John Vianney 20th Anniversary
Our Parish is named after St John Marie Vianney, a French priest who lived in the 19th Century. He transformed his small country parish in such a way that he is recognised today as the Patron Saint of Priests.
Thousands travelled from throughout France and beyond to listen to him and to go for Confession, so he is a great source of help for those who find it difficult to ask for forgiveness or who want to make a fresh start in life.
Many people know him as the Cure of Ars meaning that he was the parish priest of Ars and there are hundreds of parishes dedicated to him throughout the world.
13 February 2018 is the 200th Anniversary of John Vianney, the Cure of Ars, the Patron of Confessions and of Priests.
A Short History Lesson
Only as recently as 1952, there was no Catholic Church or school in the Halewood/Hunts Cross area. Those Catholics living in the area attended St Mary’s in Woolton and it was there to Father Edward Murphy, Parish Priest, that Archbishop Richard Downey wrote, instructing him to undertake a census of the area and the needs of its Catholic population.
Father Murphy found that there was a Catholic population of 365 adults and 244 children and it was decided to establish a Parish in the area. On 20 November 1950, Father Murphy was instructed to secure a site in Ashton Drive. This site of approximately 9,168 square yards included Hunts Cross House which was considered suitable for a Presbytery. There was local opposition to this proposed development so Father Murphy looked at other sites eventually settling for a three and a half acre site in Portway opposite Mackets Lane. The site was purchased for £1,400.00 with an initial budget of £5,000.00 to build a Parish Hall and temporary Mass Centre.
On 4 August 1952, the Archbishop wrote to Father Vincent Gaskell asking him to undertake the challenge and to continue the founding work of Father Murphy. He lived at St Mary’s Presbytery and weekly meetings and fundraising events were held. It was decided to build the Hall first so that Sunday Mass could be celebrated there and social and fundraising events held during the week.
The Hall was built by volunteer tradesmen of the Parish with the ladies providing refreshments and raising funds and Mass began to be celebrated there in 1953. Work then began on the Church and Presbytery which were completed in 1954. Thus the new Parish of St Andrew's was born and what was to be the future Parish of St John Vianney came into existence.
St Mark's Church was designed and constructed by Lanner Construction (1965/1975). The site also houses the Presbytery, Annexe (for use by parish groups) and the Parish Centre which is used for both parish events and private hire.
Holy Family Church was designed by W J Vis, 1965/1973. The Church is based on Mackets Lane, has a presbytery which is out of use and a small meeting room.
And Here Is A Longer Lesson!
In the south of the city, a medieval stone pedestal is a reminder that the community was once an ancient crossroads. Legend suggests Dick Turpin stayed in Hunts Cross on his way to York . A Taste of Honey actress, Rita Tushingham, grew up in a house opposite the grade II-listed 19th century railway station, while a retail park now occupies the site of the former Triumph factory where the TR7 was produced.
Eight miles south-east of Liverpool over the border in Knowsley, Halewood is the Merseyside home of car manufacturing. The plant was opened by the Ford Motor Company in 1963 to build the Anglia. Taken over by Tata Motors in 2008, Halewood has gone on to produce the best-selling Range Rover Evoque. Everton FC moved into their new training ground and youth academy Finch Farm, on the edge of Halewood, in 2007.
The first recorded baptism at St Andrew’s took place on 9 May 1954. Christopher Ainsworth was baptised by Father Gaskell. The first recorded marriage was on 15 November when Robert Robinson and Maureen Bellis exchanged vows.
A Parish Club was added to the site in 1969 and a major refurbishment of this took place in 2006. St Andrew’s Church and Presbytery were only ever intended to be temporary buildings until the influx of workers to Ford and other factories in the area could be gauged. During the 1980’s, the Sanctuary was re-ordered with a marble Altar being obtained from the closing of Notre Dame. Matching Baptismal Font, Lectern and Tabernacle stand were also obtained. Unfortunately in 1994, the Presbytery and Church were condemned and emergency work was carried out to bring them up to acceptable health and safety standards. A refurbishment of the Hall took place in 2004.
The boundaries of St Andrew’s were approved on 7 April 1958. “From a point where Speke Hall Road crosses the railway line the boundary follows this line East to Hale Bank Station; thence North via Lower Road to Brook House; thence by paths to Liverpool Road via Springfield Farm, Spring Farm, Yew Tree Farm; thence West via Liverpool Road to Mill Bridge; thence by sign-posted footpath to Gerrard’s Lane (crosses tenements) thence via Lydiate Lane to Mackets Lane; thence South to a footpath to Woolton; thence by path to Ross Avenue; thence South to footpath to Ross Avenue; thence South to Speke Road; thence West to a footpath across golf links; thence South by this path to Old Hillfoot Road; thence via Hillfoot Road, and Speke Hall Road to the bridge”.
Father Gaskell remained at St Andrew’s until 1973. He died 28 June 1979. He was replaced by Father Peter Cronin who was Parish Priest until 1979. He now lives in retirement in Southport. The next Parish Priest was Father John Magee, who served at St Andrew’s for fifteen years from 1978 to his death on 14 July 1993. Father Anthony McCaffery came to the Parish in 1993 and left in October 2002. He was replaced by Father Joseph Feeley who was appointed Parish Administrator and then Parish Priest the following summer. Father Feeley was the last Parish Priest of St Andrew’s and left in September 2005. St Andrew’s was also served by the following Curates: Father Austin Stirzaker 1962-1964; Father Patrick Murphy 1964-1973; Father Dennis McNamara 1973-1978 and Father John Harris 1978-1984.
On 29 November 2002, Archbishop Kelly came to St Andrew’s to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of its Foundation. Following a recent time of trauma, this was an occasion for celebrating all that was good and all the people who had contributed to the life of the Parish. It was an occasion for reunions and for moving forward.
When the building programme for the new housing estates for Halewood was being planned in 1958, St Andrew’s was the only Catholic Parish. By 1962, the Catholic population was over 1,000, within the St Andrew’s area. In the same year work began on the development of 400 houses in Church Road around the Derby Arms. At the same time Liverpool Corporation houses and maisonettes in the Mackets Lane area began to be occupied. In March 1963, the first cars (the Ford Anglia) began to come off the production line at the Ford factory in Halewood. In the Spring of 1963, Liverpool Corporation houses in the Higher Road South estate (Torrington Drive) began to be occupied. In 1964, houses in the Higher Road North estates (Leathers Lane, Elsinore Heights etc.) began to be occupied. In 1965, Liverpool Corporation also put forward plans for further development in the Church Road-Gerrards Lane area of Halewood. The plans were for 4,250 houses to be built in five phases with an additional population of 20-25,000. By 1969, a main road (now known as Okell Drive) had been built, drains established and all was set for a new development. In 1961, the population of Halewood was 3,791. Ten years later, it was 26,850 and the Catholic population was at its peak. It was against this background that the new parishes of St Mark's and Holy Family were formed.
In the early sixties, Father Kane was asked by Archbishop Heenan to extend the Catholic influence to the Leather’s Lane area. He set about the task of creating finances for the many projects ahead. Possession of the site on Penmann Crescent took place in July 1964 and purchase negotiations completed with Liverpool City Council in October 1973. The creation of the new Borough of Knowsley had caused delays and the original price of £5,175.00 had risen to £9,904.57 due to interest owed.
St Mark’s Parish was established officially on 25 March 1965. The boundaries were set as “Wood Road to the East side of St Veronica’s Secondary Modern School, thence to the railway. Along the railway to a point opposite Sutton’s Lane. Sutton’s Lane, Church Road, Cartbridge Lane, Greenbridge Lane, Liverpool Road to a point opposite where Higher Road crosses the railway, thence by a line drawn from this point to Higher Road. Westwards along both sides of Higher Road to Leather’s Lane, thence along both sides of Woodland Road to Wood Road. In all cases the boundaries run along the centre of roads, railways etc unless otherwise stated”. Father Cornelius Kane was appointed the first Parish Priest. A Presbytery was built with a view to cater for three Priests in the newly established Parish of St Mark's. Father Kane had previously lived at 85 Hollies Road. This was sold in 1967 for £3,975.00, the money going towards the cost of a new Presbytery with a temporary Chapel attached. It was here that the first recorded baptism at St Mark’s took place of Louisa Jeanette Clyne. The first recorded marriage is between Arthur Alker and Shirley Ainsworth on 28 October 1967.
In due course a Parish Club was opened in Fir Avenue in July 1967, with extensions in 1973 and a major refurbishment which not only helped financially but was recognised as the main Social Centre which brought other people of diverse views and religions, thus creating a harmonious and pleasant environment.
In November 1970, Archbishop Beck asked Father Richard Colbert to become Parish Priest and to meet with Father Kane and Father O’Connell. He took up the appointment on 11 December. Father Colbert celebrated his Silver Jubilee of priesthood on 9 June 1971 and on 11 June, work began on the foundations of a new Church. Bishop Harris made a Visitation to the Parish that same weekend. Sunday Mass had been celebrated since 1964 at St Veronica’s School Hall and later in St Mark’s Junior School Hall, until the opening of the Church on 6 July 1972, by Bishop Harris. The Altar had been consecrated two days earlier.
During his time at St Mark’s, Father Colbert was assisted by Father Noel O’Connell, Father John Harrington, Father John Gildea and Father Peter Kelly. After his retirement as Parish Priest of Holy Family parish, Father Cyril Thomas supplied at St Mark's on many occasions. In 1996, Paul Whitehead was ordained a Deacon and was of great assistance to him in his later years. Although Paul and Janice have now moved from the Parish, Paul still returns to help with Baptisms and Funeral Services.
Father Colbert was Parish Priest of St Mark’s for thirty-four years, until his death on March 19 2005. During that time he celebrated his Silver and Golden anniversaries of Ordination. The fortieth anniversary of the Founding of the Parish, fell on the Sunday following his death. His body was received into the church by Bishop Vincent Malone who celebrated a Vigil Mass on Tuesday March 29th. Following Mass, various groups of parishioners and organisations associated with the Parish prayed the Rosary and Father Vin McShane concluded the Vigil with Night Prayer. The following day, March 30th, Archbishop Patrick Kelly celebrated his Funeral Mass. His chalice was placed on his coffin and the family later donated this to the Parish. Father Joseph Feeley, Father Cyril Thomas, his family and representatives from the Parish (including the Headteacher of St Mark’s School and those who had looked after him) then took his body for burial to his native Ireland. Following Father Colbert’s death, the Parish was looked after by Father Anton Fernandopulle until Father Fr Vin was appointed Administrator the following September.
Father Howard again from St Mary’s, Woolton moved into Mackets Lane. The Parish of Holy Family was formally established on 21 December 1966, with the following boundaries: “Greenacre Road, Speke Road as far as Charterhouse Road. Charterhouse Road to Hunts Cross Avenue. Hunts Cross Avenue to its junction with Kings Drive, Out Lane and continuing by a line along the City Boundary to the Railway line. Thence to Lydiate Lane, Gerrards Lane, Wood Lane, Netherley Road, Liverpool Road, Greenbridge Lane, Cartbridge Lane, Church Road, Sutton Lane, and by a line from Sutton Lane to the Railway. Thence southwards and westwards along the Railway to a point behind the shops which face Mackets Lane. From that point by a line behind the shops to Yew Tree Road. Then northwards along Yew Tree Road to the point where it turns westwards to meet Mackets Lane, across Mackets Lane to Greenacre Road. In all cases the boundaries run along the centre of roads, railways etc unless otherwise stated”.
Before Holy Family Church was built, Mass was celebrated in St Peter’s School Hall. The first recorded baptism at Holy Family Parish took place on 11 January 1970, when Joanne Clare Edge was baptised. Father Cyril Thomas replaced Father Howard in 1969 and lived in Millcroft Road until the new Presbytery was built. Holy Family Church was consecrated on Thursday 8 March 1973 by Archbishop George Andrew Beck. It is interesting to note that the Consecration Service included a prayer to St John Vianney. The first recorded marriage was on 2 June 1973, when Alan Melia and Christine Margaret Leech were married. During his time as Parish Priest, Father Thomas was assisted by Fathers Vincent Fedigan, Gerard McCusker, John Cunningham and a retired priest, Father Keating.
Father Thomas retired in 1993 and was replaced by Father Paul Glover. Father Glover stayed for ten years until 2003, when he was appointed Spiritual Director to the English College in Spain. It was during Father Glover’s time that part of the Presbytery which had previously been the living accommodation for the Housekeeper, was converted into a meeting room. While here, he was assisted by Father Jim Finnigan. Father Vin McShane became Parish Priest of Holy Family and Administrator of St Gregory’s, Netherley in September 2003. Father Cyril Thomas died 18 April, just over a year after taking the body of his friend, ather Colbert back to Ireland. His Funeral Mass was held at Ince Blundell Hall and was attended by many parishioners. Archbishop Kelly came to Holy Family Church on Friday 4 May for a Memorial Mass at 7.30 pm and was attended by members of Father’s family.
Leaving Safe Harbours
In May 2005, the following message from Bishop Vincent Malone was read out in all the Churches in the Halewood/Hunts Cross and Childwall Valley area:
“To the parishioners of Our Lady of the Assumption, St Cyril, St Gregory, St Paschal Baylon, Holy Family, St Andrew and St Mark, Liverpool. In recent years the number of priests available to serve in the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Liverpool has fallen, while the number of Churches to be served remains largely the same. Consequently we are now looking at Pastoral Areas larger than four former Parishes, sometimes to be served by two or more Priests working together. The retirement of Father Desmond Power after ten years’ service in St Paschal Baylon’s Parish (23 years in the diocesan priesthood altogether) is the occasion of reviewing the assignment of clergy in the Childwall Valley area.
Accordingly the Archbishop has asked that from 9 September 2005, Father Bill Murphy currently at Our Lady of the Assumption, with Father Joseph Feeley currently at St Andrew’s, together serve the four Parishes of Our Lady of the Assumption, St Gregory, St Cyril and St Paschal Baylon. Father Murphy will continue to live at Our Lady’s and Father Feeley will live at St Paschal Baylon’s.
At the same time, the recent death of the much loved Father Richard Colbert of St Mark’s, requires that from 9 September 2005, Father Vincent McShane of Holy Family Parish, Halewood will no longer attend St Gregory’s Church, but will accept the additional responsibility of serving St Andrew’s and St Mark’s Parishes. He will be assisted in this by the part-time services of another Priest yet to be named.
New arrangements of this kind affect not only the Priests, but also all the people with whom they try to serve the Lord. It is for this reason that these changes are being announced now, four months before they will come into effect, so that all may make the necessary adjustments to their expectations and in their approach to covering between them, all the necessary duties of Parish life. Priests and people will want; I am sure, to share with the Bishops of the Archdiocese, the exercise of their different responsibilities for celebrating and proclaiming God’s Good News in all our Parishes. May the Lord bless us all in the endeavour." +Vincent Malone Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool
In the weeks following this announcement, Father Vin celebrated Mass and preached at all Masses in the three Churches he was to become responsible for. Parish Open Meetings were held at each site and in the months following, a period of consultation took place.
A Parish Council was formed. This involved parishioners of the three Parishes voting for three representatives. John Ireland, Geraldine Marsh and Jennifer Jones were elected for St Andrew’s; Jim Moore, Ann Roach and Chris Myles for Holy Family and May McGrath, Peter Crompton and Agnes Cannon for St Mark’s. Lisa and Rachel Parry, Helen Kelly and Tara Pinnington were elected as youth representatives for each Parish. Sr Clarissa and the three Headteachers were also invited to be part of the Council.
In September 2005, Carolyn Curtis was appointed Parish Administrator and the Parish Office and Presbytery were set up at St Mark’s, as this was the largest place to combine three previous offices. A new joint Newsletter for the three Parishes was introduced.
September 2005 also saw the arrival of Father Leonard Biachi from the Diocese of Isseleuku in Nigeria, to undertake studies at Liverpool University and to assist Father McShane. He was to stay with us, residing at Holy Family Presbytery until December 2006, when he returned to Nigeria to lecture in the seminary. Father Leonard’s presence was invaluable as Father McShane was admitted to hospital in June 2006 and was only able to return to the Parish in the November.
Mrs Jan Cunningham was the new Headteacher of St Andrew’s School, joining Mrs Margaret Gilbertson, the Head of St Mark’s and Mrs Carol Hamilton, Head of Holy Family.
A nine week Novena, (three Masses at each Church) with guest preachers: Father Leonard Biachki, Father Mike Thompson, Father John Gorman, Father Philip Inch, Mgr John Butchard, Bishop Vincent Malone, Father Grant Maddock and Father Paul Seddon) was held with the intention, “While giving thanks for the past, we pray that our three parishes be united in the future”. In November the heating systems at St Mark’s was replaced.
St John Vianney
The three former parishes of St Andrew, St Mark and Holy Family were formally suppressed on December 31 2005. The new Parish came into being on January 1st 2006. Father Vin had made a private pilgrimage to Ars between Christmas and New Year.
The setting up of the new Parish was marked by three events. On Wednesday January 4, Archbishop Kelly came to celebrate a Holy Hour with us and then met with the Parish Council afterwards . On the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, Bishop Tom Williams came to celebrate Mass for the Staff, Governors and junior children of our three Schools and in the evening, Bishop Malone came to celebrate Mass during which Father Vincent McShane was Inducted as the first Parish Priest of the new Parish of St John Vianney.
In February 2006, the “Leaving Safe Harbours” prayer was added to the Newsletter and St Andrew’s Parish Club re-opened following a major refurbishment.
To discuss our response to the “Leaving Safe Harbours” Consultation, a Parish Open Meeting was held in March 2006 and the following was minuted. “There was a strong consensus that when clustering occurs, the sense of fragmentation has to be overcome as soon as possible. There was a general feeling that one Parish requires one Church/Centre, so that the integration of the previous three parishes can occur. One Parish-one Church-one Spirit. A loss of identity can result iin people falling away, not through a lack of faith, but through a loss of a sense of belonging. One Church/Centre, would enable more effective use of resources which is essential. Staying as we are, with three sites will spread resources thinly”.
During Easter 2006, a married couple moved into St Andrew’s Presbytery. In May 2006, a meeting was organised by some of the ladies on the Parish Council to form a “Parish Ladies Group”. A new “Parish Mass Card” was introduced.
It was announced at the beginning of June that Father Vin had been admitted to hospital. Bishop Malone met with the Parish Council to put into place, various strategies to cover Father Vin’s absence. He made visits to the Parish for the Vigil of St John Vianney on August 3, celebrated Masses for the beginning of the School Year at the three Schools early September and met with the Parish Council on September 12. He then made “home” visits from September to November. He returned to the Parish full time at the beginning of November.
On the first weekend in June 2007, Archbishop Kelly made a Pastoral Visitation to the Parish. He celebrated and preached at all the weekend Masses and held an open meeting with parishioners. This was followed by a visit to each of our three Schools by Bishop Tom Williams.
In 1997, Father McCaffery had received a surveyors report which condemned the Presbytery at St Andrew’s and listed some major issues that needed to be dealt with in the Church. Remedial repairs took place and plans and designs for a new Church were submitted to the Archdiocese and referred back to the Deanery Priests. They rejected the idea of a new Church as they felt there was enough capacity in the present Churches and talk of the shortage of Priests and the merging of Parishes had begun to be discussed at the Council of Priests.
In January 2009, the boiler at St Andrew’s Church failed. It was deemed unsafe to use portable electric heaters as these led to the system being overloaded. During the following weeks various reports were received regarding the Church and Presbytery. It was also discovered that although a refurbishment of the Hall had taken place in recent years, that no insulation had been put in the roof space and the heating system there, was also outdated. There had been a number of burst pipes. During the survey of the Church, it was discovered that the damp course had failed and that there was subsidence on the right hand side of the building. These issues were discussed by the Pastoral Area Priests, the Archdiocesan Finance Committee and the Council of Priests and a report was sent to the Archbishop. A Parish Open Meeting, attended by Father Grant Maddock, was held on Friday 6 March 2009 and all the issues were presented and discussed.
During the weekend of April 4th/5th 2009, a statement from the Archbishop was read at all Masses throughout the Pastoral Area. He announced that he had issued a decree for the closure of St Andrew and St Cyril’s Churches. He said he had made this decision after sharing advice from the Pastoral Area with, as the law requires, the Council of Priests and then presenting this to both the Archbishop’s Council and the Trustees.
The Archbishop announced that he would celebrate a final Mass at St Andrew’s Church on 8 Friday May 2009, to give thanks for all the ways in which so many had been blessed by the prayer and fidelity and family celebrations focused in St Andrew’s Church over many years.
During the day, on May 8, there was Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for people to make their private prayers and reflection, concluding with Benediction led by Father Vin. The Archbishop, the Pastoral Area Priests and atheFr Ian McParland (a former parishioner) duly celebrated the closing Mass, which was full to capacity.
Between 19 June 2009 and 20 June 2010, there was “The Year of the Priest” called by Pope Benedict. Throughout the year there was weekly Exposition with various visiting priests. There was also an “Archdiocesan Day of Prayer and Reflection” held in our Parish and presided over by Bishop Tom Williams.
Toward the end of 2009, the Parish submitted a request to the Archdiocesan Finance Committee that we extend Holy Family Church, to allow for the extra parishioners from St Andrew’s. It was also proposed to extend the meeting rooms at Holy Family and St Mark’s. However, after further discussion with the Parish Council, the Pastoral Area Priests and the Pastoral Area Working Group (PAWG) Father Vin decided to withdraw the requests to give us time to look at the bigger picture.
Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
At the time of his appointment, the Archbishop asked Father Vin to integrate some Sisters from The Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Nigerian Order, into the parishes of Halewood and Hunts Cross. One of Father Vin’s first tasks here was to meet with Father Colbert and Father Feely to see what the needs of each Parish was. The Sisters lived in rented accommodation until they moved into Holy Family Presbytery in December 2006.
In September 2007, Sr Catherine Farrelly joined the Parish Team. She is a member of the Daughters of St Vincent De Paul, who are already well established at St Gregory’s, Netherley, Christopher Grange and the Cathedral. She too, along with the Nigerian Sisters, was a Pastoral Assistant to Father Vin. Sr Catherine stayed for five years and retired in 2013.
No history can easily record the many sacrifices and many people, individuals, groups and societies involved in the forming of the three Parishes and the fundraising that took place to provide Churches, Schools, Presbyteries and Clubs. What can be said is that what they have achieved we have to build upon. This is a new start and we have to provide realistically for the future, while giving thanks to God for those who came before us and praying for those who will come after us.