Father Keith Hodges

Father Keith Hodges

Vicar of Saint Augustine’s since 1989, I am married with children and grandchildren.

I was educated at the Duke of York’s Royal Military School,Dover, an education that has served me well as we take all the knocks which are part of any parish priest’s life. I was a convert to anglo – catholicism at the tender age of 16 when I experienced Vespers and Benediction at Nashdom Abbey and thought I had gone to heaven.

After leaving school I spent some time working in the City, I then trained to be a teacher before going on to my training for the priesthood at Chichester Theological College, now sadly closed. In the late 70’s we thought the Church of England just needed a few more well trained Catholic priests and the whole nation would be ours; and so fired up with the example of the heroic lives of the likes of Fr. Lowder and all the ‘slum’ priests of the past I was ordained deacon in 1980.

I served my title at Saint Philip’s Sydenham in South London, subsequently leaving to become curate in charge of All Saints Sydenham. After All Saints I spent a couple of years teaching in a very large inner city comprehensive school in Peckham whilst serving as honorary assistant priest at St. Clement’s East Dulwich.

In 1986 we moved to leafy Surrey where I was appointed assistant priest at SS. Mary and Nicholas Leatherhead, quite a contrast to the inner city but a good opportunity to broaden my ministry and learn other ways of being C of E.

In 1989 I was offered the living of Saint Augustine’s Aldershot, by the then Bishop of Guildford, Michael Adie, a fine Bishop even if he did put the motion to ordain women as priests at General Synod. Whilst Vicar of Saint Augustine’s its catholic tradition has continued to grow and flourish. Once described as a centre of liturgical excellence, we pride ourselves on our fine liturgy, modern but with traditional ceremonial, accompanied by a wide range of liturgical music to suit most tastes.

I also occasionally get out and about in the parish, which, though it is the poorest in Guildford Diocese, must be among the richest in its community life– its full of wonderful people who give me loads of love and support. I serve on or chair several local committees, including the North Town Partnership, and I am Chairman of Rushmoor Borough Council’s Independent Standards Committee. I am also Chaplain to the Royal British Legion, Aldershot.

Further a field I am belong to a number of societies and organizations, including the Society of the Holy Cross and Forward in faith and I am a chaplin to the Guild of the Servants of the Sanctuary and a priest of the Holy House of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham.

In my spare time I love gardening (nothing too strenuous), the seaside, opera, reading murders and thrillers, eating and drinking and shopping for clothes and shoes.  I enjoy academic study and in 2004 was awarded a University of London  Master of Arts Degree, with merit,  in contemporary theology in the  Catholic tradition, studying part time at Heythrop College.  Events tool an unexpected turn at the end of 2005 when heart problems were diagnosed and within a matter of weeks I had major heart surgery, - a triple by pass got me going again and I did my first funeral less then four weeks after being discharged from hospital.. St. George's Tooting not only saved my life but gave me a new lease of life allowing me to do pretty much what I've always done as a priest.  I continue my academic studies to keep the little grey cells active, for pleasure only these are now largely focussed on John Henry Newman, a hero since my student days, it was terrific to hear him declared 'Blessed' by Pope Benedict on September 19th 2010.

In June 2006 I was able to celebrate my silver jubilee of priesthood, bearing in mind events at the end a real cause for celebration with my family, friends and parishioners.  In 2007 it was a great joy to celebrate St. Augustine's 100th Birthday, with a packed church and the Bishop of the Diocese enthroned in the sanctuary.  We always enjoy a party at St. A's, as I said I love eating and drinking, that's in between the talking!  Yes one of those priests who always has plenty to say!

November 2009 saw yet another celebration - marking my being Vicar of St. Augustine's for twenty years, the 21st anniversary approaches as I revise this mini biography.  Next June I will celebrate thirty years as a priest - God continues to bless my ministry and there is so much to be thankful for, not least the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people here in sunny Aldershot, all with their own story to tell!

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