www.hearttoheartstalbans.org. The group meets on a regular basis for prayer and reflection. They also enjoy close links with members of the European Lay members of the Chevalier family many of whom now live in parishes formerly served by the MSCs and are an inspiration to our parish in the way they have kept the legacy of Fr Jules alive for many years.

A more detailed history of the parish from the first beginnings in 1840 and of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in St Albans since 1899 has been written by one of our late parishioners, James Corbett.


James Corbett “Celebration; The story of a parish. SS Alban and Stephen 1840-1990” 1990
ISBN 0 9517037 0 6

James Corbett “The Faithful Years; The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in St Albans 1899-1999” 1999
ISBN 0 9517037 3 6