Parish History 1952-2002


Foreword

In the life of any Parish 50 years may not seem a long time – some Parishes have been going for hundreds of years – our neighbouring Parish St Benedict’s has just celebrated their 100th year.  Yet for all in St Stephen First Martyr who have lived through the formation and evolution of our Parish it is an important occasion and, for many it has been a lifetime of faith and service to this community and area.

 

This booklet takes us through the history of our Parish; right from the arrival of Fr Dillon, the struggles to find somewhere to celebrate mass, the purchase of land and the building of Church, School, Presbytery and Social Club.  Within it are many personal recollections of special days and high points in our parish’s life; for this we are indebted to so many Parishioners who have taken the trouble to add their own recollections and remind us of the facts.

 

As with any attempt to recall the past, there may be some things missing: incidents and recollections, historical facts that have not come to light whilst this booklet has been compiled.  However, do not let this spoil your appreciation of the many things contained within it; for this booklet is a wonderful bringing together of so many people’s lives as we journey together in faith as St Stephen First Martyr Parish.

 

My final thanks go to Mrs Win Shelmerdine, the compiler and editor of this booklet.  It has taken no small amount of effort and time to draw together the facts, recollections and memories contained within.  She has done a marvellous job for which we are immensely grateful.

 

As we look to mark our 50th year with a concelebrated Mass on 10th July 2002 we hope it will be a real gathering of faith – of current and past parishioners, of current and past priests – to celebrate how far we have come as a Parish.  But as with all matters of faith in Christ Jesus, we live in the present and look to the future.  We look toward our next 50 years with hope and anticipation that the work begun in us, by Christ Jesus, may come to completion both here and in the world to come.

 

Fr Gordon Abbs, May 2002

In total the Parish, over the last 50 years, has been privileged to have had thirty-four priests serve here.  Included in that number are eight Parish Priests.

This booklet is briefly about some of the Parochial happenings and changes during those years and, starting with the first Priest, Father Maurice Dillon, follows in sequence the times of the successive Parish Priests.

  1. MAURICE DILLON 1952 – 1972
  2. DANIEL CADOGAN 1972 – 1977
  3. EAMON RAFTERY 1977 – 1982
  4. PATRICK HUGHES 1982 – 1988
  5. JIM TUOHY 1988 – 1992
  6. JOHN O’KELLY 1992 – 1997
  7. AIDAN McGING 1998 – 1999
  8. GORDON ABBS 1999 –

Fr Maurice Dillon (1952-1972)

In the early 1930s there were very few buildings in the area, which was to become the Parish of St. Stephen, First Martyr, Orford, Warrington.  There were Throstle Nest, Brooklands and North Farms.  There was Sandy Lane on the map but no houses.  There was Old Winwick Rd, the main route north/south for traffic but very few houses there.

In the mid 30s the estate of Longford was built to house people from more central overcrowded areas of Warrington.  Catholics from St. Mary’s, St. Benedict’s and St. Alban’s Parishes were amongst those re-housed.  It is said that the average rent per week plus rates was 9 shillings.

In 1941 during the Second World War the ‘flat-topped’ Admiralty houses were built. These were built originally to house people involved with war work e.g. workers at Risley munitions factory.  They were built with the help of Irish workmen.  At that time some of the newly occupied council houses were inspected to check for spare bedrooms. The occupants were asked to help the war effort by volunteering to take in the Irish workmen as lodgers.  The names of some of the avenues are a reminder of the war – Ajax, Achilles, and Hunter were named after famous warships.

The area continued to grow and expand to include the new Orford estate.  The Catholic population grew accordingly. To attend Mass on Sundays meant journeying to St. Benedict’s, St. Mary’s or St. Alban’s.  Many people stayed loyal to their former parishes. This often meant a long journey on foot, as buses were not frequent or convenient for Mass times and very few people had cars.

One parishioner recalls:

“Every Sunday my mother, my father, my younger brother and I walked to St. Mary’s Church, Buttermarket St, to attend the 9.30am Mass.  It seemed a long way for little legs.  My dad would make a game of it.  We would run a lamp, walk a lamp, to break the monotony and quicken the journey. Things became more difficult when we reached the age of making our First Communion because after that we had to walk without a breakfast, having fasted from bedtime the previous evening.  We used to call at my Grandmas on the way home for some toast and a drink. In cold weather she would give us a hot, jacket-potato to hold in our gloved hands to keep us warm on the return journey.”

By the early 1950s plans were afoot to build a church in the Longford/Orford area.  The Benedictines were initially involved, but then Father Maurice Dillon, a Secular Priest, a six-foot, fifteen stone, Kerry-man who had served as a curate in two parishes since his ordination at St. Peter’s College, Wexford, on 3rd June 1934 was asked by the Archbishop of Liverpool, Dr. Richard Downey, to found a new parish in the area.  Fr. Dillon was born in Duagh, County Kerry.

Charlie McIvor writes:

“I recall the occasion in October 1951 when a priest alighted from a bus at the ‘Queen’s’ bus-stop, having travelled by train and bus from Liverpool.  He asked for directions to St. Benedict’s Presbytery.  We offered to take him because it was just a short distance from our home in Fitzherbert St.  In conversation he learned that I was formerly from St. Cecilia’s Parish, Liverpool.  He said “I’ve just come from serving in that parish.”  Thus began the daunting task for Fr. Dillon of building, from rock bottom, a parish which would eventually number 5,000.  Subsequently our family came to live in the parish.”

It is said that Fr. Dillon had only £100 in his pocket.  He had to find lodgings in the parish, which he did, in Fisher Avenue.  Then later he was offered hospitality by the Benedictines at St. Benedict’s.  He acquired a bike, then his brother gave him an old Wolseley car.  He tried to find a place where he could say Sunday Masses.  Marie Connor remembers:

“One day Fr. Dillon and Mr. Tom Harney, who taught at St. Benedict’s and lived locally, came to see my dad.  Fr. said, “We’ve come to ask if we can use your barn to say Mass there on Sundays.” “Have you seen the state of the roof?  It’s got holes in it,” said Dad.  Father replied, “Do you know that Jesus was born in a place like this?” “Surely we can offer Him something better,” said dad.  Then he suggested that Father try Sandy Lane A.I. Social Club. “I’ll talk to the committee,” he said, “if they don’t agree they’ll be one customer short in future.”

So negotiations were made and the first Mass in the Parish was said in that Social Club on 20th April, Palm Sunday, 1952.  From then on he was able to provide Mass each Sunday at this venue.

Many older parishioners will remember having to get up early to prepare the club for Mass. Windows were thrown open to freshen the stale air, a makeshift altar was made (Mrs Polly Houghton crocheted the altar cloths(, notices displaying prices of drinks etc. were turned and chairs were put in rows. Metal collecting plates were used at first but these had to be taken and lined to stop the noise made by coins as they were dropped in. Everyone worked willingly and a great spirit pervaded.

Charles Malone, one of the first altar boys, remembers serving at Mass.  There was no bell to ring at the Consecration so he was given a stick and told to strike a nearby metal handle.

Margaret Mulholland, former parishioner, recalls:

“I was present at the first Mass with my family.  I can remember being nudged and told to put my hand up because Mr. Harney was doing the count for people who would later be going to Holy Communion.  We had no tabernacle so only those hosts that were needed were to be consecrated.”

She goes on to say:

“These were great times of enthusiasm and development.  All participated, children, youth, adults and priests, to build a new Catholic community.  People worked hard and long together with great generosity.  Looking back over the years, having no church, – that is no building in which to worship – was good experience.  I came to value this in my religious and spiritual formation and in my understanding of ‘CHURCH’.”

Fr. Dillon also took on the Chaplaincy of Winwick Hospital.  Midnight Mass that year was celebrated in the hospital chapel.  It was a ticket only affair!

Meantime negotiations were already going on for a site for a church, a school and other parochial buildings.  In the late summer of 1952 a suitable house, just outside the parish boundary at 103 Hallfields Road, was procured, to serve as a presbytery.  One parishioner recalls that Fr. Dillon did his utmost to keep the heating bills down and when one of his assistant priests complained of being cold Fr. Dillon told him to do his parish visiting to warm up.  It is believed that the said priest took refuge in the Queen’s cinema!

Outdoor collectors were quickly organised to make weekly collections in their areas to help with much needed Parish funds. Father Dillon would visit with each one in turn every week.  Apparently he would shake hands with his right hand whilst holding his left out for cash.  He could coax money out of a stone!  Father Dillon once said that when a little girl of the parish swallowed a sixpenny piece a neighbour told her worried parents to send for Father Dillon because he could get money out of anyone.

Parish life continued.  The first Benediction Service was on May-Sunday at Connor’s farm.  It was held in the open air.  The altar was improvised.  A table was placed high on a long, flat, farm cart.  Luckily the weather was fine and dry that day.

Confessions were also heard at the farm.  Chairs were placed in the hall for people to queue.  A clothes maiden, covered with a curtain, acted as a confessional.  It had been known for this to be accidentally knocked over, much to the consternation of a red-faced penitent who came face to face with her confessor.  There were no open confessions in those days! Confessions continued to be heard every Saturday at the farm until the first church opened.

A picture of Throstle Nest Farm, [Connor’s Farm] which was situated near to where the traffic island is at the corner of Sandy Lane and Sandy Lane West.  Also a photo of Bill [Horsey] Connor working on his dad’s farm.  This was in the field where the present school and church stand.  Bill is on the left of the photo.

In due time a licence to erect a temporary mission church was granted in accordance with the application of Messrs. Massey and Gleave, Architects of Manchester, Warrington and Stoke on Trent.  The site was laid in February 1953.  Erection commenced in March.

The Archbishop had indicated that the titular of the new Parish should be:-  ST. STEPHEN FIRST MARTYR

The first Church of St. Stephen First Martyr

Just a few days after its completion, the church was officially opened by His Grace, the Archbishop of Liverpool the Most Rev. Richard Downey D.D.,PhD., LLD. on 29th March 1953

The Archbishop opens the first church

It was a great day for the Catholics of the area.  Throngs turned out to witness the event.

An extract from the Official Programme reads:

‘The building is a temporary construction, clothed externally with corrugated asbestos sheeting and lined with plaster board.  The nave has a wooden floor whilst the sacristy and subsidiary rooms are of concrete finish.  The cost of the church complete is approx. £4,000 and it will accommodate a congregation of 250.  The building is only the first, but a very essential stage, of a major development comprising, church, presbytery, and parish hall of permanent construction, while on an adjacent seven-acre site will arise a primary school and a secondary modern school.  The whole scheme has the approval of the Town Planning Authority and plans are in course of preparation by the architects.’

Each family bought a chair for the church.  Eileen Murray, a founder member of the parish, remembers they were red tubular ones and that there was lino on the aisle and an organ at the rear of the church.  She helped to clean the church for special occasions.

Some older parishioners remember the nice smell of newness and of the candles, the lovely wooden altar and the beautiful altar cloths, and of the warm, friendly, calm atmosphere.

The ladies of the parish took great pride in keeping their church spotlessly clean .

Now they were able to attend Mass daily, close to home, and soon would witness marriages, baptisms and funerals in their own parish church.

A map showing the position of:-

The First St Stephen’s Church

The site for the Primary School

The A.1. Sandy Lane Social Club

Throstle Nest Farm (Connor’s Farm)

The altar of the new church.

It was a wooden altar.

The edging of the altar cloth was crocheted by Mrs. Houghton.

The late Tom Hill made six candle stands and two candle trays and did the ironwork for the altar rails. The woodwork across the rails was done by the late Mr. Walsh, a St. Benedict’s parishioner.  Mr. Connor donated a statue of the Sacred Heart and one of Our Lady of Lourdes for each side of the altar. Later when the permanent church opened, the Sacred Heart statue was given to the school and Our Lady’s was placed in the church porch where it stands today.

Forty Hours Exposition of  The Blessed Sacrament

An impromptu choir formed.  A group of men and women, some already in the Catholic Choral Society, like Terry and Mary Whelan, Ann Cassidy and Alice Hughes and others joined together to sing at Mass. When work shifts permitted, Mr. Phillips conducted. Mr. John Aspinwall played the organ. His daughter, a parishioner, was professed a nun, Sister Teresa Clare, in the order of Sisters of Charity, at St. Paul’s Convent, Selly Park, Birmingham, on 21st. August 1962.

A Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes was built near the church by Mr. O’Grady a parishioner, and his sons. The wiring for the lighting was the work of Mr. John McIntyre who lived opposite Fr. Dillon in Hallfields Rd.  Fr. Dillon gave him a part bottle of brandy and the family still have the (empty) bottle.

Many wedding photographs were taken in front of this grotto.

The First Parish Walking Day

In 1952 St. Stephen’s had been invited to walk with St. Benedict’s for the Annual Warrington Walking Day Procession.  In 1953 St. Stephen’s walked as a Parish for the first time.  A very large contingency of children, altar boys, Guilds of St. Agnes and Children of Mary and particularly men of the parish processed. Father Dillon had coaxed and cajoled every man and child to walk, to prove to the Authorities that St. Stephen’s had become a large parish and that a Primary School was essential.  The numbers who walked made an impressive sight.

Terry Whelan recalls that the banner was made by Gerry Cross, a painter and sign-writer from a local garage.  He used two linen bed sheets and painted them in his spare time.

Leaving St. Stephen’s to join the Walk

A picture of a later Walking Day shows Frs. E. McGuire, M. Dillon and F. Smith as they lead the Parish through the town.

The lower picture shows, again, another Walking Day. The altar boys, Father Dillon,  Father McGee and Mr. Tom Harney are at the head of St. Stephen’s procession.

Many parishioners continued to turn up in force each year to join in this annual event.  St. Stephen’s was recognised as having one of the largest turn-outs.

May processions in honour of Our Lady took place, also June processions for Corpus Christi.  The route was along Northway.

Many people, both Catholic and non- Catholic turned out to watch.

This photo shows a Corpus Christi Procession. The  children are scattering flowers before the Blessed Sacrament.

The first wedding in the Parish took place on 29th May 1954.  Pat Houghton of McKee Ave. married Tom Paton of St. Alban’s Parish. They both now live in Jersey and Pat wrote:

“Tom and I were the first couple to be married in the new church. We had Nuptual Mass at 9a.m. The weather was dreadful. It poured with rain. I remember that an American Serviceman held  a large black umbrella over me. He was getting married after me. The altar servers were Kevin and Michael Harney and Fred Brown. Mary Phillips played the organ. My bridesmaids were Win Potter and Kathleen Paton. The ladies of the Parish covered the altar rails with white cloths for the occasion. Sadly my mother didn’t live to see me married in the church for which she had worked so hard. She died in February of that year. The statue of  St. Joseph, The Worker, which is still in the present main church, was donated by a relative in her memory.”

Palm Sunday is a very significant day in the history of St. Stephen’s. It was on Palm Sunday 1956 that the foundation stone of  the much needed Primary School was laid by The Most Rev. William Godfrey,  Archbishop of Liverpool.

Subsequently the new school opened.  Sister Leontia C.P. was appointed Head.

On Monday 6th May 1957, 280 children were admitted and on 13th May an additional 53 pupils.  No 4th Year pupils (10-11yrs) were admitted because they only had one term in their schools (mainly St. Benedict’s) before transfer to Secondary Schools

Sr. Leontia recorded that as the school doors opened for the first time, the children gave a loud cheer.  They marvelled at their new surroundings, the blackboards that were on the walls around the rooms, the new furniture, the soap in bottles and the paper towels and the large playground and field.

On 22nd September 1957 the school was officially opened. Children dressed in white and waving Papal flags, along with staff, lined the route to the school.

John Carmel Heenan, Archbishop of Liverpool, accompanied by Father Dillon, Clergy of St. Stephen’s and of the Archdiocese, blessed the exterior and interior of the school.  Afterwards they joined members of  the Warrington Education Committee, the Mayor, Councillor Brandwood, and members of the Town Council.  Many speeches were made and Mr. H. M. Phillipson, Chief Education Officer, spoke in glowing terms of the wonderful work done by Father Dillon, and the parishioners of  St. Stephen’s, in helping to build such a lovely school.

1957 also saw the completion of the Presbytery close to the school.  Pat Paton, a former parishioner, remembers that Fr. Dillon was short of some privets to complete the hedge around the garden.  He went to her mother and begged for some of theirs.  They were huge and he pulled them out with his bare hands.

This left photograph was taken in more recent times.  It shows the school building in the background.  The photo on the right is an early one of the presbytery.

From 1952 Fund raising had been of great importance.  Parishioners worked very hard in many ways.  The ladies, at first, joined with St. Benedict’s ladies to perform in concerts and pantomimes etc. in the Bell Hall.  When St. Stephen’s School became available they eventually used that venue.  They were pleased to have a meeting place on the doorstep!

Kath Fox, who came to live in the Parish in 1957 wrote:

“I liked the atmosphere in the hut, (as the temporary church was known) it created an intimate, warm group of people. There was a lovely grotto of Our Lady in the grounds.  I remember the Parish bought Fr. Dillon a car.  It cost £800.

 

There was a large Confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, a mixture of young and old. Some of us were young mothers.  This Guild was our social life.  Every year the Guild put on a pantomime to help Church funds. The producer was the late Mary Whelan.  Ann Cassidy was musical director.  John Aspinwall played the piano and Tessie Hennessey made the costumes.  Peter Hilton painted the scenery and Dick Potter, Len McDonough and Pat Culleton senior, were scene shifters and helpers.  We went on tour to St. Anselm’s, St. Oswald’s and to our Anglican neighbours, St. Andrew’s.  We had lots of laughs learning our lines and songs.  I did mine while doing my washing.  In one show, Dick Whittington, one of the cast couldn’t get her lines right.  Instead of saying “Good luck Dick,” she would say, Good lick Duck”

 

Happy memories!  May all the deceased members of the shows Rest in Peace.  I hope they are reminiscing in Heaven.”

A DAY’S OUTING

This photo shows some of the Ladies Confraternity on a trip to the seaside.

Top Row

Mrs. Mary Parkes   Mrs. Lettie Lee   Mrs Edie Vernon   Mrs. Mary Bates

Mrs. Ada Coyne   Mrs. Kate Lowry

Bottom Row

Mrs. Biddie Williams    Mrs. May Kelly

 

A photo of a concert given by the ladies of St. Benedict’s and St. Stephen’s

in the Bell Hall, Orford Lane

ALADDIN.

The cast of Aladdin, performed by St. Stephen’s Ladies.  Mrs Maggie Curly played Aladdin’s mum.   Note on the back of the photo said: at St. Stephen’s Jan. 9th, 12th, 13th    Anselm’s  Feb 10th    St. Oswald’s Feb 23rd.

 

A St. Patrick’s Night Concert in St. Stephen’s School

St. Stephen’s Pilgrimage, by air, to Lourdes April 1961 led by Fr. Edward McGuire

On the far bottom right of the photo is Margaret Mulholland, a  parishioner, who in 1961 became a nun in the Order of the Sisters of Notre Dame. Today Sr. Margaret is Headmistress of St. Mary’s Primary School in London.  She remembers also, going by coach on a Pilgrimage to Lourdes the previous year.  That tour, led by Fr. Smith, cost £26 for 10 days.

The men of the Parish ran weekly Domino Drives, played with cards.  They got the use of  a room in the Tannery, Haydock Street.  The room was large and got filled to capacity. The organisers  begged  prizes from local firms.  They also ran a Football Pool’s Lottery. Monies were collected each week in Mr. Harney’s house.  When the school opened they ran Bingo sessions there.  Huge numbers turned up and classrooms, as well as the hall, had to be used.  Parish dances were also held in the school hall and a good time was had by all.  Everyone worked really hard to raise much  needed funds but in doing so formed firm, life-long friendships.  They were a wonderful band of people, only a very few of whose names have been mentioned, and it was a great time in the life of the Parish.

Meantime the building programme continued. On 22nd November 1959 Archbishop Heenan laid the foundation stone of  the permanent, present church,  designed by Edward F. Massey, who had died in 1958. The church was completed by  Edward J. Massey, his nephew.  This photo shows the Archbishop arriving for the ceremony. Many, many people turned out for this much-awaited occasion.  Fr. Dillon  and the Parishioners were overjoyed.  It was such an historic day for the Parish.

1959 saw the completion of English Martyrs shared Secondary Modern Boys School.  It was situated in  Poplars Avenue and built for the 11+ children transferring from St. Stephen’s and neighbouring Catholic Primary Schools.

In 1961 the St. Stephen’s Social Club opened. It is interesting to note just a few of the rules:-

1)   This Club shall be called  The St. Stephen’s C.Y.M.S.

2)   The object of the Club shall be mutual improvement and the extension of the spirit of religion and brotherly love by Prayer, regular frequentation of the Sacraments and the provision of Educational Facilities and Recreation.

11)   The annual subscription of each member shall be 12 shillings.

12)   Opening times are as follows:-Mon to Thurs 11.30a.m. to 3.00p.m; 5.30p.m. to 11.00p.m.  Fri and  Sat  11.00a.m. to 5.00p.m;  5.30p.m. to 11.30p.m.  Sun. Good Friday and  Christmas Day  12noon to 2.00p.m; 3.00p.m. to 5.00p.m; 7.00p.m. to 11.00p.m. The Club will be closed during a public service in the Church unless notice is given to the contrary.

Women were allowed to be members and could attend General Meetings but were not allowed to vote.

The Club provided a much needed Social Centre for Parishioners and a further means of fund-raising.

Parishioners watched, with great interest, the progress of the church building. It was to take one and a half years to complete.

Wednesday 22nd May 1961 at 7pm saw The Solemn Opening of the church by His Grace The Most Rev. John Carmel Heenan D.D.,Ph.D., Archbishop of Liverpool.

 

A report in the Warrington Guardian reads:

‘Long before the Archbishop reaches the Parish boundary he will see the 70ft. tower attractively faced with green and stone coloured concrete panels and he will hear the 3cwt. bell, which for many generations guided the ships into Liverpool harbour, a gift from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board.  In style the church represents a happy contemporary solution to the traditional plan of parish churches.  The nave is long and broad, providing an uninterrupted view of the Sanctuary with the Lady Chapel and Baptistry conveniently accommodated on the Epistle side and the confessionals and Sacristy on the opposite.  There is seating for 130 in the choir balcony.’

The report continues:

‘A Lady Chapel of exquisite beauty is seen through a white metalwork screen and is dominated by a Cararra marble statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.’

[The statue was donated by the late Mrs. Winnie Hill, a founder member of the parish and a daughter of Farmer Connor.]

‘The work on the church, with accommodation for 600, has been carried to schedule by the Contractors Messrs. J. R. Ashall Ltd. at a total cost of £51,000, including furnishings.’

The Sanctuary of the new church.

The windows were pale  blue and yellow, the carpet red. Black and white marble was used for the altar and the marble at each side of the crucifix was black.

The other photos show the Archbishop arriving at the Sanctuary at the start of the Service of The Solemn Opening of St. Stephen The First Martyr Church and a view, taken from the choir balcony, of part of the congregation as they listen to the Archbishop’s homily.  The church was filled to capacity and admittance had had to be restricted to invitation only.

Mrs. Murray recalls, ‘The church was packed.  The Guilds of St. Agnes and Legion of Mary lined the entrance. Everyone thought that the church was beautiful but so big and the altar so distant and modern.  Bare brick seemed odd! But then parishioners had been used to a very small church for so long.’

This photo shows more of the  interior of the church, taken at a later date, at the time of Quarant’Ore.

In 9 years the Parish had a New Church, a Presbytery, a shared Secondary Modern Boys’ School, a Primary School and a Social Club.  In addition an Infant School and a shared Secondary Modern Girls’ School were planned.

In September 1961, Fr. Dillon along with assistant priests Frs. D. McLindon and J. Gallagher appealed to Parishioners to join a Planned Giving Campaign. Fr. Dillon explained that the fund raising of the time, such as the Pools and Bingo could not be relied upon forever and that the then present income was totally inadequate to meet the commitments. There was in excess of £102,000 needed.  Debts needed to be cleared.

A Campaign Target of £230 per week was aimed at.  There were to be:-

51 Sunday Offerings

1 Easter Sunday Offering

1 Christmas Day Offering

13 Special Papal & Diocesan Offerings

[As ordered by the Holy See and by his grace the Archbishop of Liverpool]

On Holydays of  Obligation a token Plate Collection

There were to be no more 2nd Collections, except the 13 mentioned

There were to be no more Outdoor Collections, no Entrance Collections and no more Collections at Benediction.

On 20th Sept 1963 the Planned Giving Campaign started.  Parishioners promised to give, responsibly, a weekly amount.

Projects continued. On 4th Sept. 1963 St. Stephen’s new Infant School opened.  Miss

Mary V. Phillips was appointed Head.  There were 159 children on roll.

 

On Sunday 5th Nov 1963 at 5p.m.  His Grace, The Right Rev. G. A. Beck, Archbishop of Liverpool formally opened and blessed the school.

The photo shows Fr. Dillon with                       This photo shows Miss Phillips to the

Archbishop Beck prior to the                            left. Some of the Infant Staff shown were

Official Opening of the School.                         there when the school opened.

 

For the Opening, the School hall and rooms were thronged with people and outside, in the wind and rain, crowds waited. The grounds were floodlit and a loudspeaker system was installed. Among the Dignitaries welcomed by Fr. Dillon was the Archbishop, Mr. H. M. Phillipson M.A. Director of Education, who gave a vote of thanks to the Archbishop, the Mayor of Warrington and Fr. O. Forbes, Parish Priest of St. Benedict’s, who gave a vote of thanks to the Mayor.

In 1967 another milestone was reached. The Girls’ Department of The English Martyrs  shared Secondary School opened.

Also in 1967 Fr. Dillon was given the honour of being made Dean of the St. Gregory’s Deanery Warrington.

In 1970 there was another great celebration. Michael Gibbons, a parishioner of St. Stephen’s, was ordained into the Priesthood in the Church on 22nd August.  It was a proud day for his mother, his family and St. Stephen’s.

Fr. Gibbons often came back to join in the Walking Day Processions with his former parish.  He is now in a Parish in London.

Then sadly for the Parish, in 1972, due to failing health, Fr. Dillon took the decision to retire.

In Sept of that year, a report in the Warrington Guardian read ;-

‘Tributes were paid at Monday’s meeting of Warrington Education Committee to the outstanding services rendered by Parish  Priest, Rev.  Fr. M. J. Dillon, who is retiring owing to ill health, and leaving the Warrington area at the end of this month.

 

The Chairman, Alderman G.E. Cooper said Fr. Dillon came to Warrington more than 20yrs ago, lived in lodgings in the Longford area, and started from scratch, in the establishment of  St. Stephen’s  Parish in Orford. “He has done a tremendous job in that part of Warrington,” said Alderman Cooper. “We will remember him for his drive, enthusiasm and determination to get things done.”’

Fr. Dillon had done so much in the provision of educational and religious facilities. He was held in very high regard and deep affection by those whom he had served so faithfully and well for such a long period.

Alderman Cooper added that Fr. Dillon had been a member of  the Education Committee since 1967 and during that period he had made a very valuable contribution in the cause of Education in the Borough. Other tributes came from Councillor H. Whitehead, Alderman G. Crocker and Alderman J. Mc Intyre.’

Many tributes from elsewhere were made to Fr. Dillon.

On Tuesday 19th September 1972 a Concelebrated Mass, by priests of the Deanery, was said at St. Stephen’s.  After the Mass a Social Evening was held and several presentations were made to Fr. Dillon by Parishioners, Schools and Social club.

The photograph shows Mrs. Tessie Hennessey presenting a cheque from Parishioners to Fr. Dillon. In the centre is Clr. Terry Whelan, Chairman of the Social Club, who presented him with a television set and cheque on behalf of the club.

[Photograph by courtesy of Warrington Guardian]

Father Dillon was to leave behind a huge legacy for the parishioners of  St. Stephen, The First Martyr Church.  He was to leave behind also some very sad people. For over two decades he had worked unceasingly and exhaustingly for the welfare of his “ flock” at St. Stephen’s, having already served at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish as assistant priest 1934 – 1943 and at St. Cecilia’s Parish 1943 – 1952. Now surely he deserved to hand over the reins and return to his beloved Ireland.

It must have been very satisfying for him to witness, just before he left, the opening  on 11th September, of the new nursery School.

8 children were admitted to the morning session and 8 to the afternoon one. The next day an additional 8 in the morning and likewise in the afternoon. By 2nd October there was the full complement of 32 children in the morning session and 35 in the afternoon. By which time Father Dillon had left the Parish.

He lived in retirement in Ireland until his death on 8th November 1977.  May he rest in peace and reap the rewards of his labours. The parishioners of St. Stephen’s, past and present owe him a great debt of gratitude as will those of the future. No words can ever express the greatness of  his achievements or the wonderful spirit which he inspired in his parishioners.

 

Marie Connor visited Ireland and brought back this photograph of Fr. Dillon’s grave.

 

Fr John Magee, centre, of Fr. Dillon  and Tom Harney    Fr. Edward McGuire      Frs.Daniel. McLindon left John Gallagher Francis Smith Fr Vicent Quine.

It is fitting also to pay tribute to the assistant priests, who too, worked tirelessly alongside Fr. Dillon to establish the Parish 1952- 1972, some of whom are shown here. Others were Frs. Martin McCawley, Gerard Neary,  John Maguire, Patrick McCartney and Joseph McKenna. To these also St. Stephen’s are greatly indebted.

FATHER DANIEL CADOGAN 1972 – 1977

In 1972 Fr. Daniel Cadogan had the unenviable task of replacing Fr. Dillon as Parish Priest.

This was an important time in the Catholic Church following Vatican II.  Fr. Cadogan implemented many of the changes. He was responsible for re-siting the altar to a more forward  position  in the sanctuary, enabling the priest to face the congregation whilst saying Mass. Lay people were encouraged to become more involved with the Liturgy. Lay readers were introduced. A very important change was that the Mass in the vernacular fully replaced the Latin Mass. Not all these changes were readily accepted by all parishioners. To some acceptance came only  very slowly.

Fr. Cadogan made other changes. Two marble lecterns, one on the ‘Epistle’ side, to the right, and one on the ‘Gospel’ side, to the left of the sanctuary, replaced the original wooden ones.  The marble needed to be an exact match to the altar and was imported from Italy. The Lady Chapel screen was replaced by clear glass panels and glass doors.

The photo shows the sanctuary of the church with the altar in the changed position and the two marble lecterns.

Father Vincent Quine, one of the assistant priests, is well remembered for his work with the youth.  He initiated and organised the Young Christian Workers Group in the parish.

A Report in the Catholic Pictorial dated 22nd September 1974  reads :-

‘Are Folk Masses still as popular as ever? Well take a look at this large following at Warrington Y.C.W’s  monthly Mass held at St. Stephen’s Orford. The Y.C.W. regularly draw an appreciative audience like this.  It is partly due to the pleasing blend of guitar strings and practised voices of Fr. Quine’s two teams.’

This team shows Moira Flaherty, Susan Brown

Catherine Whelan and Julia Gibson

‘A packed congregation’

[Pictures by Catholic Pictorial]

 

A Warrington Guardian Report of 1974 states:-   [ Photo by Warrington Guardian]

‘YOUTH  PLAY IN CATHEDRAL

Seven young people from St. Stephen’s R.C. Church   Warrington made history at Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral of Christ the King on Sunday. They became the first group to play there. They led the singing of the 1,500 strong congregation and performed two solo numbers at a Youth Mass for the Archdiocesan Holy Year.

Three brothers, Peter, Richard and Christopher Dolley, provided the accompaniment. Singers were Sue Brown, Catherine Whelan, Julia Gibson and Moira Flaherty.  The group were brought together by in 1971 by Fr. V. Quine.’

It was during the mid 70’s that parishioners were shocked to receive news that Fr. Quine had been involved in a serious road accident. As Chaplain to Winwick Hospital, he used to travel to and fro on a bicycle. It was on one these journeys, along the A49 Winwick Road, that he was knocked from his bike and suffered severe head injuries. He was in hospital for a lengthy time but, eventually, in spite of all the odds against it, and due to the care of the nursing staff and not least to the many prayers offered for his recovery, he was able to return to Parish duties.

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Meantime other changes were afoot in the Parish.  Fr. Cadogan had approved extensions to the Social Club. These were officially opened, by His Lordship Bishop Gray, on Wednesday 22nd January 1975. The new Lounge of the Club, besides being of benefit socially to club members, was also  an important meeting place for some of the Parish Groups and Sodalities which had formed. Each Group, which applied to the Club Committee for use of the Lounge, was allocated use and wherever possible the  request for  a specific day and time was favourably granted.

.                 St.Stephen’s Bowling Team at a Presentation Evening in the Club

Most of the team shown here, with Fr. Cadogan, are Founder Members of the Parish.

TEAM

top

Tommy Halligan, Pat Gibbons, Bill Woods, Dick Potter, Eddy Robinson, A.N. Other

Fr. Cadogan , Harry Bretherton , Frank Lynskey, Jack Price, George Jones, Pat Culleton[Sen]

bottom

Ted Birchall ,  A.N. Other,  John Leigh, Len McDonough

For some time the population in the north east of Warrington, in the new housing areas of Cinnamon Brow, Fearnhead and Blackbrook, had been growing. The increase in the Catholic population in the area warranted a new school. On 7th April 1975 St. Bridget’s New Primary School opened. Twenty six children transferred from St. Stephen’s school.  Fr. Cooke of St. Oswald’s was initially the priest in charge of the Spiritual needs of  the area but the boundaries of the parishes were eventually to change and this would eventually lead to the priests of St. Stephen’s being in charge.

Assistant priests serving under the leadership of Fr. Cadogan were Frs. Vincent Quine, Gerard Greaves, John Maguire, Matthew O’ Callaghan. All played an important part in the life of the Parish.

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THE VINCENTIANS   1977-1999

FATHER EAMON RAFTERY 1977-1982

Fr. Eamon is seen here fourth from the left. Others in the photo from the left are Fr. Desmond McMorrow, Fr. John Hewson, Fr. Patrick Quinn [some of the assistant priests who served with Fr. Eamon at St. Stephen’s] and the Vincentian Provincial Father.

In the summer of 1977 a new era began in the Parish.  An extract from The Universe 8th July 1977:-

‘The Vincentian Fathers are to form a Ministry in the Liverpool Diocese. They are taking over the Parish of St. Stephen’s, Orford, Warrington, from the Secular Priests, at the invitation of Archbishop Worlock.  Fr. Eamon Raftery C.M., Parish Priest of  St. Mary’s, Dunstable, will lead the team which will include Fr. Patrick Quinn C.M., of Our Lady of the Universe, Hereford, and Fr. Raymond Armstrong C.M., of St. Vincent’s, Sheffield.

Fr. Cadogan will leave St. Stephen’s to take charge of  St. Mary’s, Euxton, Nr. Chorley. Fr. M. O’Callaghan, one of his assistants, is moving to Holy Rosary, Aintree. Fr. G. Greaves new appointment is yet to be announced.

The Vincentians [Congregation of the Mission] were founded in 1625, in Paris, by St. Vincent de Paul. They are prominent in Educational Work.  In England they run the St. Mary’s College of Education, Strawberry Hill, Middlesex.’

Fr. Raftery took over his duties as Parish priest on 5th September 1977.

Amongst one of his first duties was to attend the funeral, in Ireland, of Fr. Dillon who had died 8th November 1977.

A Mass was said in St. Stephen’s. It may be of interest to note a little of the ceremony.

READINGS

1st      from the Prophet Isaiah -‘The Lord will destroy death for ever’      Terry Whelan

Psalm                                       The Lord’s my Shepherd

2nd –   from the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians   ‘We have an everlasting home in Heaven’

The Dean of W’gton, The Very Rev. Cannon Mullane V.F.

Gospel     from St. John’s Gospel      ‘There are many rooms in my Father’s house’

The Very Rev. Cannon Michael  O’Connor Cathedral Administator

HOMILY          by Very Rev. Billy O’Sullivan , a Parish Priest and near contemporary of Fr. Dillon

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BIDDING PRAYERS         Very Rev. D. Cadogan      former Parish Priest of St. Stephen’s          OFFERTORY PROCESSION Sr. Leontia, Marie Connor, Mrs. Flo Birchall, Mrs. T Hennessey, Mr. Pat Culleton [Sen]  Mr Dick Potter

HYMNS

Entrance              Lord of All Faithfulness

Offertory             In Bread We Bring You Lord

Communion        Nearer My God To Thee

Be Still My Soul

Soul Of My Saviour

Recessional         Abide With Me

As was to be expected, the church was full of people, praying for, and saying their farewells to a well-remembered priest.

On 5th September 1977, as St. Bridget’s School reopened after the summer break, Fr. Raymond  Armstrong was appointed Chaplain to the school. The Vincentians had taken over the responsibility of the Community of St. Bridget’s.

In May 1978 Fr. Raftery replaced Fr. Devlin as Chairman of Governors at English Martyrs School.

Some present-day parishioners remember attending ‘Parish Weekends’ which were introduced and led by Fr. Raftery. Everyone was encouraged to attend one. They were held in the school and included Friday Evening, all day Saturday and Sunday. Themed Scripture readings, followed by time for reflection and writing down of thoughts, were followed by discussion. Parishioners could be seen carrying their packed lunches and snacks, sallying forth.

 

A WEEKEND GROUP

Fr. Raftery also introduced the practice of  a 50 hour fast, as a Lenten Penance, usually to end on Holy Saturday. Recollections of one who tried it were that it was quite difficult to go for fifty hours on liquids alone, especially whilst having to cook for others in the household who were not fasting. She was most put out when she found that other people, including Fr. Eamon, had included soup as a liquid! She said the fast was not for the faint – hearted, but in the right spirit, good for the soul!

In October 1979 the first Eucharistic Ministers were commissioned. Again this, like some previous innovations, was not readily accepted by all the laity. It became only very gradually accepted, by some, that lay people distribute Holy Communion. One person who was approached by a priest to consider becoming a Minister said, “I’m not worthy  father,”  to which he replied, “Neither am I.”

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On 26th March 1981 St. Oliver’s School was opened. This was needed because the house-building and population of Oakwood, Blackbrook and Gorse Covert had steadily grown. The Vincentian priests now became responsible for three Catholic Primary Schools, St. Stephen’s, St. Bridget’s and St. Oliver’s.

 

May 1982 saw the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of St. Stephen’s Junior School. A school banner  was made for the occasion. Sr. Leontia noted that it was a team effort . Sr. Roberta C.P. of Park  Mount Convent gave advice about design and materials. Miss Holden did the sewing in her holiday time and Mrs. Thorpe and her husband made the frame. On 6th May 1982 a Thanksgiving Mass was said, followed on the 9th by a May Procession and crowning of Our Lady’s statue.

A Field Day for the children was the culmination of the celebrations.                          The photo shows Fr. Raftery, Sr. Leontia

and  Staff around the banner.

 

 

Whitsuntide 1982 was a momentous time for the Archdiocese of Liverpool. Pope John Paul visited Liverpool during his tour of Great Britain. Parishes from all over the Archdiocese, including St. Stephen’s, travelled to Speke Airport. Special trains from Warrington were filled to capacity. St. Stephen’s parishioners gathered in their allotted, roped-off section.  It was a glorious, sunny day.  There was a carnival atmosphere.  People picnicked whilst waiting for the Pope to arrive, which he eventually did, in the Pope Mobile, to loud cheering. He threaded his way through the sections, giving his blessing.  It was a most memorable day.

A group from the Parish also went to see the Pope at Heaton Park, Manchester, during that same visit to Britain, in 1982. They slept out overnight there so as to be in plenty of time for the Pope’s Mass the next day. One member of that group talked all night, keeping the others awake and was asleep next morning when the Pope passed! It was on this occasion that Fr. Neylon , a former pupil of English Martyrs School, was ordained.

When the Pope moved on to Cardiff some of St. Stephen’s Youth travelled there to attend the Youth Mass. Surely everyone will remember watching T.V. and seeing thousands of  youth and being very impressed by the singing, especially of ‘Our God Reigns.’ It was all so very moving.

 

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Fr. Raftery was instrumental in starting a Deanery magazine.  A competition was held in all the Catholic Primary Schools of the Warrington Deanery, to find a name for the new magazine.  Alison Eaves of St. Stephen’s, and a boy from St. Joseph’s, Penketh, were joint winners with the name LINK.  So the magazine was launched.  It is still being printed today.

These are extracts of what Archbishop Kelly wrote in the LINK after his Deanery visit to  Warrington in Millennium Year 2000:-

“My contribution to LINK is called Link.  Link is not a bad word to reflect the word communion or fellowship.”

“The responsibility of the Bishop is to strengthen the links between the Parishes, between Deaneries, between our Archdiocese and every other Diocese in communion with Pope John Paul.”

“It has been good for me to strengthen the links with the priests.  Only together can we accomplish what Our Lord entrusts to us.”

The first LINK was edited by  Mr. Kevin Holt, a newspaper photographer, who was also responsible for printing.  The format was a four leaf publication [on shiny paper!]

Meetings of Deanery reps. took place at St. Mary’s.  The booklet became bigger as more news items were sent in.  Mass times at  all Parishes were printed.  It is interesting to note that Mass times at St. Stephen’s used to be :-

Sunday                  8.00a.m.    9.30 a.m.  11.00 a.m.                  Evening    6.30 p.m.

Weekdays             7.30 a.m.   9.00a.m.

The present day Editor is Win Byrom of St. Oswald’s.  Responsible for organising the printing and distribution are Alan Potter, Eric Alcock and Jim Eaves of St. Stephen’s.

The booklet, priced at the very modest sum of 5p, is published four times a year.  It is an excellent way of keeping in touch with other parishes in the Deanery.

In the summer of 1982 Father Raftery left the Parish.  He went to Damascus House, London, and later returned to Missionary work in Africa.  He is still in Nigeria and soon to be moving to Ghana.  Some parishioners still keep in touch.

Assistant priests who served, at various times with Fr.Raftery, were Frs. Gerard Greaves  (not a Vincentian Priest but he stayed on when the Vincentians first arrived to facilitate the change-over. He is remembered for many things including a very hearty laugh) Raymond Armstrong, Patrick Quinn, John Concannon, Pearse Gallagher, Michael Dunne, Desmond McMorrow and  John Hewson.

 

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FATHER PATRICK  (PADDY)  HUGHES 1982-1988

Fr. Hughes [with spectacles] pictured with a  fellow Vincentian priest.

 

Fr. Hughes became the next Parish Priest

 

On 15th December 1982, two of his parishioners, Mrs Tessie Hennessey and Mrs Flo Birchall were presented with Bene Merenti Medals for work in the parish.  The photograph shows the presentation at Walsingham.  Pictured are from the left, Flo Birchall, her husband Ted, Tessie Hennessey and a priest from Walsingham.

That Christmas he attended the Junior School’s Christmas party as Santa Claus!

In February 1983 Sr. Leontia took the decision to hand in her resignation with effect from September 1983.  Failing health forced the issue.  She had been the only Head at the school for 25 years.  That year, Walking Day, 1st July was made very special for her.  It was to be her last as Head of St. Stephen’s so the children wore green, white and gold in her honour and as a tribute to her.

On 14th July there was a Concelebrated Mass.  Sister Leontia was presented with the Bene Merente Medal by Monsignor Dalton for her work in the school and parish.  This was followed by presentations by the Education Office, Parents, children and Parishioners.  Amongst the presentations was a cheque which Sister used for a visit to Fatima.

Fr. Hughes welcomed all the guests to the event and thanked Sr. for all her dedication  and hard work over the years both in the school and in the parish.

On 22nd July 1983 Sister Leontia bade farewell to her beloved St. Stephen’s, asking God’s blessing on all who were in any way connected with school or parish.

Meantime Mr. Ray Hammill had been appointed as the new Head. He took over his duties on 1st. September 1983.

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On 6th June 1984, some present–day parishioners remember a Deanery Day being held at St. Alban’s School.  It was thought to be a good idea for all the parishes of the Deanery to meet together and to exhibit the kind of work that was carried out by the various Groups in each Parish.

 

It was a beautiful sunny, warm day.  All the Parishes were represented.  Many posters and displays were arranged around the school field.  Besides these there was entertainment in the form of Irish dancers, some from St. Stephen’s, and a few games and refreshments. Also a St. Stephen’s children’s choir, trained and conducted by Mary Whelan, a member of the parish and of the Junior School Staff.  There was a great  atmosphere and everyone had a very enjoyable day.

The Irish Dancers perform to a very appreciative audience. Their costumes were identical and were red, black and white.

Some of St. Stephen’s parishioners

 

enjoying the afternoon                                                                         The Irish dancers and Mary Whelan

take a breather

 

In September 1985 the Junior and Infant Schools amalgamated under one Head, Mr Ray Hammill.

Then after 6 years Fr. Hughes left the Parish to go to Lanarkshire.

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Fr. Hughes maintained an interest in St. Stephen’s. He kept in touch with many of the people. He is remembered for not liking to turn right whilst driving a car and for his dislike of dogs, but has befriended two Red Setters in Scotland!  He has a great devotion to Our Lady and accompanied parishioners on many Pilgrimages to Lourdes, even after moving to Scotland.

The Vincentian priests who served with Fr. Hughes were Frs. John Conconnan, Pearse Gallagher, John Hewson, Anthony Clune, Frank Morrow and John O’ Kelly.  The latter three also served with our next Parish Priest, Father Jim Tuohy.

FATHER  JIM  TUOHY   1988-1992

During the Vincentian administration, the communities of St. Bridget’s and St. Oliver’s had met in their respective schools for Mass. In 1989 the Catholics of  St. Bridget’s, under Fr. Tuohy, and the Anglican’s of the Parish of the Resurrection, entered into  partnership to  share a place of worship.  Archbishop Worlock and Bishop David Shepherd, bishops of the two faiths, welcomed the new venture and attended the Opening.

The photograph shows the two bishops and clergy of both denominations outside the church at the Opening Ceremony.

On 21st November 1989, Mary Whelan, a much respected teacher. Stephen’s School and a parishioner, who for a long time had been responsible for the children’s choir which sang at Mass and which was so well-known throughout Warrington, died suddenly.  It was a very, very sad day for her family, for the school and for the parish.  It was a great tribute to her that St. Stephen’s church was packed for her Requiem Mass on 29th November.  She was very sorely missed.  May she rest in peace.

 

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Throughout the years in the parish many parish groups and sodalities had been formed. At Christmas 1989 Fr. Tuohy published a Parish Directory.  The list is quite impressive and was an indication of how many people were actively involved in parish life, for the good of the Community.

In the foreword Fr. Tuohy wrote:-

Our Parish expresses sincere gratitude and appreciation for all those who provide the loving services listed.

‘As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied Grace.’      1 Peter   4:10

Altar / Care Church Care                                     Legion of Mary

Baptism Group                                                      Link

R.C.I.A.                                                                  Liturgy Group

Brownie Pack                                                        Lourdes Group

Choice Weekends                                                Marriage Encounter Weekends

Choir                                                                      Marriage Preparation Course

Confirmation Preparation                                    Mums and Tots Group

Engaged Encounter W/ends                              Over 60s Group

Eucharistic Ministers                                          St. Stephen’s Parent Room

Finance & Covenant Offertory                          Prayer Group

Fish Scheme                                                          St. Stephen’s School

Guide Company                                                    St. Stephen’s Club

K.S.C.                                                                     300 Club

Ladies Social Guild                                              S.V.P.

Widows Group

Fr. Tuohy’s message finished ‘St. Stephen’s is truly a community, a family, in which the Gospel message of loving, serving and caring for one another are realities, not words alone.

To all the many people in our Parish Community, who make the love of Christ real, through the services they provide throughout our Parish, thank you.’

A member of one of these groups writes: ‘I am a founder member of The Ladies Social Guild.  We started off as ‘Young Wives’ but having celebrated our Silver Jubilee in 1999, it is obvious why the Group’s name was changed!

The group have a little confession to make.  Some of the members used to go, every year, on a weekend Retreat, usually in Lent.  One year they found it impossible to book one. All convenient dates were filled.  So they hastily decided to use the money they had saved on a weekend in Blackpool.  They felt a bit guilty so, to appease their consciences, they chose a hotel called Pilgrim’s Progress which name suggested a pilgrimage, the nearest they could get to a retreat!

During our Jubilee Thanksgiving Mass, said by Fr. McGing, we thanked God for the friendships we had formed over the 25 years and we remembered in our prayers, past members who had died.’

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Fr. Tuohy commissioned the two banners which are to be seen to the right and left of the altar end of the church.  They were designed by Sister Anthony Wilson S.N.D. Art Director of the Metropolitan Cathedral Liverpool.

A plaque is placed close to this banner to explain all the details :-

THE ST. STEPHEN BANNER

Based on the Acts of the Apostles Ch. 7

St. Stephen dressed as a deacon in alb and dalmatic with Book of Gospels in his hand.  Stephen, ‘a man full of faith’ was one of 7 deacons chosen and ordained by the apostles. Ch. 6

The vignette pictures, bordering Stephen, are illustrations of the stoning of Stephen and his Martyrdom.

On the left we see people hurling  stones at him. At the feet of Stephen, in the foreground, we see stones falling from his body, tinged with gold and blood.

Again, to the left, above the stone throwers, we see the figure of a young man, Saul minding the cloaks while they hurl stones and Saul approves of the murder.  Above Saul, we see part of Stephen’s vision which led to his stoning. ‘Stephen full of the Holy Spirit looked up to heaven and saw the Glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God’ and he said, ‘Behold I see the Heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.’

‘Heavens opened’ is represented, at the right side of the ornamental gates of Warrington Town Hall.

Underneath, the earthly gates of the kingdom is depicted by an outline of St. Stephen’s Church.

Finally we see three deacons going from St. Stephen’s to preach the Gospel to the people of St. Stephen’s and to the world.

The whole banner’s colours and design was executed with the intention of linking up with the altar and marble surrounds of the church.

The black surround of the banner contains a CROWN. The name Stephen means ‘Crown’. A LILY represents Purity and  PALMS  represent Martyrdom.

Embroidery was carried out by 8 workers belonging to the Studio of Craft of the Cathedral –Joan Anger, Jean Dahill, Cecilia Duzante, Julia Duzante[10yrs.], Veronica Little, David Peglar, Sr. Rita, Lilian Roche.

In all it took 18mths  to complete and it is impossible to count the number of hours. It is a combination of appliqué, embroidery and beadwork. It was worked in sections then assembled.

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A plaque is displayed near the banner to explain it:-

THE  BAPTISM  BANNER

The banner is a meditation on the Baptism of Jesus and our Baptism. It is sited in conjunction with our Baptismal font.

The central theme is Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan.  Mark 1:4

The surrounding vignettes illustrate the theme of ‘living water’ and the healing power of water.

The top corner shows the Hand of God the father pointing to His Son ‘The Beloved’. Underneath we have the waters of the flood and the consequent rainbow. The rainbow is seen as God’s Covenant when the waters of the flood had receded.     Gen. 9:14

Over Jesus’ Head we see the Holy Spirit like a dove descending upon Him.

Top right illustrates our own Baptism – water is a symbol of cleansing and healing from sin.

Middle right shows the eunuch from Ethiopia, as he was returning home in his chariot,  gave  Philip a lift. Philip  instructed  him and baptised him.

Acts 8 :27

Lower right again, picks up the theme of ‘ living water’ in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.      John Ch 4

And of course, in the middle left, we see the lovely vignette of Lourdes. We remember Our Lady’s command to Bernadette ‘Go and drink at the spring and wash in it.’

The banner was executed principally by Sheila Shepherd.

The surround was embroidered by Lilian Roche, Celia Duzante and Gertrude Plumb.

It consists of appliqué, embroidery and beadwork.  It took 1 year to complete.  As with the other banner, it was made up in sections, then assembled.

The symbols used are PEACOCK [Eternal Life]  FISH [reminder of the Eucharist]  PALMS [victory]   OLIVES [fruitfulness and source of oil and chrism].

 

It had become practice in latter years, at distribution of Holy Communion, for people to approach the altar, in line, down the middle aisle, and to receive Holy Communion standing where previously they had knelt at the altar rails.  Fr. Tuohy took the decision to remove the rails.  The Sanctuary was then re-carpeted, gold coloured carpet replacing the original red one.  The Baptismal Font was re-sited from the porch of the church to the front right of the Sanctuary.  A new Piety Stall then took its place.

Fr. Tuohy asked Barbara Moss to design and work two etchings for the glass doors of the Lady Chapel.  She chose the titles  ‘Mystical Rose’ and ‘Star of the Sea’.

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The photo shows the church without the altar rails and with the two banners.

The banner of St. Stephen hangs above the Foundation Stone of the church which was    laid by Archbishop Heenan on 22nd October 1959.

Margaret Siddell and a group of musicians had for some months been responsible for the music at the 6.30pm Mass.  Now Gerry and Gill Connor and young family members, likewise, began playing for, and leading the hymn singing, at the 9.30a.m. Sunday Masses.  [Subsequently as Mass times changed over the years they played at the 8.30a.m then eventually at the 10.00a.m Masses.]  They became affectionately known as ‘The Von Trapp Family’

In 1990 Mr. Kevin Nolan became the new head of St. Stephen’s School.

There is a painting which hangs on the left wall of the nave, to the rear of the church.

A plaque below reads :-

‘ In 1991 a representative body of pupils from English Martyrs R. C. School helped to create a painting UNITY in response to Fr. Tuohy’s  request for a work of art to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Official Opening of St. Stephen’s Church. The painting depicts features of  present day life in the communities of the Parish and School which bind us together in Unity.’

Leanne Noel                                                   Jane Lang

Michael Cotton                                               Jane Kennedy

James Ogden                                                  Dawn Appleton

Shane Bamford                                               Michelle O’Hara

Bernadette McGann                                       Andrew Blanchard

It was in 1991 that English Martyrs School closed, due to possible mining subsidence. The remaining pupils were transferred to Cardinal Newman High School.

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FATHER JOHN O’KELLY [1987-1992]

PARISH PRIEST 1992-1997

A photograph of Fr. O’ Kelly taken at a Warrington Walking Day.

Fr. Tuohy left St. Stephen’s in 1992.  He was replaced by one of his assistant priests Fr. John O’Kelly.  Fr. O’Kelly had been in the parish since 1987.  He had been used to how the parish had been run and continued with little change.

A great highlight was the second Ordination in the parish.  On 16th July 1995, Paul Rowan, who had been a parishioner and attended local schools, was Ordained at St. Stephen’s Church.

One parishioner wrote in the LINK :-

‘On Sunday 16th July 1995 at 3.00p.m. Paul Rowan was ordained a priest at St. Stephen’s Church, which had been beautifully prepared under Fr. O’Kelly’s supervision. It was a very warm afternoon and the atmosphere in church was wonderful, all the pews full of people in light summer clothes.

As the procession of approximately 70 priests walked down the aisle to the hymn ‘Praise to the Holiest’ the scene was set. At the end of the procession came Bishop John Rawsthorne and the Most Reverend Derek Worlock, Archbishop of Liverpool, looking very frail but happy to be there.

Throughout the ceremony the congregation were guided in the responses to the choir, [who were wonderful] by a young Deacon and it all worked so well. Paul’s sister, Michelle, sang the responsorial psalm beautifully. At the Kiss of Peace, when the Archbishop and all the priests welcomed Paul into the Presbyteral Order, they all had a lovely smile for him.

As the Mass continued, Fr. Paul assisted the Archbishop to administer Holy Communion.

At the end of the ceremony, the priests walked back down the aisle with Fr. Rowan and Archbishop Worlock to thunderous applause.  Paul’s mother and father and the family must have felt very proud.  It was very moving.

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After photographs with Paul, the Archbishop retired to the Presbytery for a cup of tea while Fr. Rowan had more photos taken and was congratulated by family, friends and parishioners from the Deanery.

A buffet was provided in St. Stephen’s Club and a toast was sung to Fr. Rowan by his fellow Priests.

It was truly a special day for St. Stephen’s Parish and indeed for all concerned.’

Sadly this was to be one of the last public ceremonies at which the Archbishop officiated. He was a very ill person.

Parish life continued in the three Communities.

At St. Stephen’s, The Children’s Liturgy was started. At the start of Sunday Masses, Mary Devaney, Jackie Bibby and Kath Ormson took children into the De Paul Room to instruct them and do scripture activities appropriate to their age groups. They re-joined the adult congregation for the Liturgy of The Eucharist.

The Archbishop suggested that Sunday Masses at St. Stephen’s be cut from three Masses to two.  The new Mass times were 8.30a.m. and 11.00 a.m.

Fr. O’Kelly loved to play golf. According to fellow golfers he was very well liked and respected on the golf course. But he also took a keen interest in the crown green bowlers of the parish. The photo shows him making the prize presentation at an annual mixed Charity Main held at Orford War Memorial Ground

 

Towards the late 90’s Fr. O’Kelly became ill. True to his character, he made no fuss, he carried on without complaining. Then Fr. O’Kelly was admitted to Warrington General Hospital. He was visited by many parishioners and he was remembered in prayers and at Masses. Sadly his condition deteriorated and on 3rd August 1998 he died, the first priest at St. Stephen’s to die in office.  It was a very sad blow for the parish.

A Service was held at St. Stephen’s  attended by many parishioners and some of Father’s relatives from Australia. [Fr. O’Kelly had never been one for taking holidays but he had made a trip to Australia in 1989 to see his brother.] Then he was taken to the Vincentian cemetery in Lanarkshire for burial. Some parishioners travelled there to represent those whom Fr. O’Kelly had served so well.  He was sadly missed.  May he Rest in Peace.

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Priests who had served with Fr. O’ Kelly,  at various times, were Frs. Raymond Armstrong, John Hewson, Cornelius Curtin,  Hugh McMahon and Aidan McGing

FATHER AIDAN McGING 1997-1998

PARISH PRIEST 1998-1999

After the death of Fr. O’Kelly  Fr. McGing took over the duties of Parish Priest.

 

A photo showing Fr. McGing [3rd right at the back] Fr A. Clune is bottom left                                                                                                                                      .

As the following events show Fr. McGing was Parish Priest at St. Stephen’s for only a short time.  On 23rd November that same year, 1998, it was announced unexpectedly at the Sunday Masses, that the Vincentians were to leave St. Stephen’s, St. Bridget’s and St. Oliver’s Parishes.  The news was received in complete silence by stunned congregations. The Vincentians had faithfully served in our communities for 22 years.

Fr. McGing, Fr. John Hewson, Fr. Cornelius Curtin, who had celebrated his 80th birthday whilst here, and Fr. Sean Murphy, who had arrived in 1999, were to stay on until June 1999.

The parish was to be handed over to the Archdiocesan Priests.  Parishioners were apprehensive and curious about who were to be the new priests. News began to filter through that there were to be two young priests.

On 26th May 1999 there was a Mass of Thanksgiving for the Vincentians followed by a Social Evening and Presentations in the Social Club.

At the Mass parishioners were introduced to, and welcomed, Father Gordon Abbs and Father Tony Mangnall, the new priests and they were young!

The Induction of Fr. Gordon as the new Parish Priest was conducted at the Mass by the Right Reverend Vincent Malone, Auxillary Bishop of Liverpool.

It was a moving Service. It was a time of sadness and goodbyes, but also a time of optimism and looking forward.

After the last Masses at St. Stephen’s by the Vincentian Priests on Sunday 6th June 1999, Fr. Gordon and Fr. Tony completely took over the responsibility of St. Stephen’s and  the  Communities of St. Bridget’s and St. Oliver’s.

 

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FATHER GORDON ABBS 1999

The photo shows, from the left, Archbishop Kelly, Fr. Tony Mangnall, the new assistant priest, Fr. Gordon Abbs the new Parish Priest, and the two Anglican priests Rev. Steve Elstob and Bishop James Jones

This was taken at the 10th Anniversary of the opening  of  the shared church in the Catholic Parish of St. Bridget and the Anglican Parish of  the Resurrection.

The two new priests now had the daunting task of caring for the spiritual needs of three communities.  Just two priests where once there had been five.

It was necessary that changes occur.  From 4th July 1999 the Sunday Masses at St. Stephen’s were reduced from two in the morning to one only, at 10.00a.m. The evening Mass remained at 6.30 p.m.

Weekday Masses remained at 9.00a.m. but it was necessary that Eucharistic Services were conducted when no priest was available. Likewise changes occurred in the other two parishes of St. Bridget’s and St. Oliver’s.

At St. Oliver’s, parishioners attended Mass in the school hall or in the Parish House in Kestrel Lane.  Father Gordon and Father Tony decided that every effort be made to establish a small chapel within the school. So after much Fund Raising activities and generous donations and the tenancy on the house being terminated, three small rooms were converted into a chapel.

This photo was taken at the new Chapel in St. Oliver’s School

Pictured left, is Rev Kieran O’Grady, a student to the Priesthood, training at Ushaw College. We welcomed him into our midst during the last months of  his training. He was ordained Deacon in 2001. In July 2002 he is to be Ordained to the Priesthood in his home parish of St. Patrick’s Newton le Willows. The P.P there is Fr. Smith, once of St. Stephen’s Parish.

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The three communities now began to function more as one parish.  One Parish Council, with representatives from all three churches, replaced the previous three councils.

One weekly newsletter was distributed amongst the three.  Each community thus becoming more aware of the others.  It helped to unify.  The Church’s main celebrations of Christmas and Easter were celebrated together using the three churches in turn.  Lifts were arranged to transport parishioners to the different venues whenever needed.  Masses for the sick also were said, in turn, at one of the three churches.

In Millennium Year 2000 a new Parish Directory was issued.  Changes from the first one, in the time of Fr. Tuohy, had occurred.  Some old groups still existed, albeit perhaps with several new faces, some new ones had been formed to meet the needs of the time, but again, showing so many people willingly committed to working for the love of God and for the benefit of the Parish and the Community.

THE PARISH DIRECTORY MILLENNIUM YEAR 2000

Our Catholic Schools

St. Stephen’s

St. Bridget’s

St. Oliver’s

Friends of Our School                                         Soc. for the Protection of the Unborn

Parish and Pastoral Council                               Child  [S.P.U.C.]

Parish and Pastoral Council                               Knights of St. Columba

Finance and Covenant Scheme                         Ladies Guild and Social Group

St. Stephen’s Parish Club                                   St. Vincent de Paul [S.V.P]

Journey of Faith [R.C.I.A. ]                                Poulton North Credit Union

Prayer Groups                                                       Lourdes Pilgrim Groups

Church Care and Cleaning                                  Walsingham Group

Baptism Preparation                                            Guides, Brownies and Rainbow Groups

Confirmation Preparation Group                        Impact Group [Y.C.W.]

Music Groups and Choirs                                  Good Neighbours [Fish Scheme]

Altar Servers                                                         Jack ‘n Jills Group

Ministers of Reading                                           LINK Communication Group

Ministers of Communion                                    Widows Group

Child Protection Measures

In May of the Millennium Year Archbishop Patrick Kelly visited the Parish.  On 16th May 36 young parishioners from the three Communities were Confirmed by the Archbishop at St. Bridget’s.  They had prepared by spending a full day at Warrington Wolves Rugby Ground.  Besides catechists from the parishes, John Biggins, the Advisor for the Formation of Young People led the day of preparation.

It was a special occasion for our two priests. Fr. Gordon and Fr. Tony. They were given authority, by the Archbishop, to confirm the candidates with him.

 

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On Friday 19th May  there was a Holy Hour from 6.00p.m. to 7.00 p.m. in St. Stephen’s Church at which the Archbishop was present.  This was followed by an ‘Open’ evening in the Social Club lounge.  It was a chance for the Archbishop to speak informally to parishioners.  He spoke of the changing times, particularly with regards to fewer priests. He invited people to air their views.  He was afterwards thanked for sending us our new priests.

On Sunday 28th May the Archbishop returned to St. Stephen’s for the 10.00am Mass.  He consecrated the church that day.  It was an impressive ceremony.  There was a Blessing followed by Liturgy of The Word and Homily; Liturgy of Consecration ; – Liturgy of the Saints, Prayer of Dedication, Anointing of the Altar and Walls, Incensation of the Altar and Church, Lighting of the Altar and Church.  Then followed  Liturgy of the Eucharist.

It was a great opportunity for parishioners to be present at a special ceremony of the Church which cannot often be experienced.

After his Deanery visit the Archbishop wrote in the LINK, Deanery Magazine.

Extracts:-

‘ I must recognise the variety and past history and present situation in parishes.’

‘ It has been of great encouragement to see how many of you are aware, and generous in your response, to the challenge we share of responding to a changing situation, not least in regards to the number of priests.’

He ended by writing ‘ It has been good to be among you.’

Parishioners were saddened to receive news of the death of Fr. John Hewson on 7th January 2001.  For many years Fr. Hewson had been a much respected Chaplain at Winwick Hospital until its closure in the late 90’s.  Every day, often  making two or three visits, he would be seen walking to visit the sick.

Sadly too, just prior to this, news came to say that Fr. Patrick Quinn, a very humble, quiet and conscientious priest who had been at St. Stephen’s 1977-1982 had died.

On 13th July 2001 Fr. Gordon celebrated the 10th Anniversary of his Ordination.

In October 2001 Fr. Gordon had led a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  One of the pilgrims wrote of it in the LINK  Christmas  2001 :-

‘We had booked our Pilgrimage trip to Israel in May 2000 and it was to commence on 29th October 2001.

The gap of some 18months had seen the political situation change somewhat, so with a little feeling of trepidation, we  met at St. Bridget’s Church at 8a.m. to go to Manchester Airport, en route to Tel Aviv via London Heathrow.  El Al had ceased direct flights from Manchester earlier that year.

What a marvellous trip it turned out to be.  Five nights in Jerusalem, three nights at Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee and two final nights at Netanya, a beautiful seaside resort on the Mediterranean.  The hotels and the food were first class.  The daily Masses said by Fr. Gordon were very emotional at times.

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Mass in the Desert                                 Mass on the north  west shore of the

Sea of Galilee

The way we were greeted by the Jews and Arabs [Christian and Moslem] was very touching.  They are rightly annoyed that the media hype is keeping visitors away from the Holy Land at this time.

There were so many highlights to the visit but here, briefly, are a few.

  • The Mount of Olives and the view across the Kedron Valley  to Jerusalem.
  • The Garden of Gethsemane was very small and the Garden of the Agony next to it.
  • Stations of the Cross in the Via Dolorosa, something that would have taken quite a bit longer had there been more visitors .
  • Our visit to the Western [Wailing] Wall.
  • The visit to the House of Caiaphas where Jesus was held and tortured.
  • Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which pleased Fr. Gordon, because it is rarely allowed, and we were joined by about fifty young people from the Phillipines on a day visit from Tel Aviv where they were working.

 

The Mount of Olives                                                               The Garden of Gethsemane

 

The Western ‘Wailing’ Wall                                  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

 

Masada                                                   Casting nets on Lake Galilee

 

Inside the Church of the Transfiguration                  An ancient boat retrieved from the

on Mount Tabor                                                                      Sea of Galilee. It is said to date from

the time of Jesus

A visit to Masada on the edge of the Dead Sea and the trip up 400 metres by cable car.

At El Gedin we covered ourselves in mud [it’s supposed to be good for you!] then on to the Dead Sea to float – all the time being recorded on film for future memories.

Sailing on the Sea of Galilee, the British flag being raised, and one of the ‘seamen’ casting his net as Peter would have done all those years ago, and the dawn Mass before our departure.

We found Galilee very spiritual and calming.

Renewing our Baptismal vows in the River Jordan.

Our trip from Galilee visiting Mount Tabor by taxi, quite hair raising bends, too tight for our coach to manoeuvre, and then on to Haifa and finally Netanya.

Visits to three Kibbutz, one of which had a boat on display, dating back about 2000 years, which had been found in 1985 – and one of the brothers who found it was on hand to give us a talk.

If you add to this the beautiful weather, the stunning views around every corner, too many to list, you have just a glimpse of the Holy Land.

Our two couriers Vivienne and Gill from E.S.P.Tours showed us care and organisation second to none, and the driver and guide were excellent. It was a wonderful spiritual experience and has helped to strengthen our faith.

Maybe in a couple of years……. ’

A group photograph taken with the walls of the city of  Jerusalem in the background.

It was a most wonderful Pilgrimage and will long be remembered by those who went.

It was in March 2002 that Fr. Tony became ill and had to spend time in hospital, then a period at home convalescing from an operation.  He was sorely missed by everyone and not least by Fr. Gordon.  It brought home to everyone the situation of having so few priests.  Fortunately Rev. Kieron was on hand to help out and then, happily, Fr. Tony was able to make a very welcome return to us just after Easter.

So a new Millennium Age had begun.  There was a new era beginning also for the Parish of  St. Stephen’s as it reached its 50th Birthday.

This booklet has been about looking back over just some of the happenings of the last fifty years and mainly on the founding of the Parish.  Here it must be stated that very little has been written about the assistant priests, space does not permit, but without them much of the Parish work could not have been attempted.  The parishioners of St. Stephen’s owe all our priests a great debt of gratitude.

Also must be mentioned the Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of the Order of The Cross and Passion who have worked or are working amongst us.

And not forgetting the many, many, parishioners, particularly of the early years, who have not been named. They have all played such a very significant and important part in establishing this great Parish. To the many who have gone to their rest in the Lord, we pray that they Rest in Peace with their just rewards.

Now is the time to look forward, full of hope and with confidence. We hope that we too can leave a wonderful legacy to the St. Stephen’s Parishioners of  2052 – fifty years on!

With this in mind the Jubilee Committee is attempting several projects which hopefully will come to fruition and be a start to that legacy.

It hopes to :-

  • Have a  Commemorative Window in the Lady Chapel.
  • Have a Wooden Plaque bearing the names of all the priests who have served in the parish over the last 50 years.
  • Have a Book of Remembrance….. so that the anniversaries of deceased loved ones may be seen and  remembered.
  • Possibly have the exterior of the church building illuminated.
  • Have a Free-Standing Notice Board near the church perimeter fence.

The highlight of the celebrations will be a Concelebrated Thanksgiving Mass to which all priests, who have served in the Parish, will be invited.

This will be followed by a Social Evening in the Social Club to which all Parishioners are invited.

 

A HAPPY GOLDEN JUBILEE

 

SERVING PRIESTS

  1. MAURICE DILLON P.P 1952-1972
  2. JOHN McGEE 1953
  3. EDWARD McGUIRE 1953-1961
  4. FRANCIS SMITH 1956-1962
  5. MARTIN McCAWLEY 1961
  6. DANIEL MCLINDEN 1961-1966
  7. JOHN GALLAGHER 1962-1965
  8. PATRICK McCARTNEY 1966-1968
  9. GERARD NEARY 1966-1969
  10. JOHN MAGUIRE 1968-1974
  11. JOSEPH McKENNA 1969-1971
  12. VINCENT QUINE 1971-1976
  13. DANIEL CADOGAN P.P. 1972-1977
  14. GERARD GREAVES 1975-1977
  15. MATTHEW O’CALLAGHAN 1976-1977
  16. EAMON RAFTERY P.P. 1977-1982
  17. RAYMOND ARMSTRONG 1977-1978 & 1990-1995
  18. PATRICK QUINN 1977-1981
  19. JOHN CONCANNON 1978-1984
  20. PEARSE GALLAGHER 1978-1987
  21. MICHAEL DUNNE 1978-1979
  22. DESMOND McMORROW 1979-1982
  23. JOHN HEWSON 1980-1999
  24. PATRICK HUGHES P.P. 1982-1988
  25. ANTHONY CLUNE 1983-1990
  26. FRANCIS McMORROW 1984-1992
  27. JOHN O’KELLY 1987-1992  & P.P. 1992-1997
  28. JOHN TUOHY P.P. 1988-1992
  29. CORNELIUS CURTIN 1992-1999
  30. HUGH McMAHON 1995-1996
  31. AIDAN McGING 1997-1998 & P.P. 1998-1999
  32. SEAN MURPHY 1999
  33. GORDON ABBS P.P. 1999-
  34. ANTHONY MANGNALL 1999-

We Pray Eternal Rest for the following priests who have died;-

Fr. M. Dillon             Fr. M. McCawley              Fr. D. McLinden      Fr.G. Neary

Fr. P. McCartney   Fr.J.Maguire                        Fr.G. Greaves            Fr. P. Quinn

Fr. J. Hewson         Fr. J. O’Kelly                   Fr.J. Tuohy

Also Sister Leontia C.P. First Head of St. Stephen”s Catholic Primary School.

Mary Devaney, Marie Connor, Betty Thornton and Win Shelmerdine would like to thank very much all who have contributed, in any way, to help us produce this booklet.

Thanks also to The Warrington Guardian, The Catholic Pictorial, and The Universe newspapers  for allowing use of  their material.