Father Reg Dunkling was appointed to Sacred Heart Church in Teddington in 2006. He trained for the priesthood at the Allen Hall seminary and has worked at parishes in Kentish Town, Muswell Hill and Parsons Green.
He is pictured here, receiving a prayer block on behalf of the parish, carved by parishioner and talented wood craftsman John Lunt, (centre), whilst Bishop Alan Hopes looks on.
Father Reg – why did you decide to become a priest?
I grew up as the youngest child in a large catholic family in west London. All of my young life the church was a natural part of our family routine.
My childhood memories of going to church services in a procession like the Von Trapp family are happy ones although in those days the services seemed to go on for much, much longer!
I don’t know what made me become a priest. I went to Allen Hall with the intention of staying for no more than a week – at least I could look people in the face and say I tried! There was no-one more surprised than I when I woke up on the morning of my ordination in my family home thinking ‘What have I got myself into?’
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a priest?
If I were not a priest I would probably have been involved in the world of theatre which was always a great passion and remains so today.
How do you think the role of the parish priest has changed since you began?
The role of the priest is ever evolving and certainly from the days of my early priesthood to now, the role has changed dramatically. There are always different and new challenges in the society in which we live and it’s important that the church is present and willing to meet and address those challenges.
How would you describe our parish?
The parish here in Teddington is changing. There is a great sense of community, care and for the want of a better word, fellowship. More and more today parishioners take on responsibility both for the spiritual development of the parish and the more mundane running of the parish and maintenance.
I have tried to create a church building that welcomes people and in which they feel comfortable to pray.
The redecoration of the church, the new light system and sound system have helped that. The church here needs to be both a sanctuary from the chaotic and hectic lives people live and also a place where a community who share one faith can worship together and give praise to their God. Sacred Heart is blessed with many gifted and talented people and here we are so lucky to have two stunning yet different music groups who on a Sunday enhance our liturgy and help us pray.
What do you feel are the main challenges facing the Catholic church today?
There are several challenges facing the church in the modern world – nothing new there! I think it is important that the church addresses a number of important issues and answers them honestly always with pastoral care and support.
I think it would be wrong of me to single out one or two of these challenges. Perhaps it’s enough to say that we must face them head on and all that we do and say must be founded on the truth of the gospel and love and compassion of the God that we serve.
What is your favourite part of the liturgical year?
My favourite time I have to say is Holy Week. Now I would never have said that as a child. When I was young the services seemed to go for days not hours and yet today I think it is one of the most prayerful times of the church year. As odd as this may sound, I have a growing love of walking the way of the cross, for no matter how many times you do it, you always discover something new.
And finally what is your favourite prayer or biblical text?
That is an impossible question to answer! The one that comes to mind is “whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, that you do unto me”.