The Church

101 Hunters Road

Handsworth, Birmingham

B19 1EB

0121 554 0905

Parish Priest - Fr Gerard Kelly


The History of St Francis

Saint Francis of Assisi abandoned a life of luxury for a life devoted to Christianity after reportedly hearing the voice of God, who commanded him to rebuild the Christian church and live in poverty. He is the patron saint for ecologists.

The foundation stone of St Francis' church was laid in May 1893 by Bishop Edward Ilsley. The church was completed a year later and was opened by Cardinal Herbert Vaughan on 2 February 1894. When the debt from the cost of the building, £9000 was paid off five years later, the church was consecrated on 21 June 1900.

The church hosts 13 masses per week where everyone is welcome. There is also an adoration chapel next door to the church that can also be used for prayer.

The site of the old St Mary's church is now occupied by St Francis Catholic Primary School. The school has a close relationship with the parish and the Sisters of Mercy next door who each have a representative on the school's board of governors.

As well as, the Sisters of Mercy based in St Mary's Convent next door to the Church, other Catholic religious orders also work in the parish. The Missionary Sisters of St. Columban, the Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit, the Missionaries of Charity, and the Dominican Sisters of St Rose of Lima all help pastorally in the area with the congregation.

St Francis Live Stream

Our Parish also offers a live streaming service for all masses and services.

Now more than ever online services are vital to making church accessible to all, letting you engage with the church, and enabling you to share it with others. It also helps us to develop and deepen the unity which the Lord has given to his Church


Fr Gerard Kelly - Parish Priest.

I was born in Killygordon, Co Donegal in 1944- just as the Second World war was coming to and end. I am not sure if the two events were related, but I like to think my coming into the world ushered in an era of peace. I was the sixth child, and eventually, my parents had eight hungry mouths to feed. They were farming people, and big families were not unusual in Donegal. I attended Gleneely National School and then went on to St Columb’s College, Derry. From St Columb’s, I went on to St Patrick’s College, Maynooth to study for the Derry Diocese as a priest. From early childhood, I had always had a desire to be a priest-there were several priests among my uncles, granduncles and cousins. After a year at St Patrick’s, I decided the time was not right for me, but it was always on my mind to return to studies for the priesthood at some future date.

I then went to Manchester, where I trained as a teacher at De la Salle College, Hopwood Hall, and, having qualified, I came to Birmingham. I taught in various primary schools in the north of the city and finished my teaching career as Head of House at Stuart Bathurst Comprehensive School in Wednesbury, where I spent seven years. In all, I spent twelve years in teaching, and I still meet some of the youngsters I was privileged to work with. Teachers were, and still are, very important in the lives of young people.

I had often visited Birmingham during the Summer vacations, and had worked for a few weeks each summer on various construction sites. Teaching wasn’t very well paid in those days, but I was young and fit. Among the people who employed me were Eddie Fitzgerald, Billy Hone. John Connolly and Mary Hayes. They themselves have now departed this life, but many of their families are still in and around Hands- worth. I like to remind them that it was my efforts that got many of these family construction firms off to a flying start, although I have been accused more than once of holding a spade as if it were a pencil! I think I would have made a good builder!

Then one stormy October evening, I decided that, if I were going to be a priest, I had better do something about it! I rang Fr Patrick O’Rourke SJ who was Spiritual Director at Oscott Seminary. He arranged for me to do a retreat at St Beuno’s in North Wales with the late Fr Patrick Purnell. Fr Patrick guided me with great wisdom in those early days. I applied to Archbishop Dwyer to join the Archdiocese of Birmingham, and was accepted. He sent me to the Beda College in Rome for four years, which I considered a wonderful privilege. I was ordained in 1983 by Archbishop Couve de Murville in my home parish in Killygordon. My first appointment was as Assistant Priest to Canon Ted Stewart at St Chad’s Cathedral, where I spent two happy years. Then it was off to Selly Park, to St Edward’s to be Chaplain to St Mary’s Hospice and Selly Oak Hospital. In all, I spent sixteen years as Chaplain to St Mary’s Hospice, with other hospital chaplaincy work. I was appointed Parish Priest of Our Lady and St Rose of Lima in Weoley Castle in 1988, and was then asked to take care of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour in Wolverhampton.

Finally I am here in St Francis Parish in Handsworth, where I had lived for many years as a layman. In every parish I have worked in , I have found vibrant and joyful Catholic communities, who have all helped me to deepen and grow in my own faith!


Sisters of Mercy

St. Mary’s Convent, a Pugin building, opened in August 1841 - a few months after St. Chad’s Cathedral opened a mile down the road.

Early benefactors of St Mary's included John Hardman of Hardman & Co and John Talbot the 16th Earl of Shrewsbury. They both wanted to address poverty in Birmingham.

The Convent is home to the Sisters of Mercy, founded by Venerable Catherine McAuley in Dublin in 1831, and is the second English foundation of the order. John Hardman’s daughter, Juliana, became the first superior of St Mary's.

Throughout its history, as well as being a house of prayer and a base for parish work, St Mary's has also been a centre for the education ministry of the Sisters of Mercy. St Mary's Convent School operated on the convent grounds until the late 1960s. It was decided that as St Mary’s was the last house founded by Catherine McAuley it should continue as a Spirituality and Associates Centre, offer a Heritage Trail and extend a ministry to local women and children. There are currently five sisters in the Community, carrying out various ministries.

Mass Times:












12.30pm - Vietnamese Mass


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