Eileen Petrie attended the Metropolitan Cathedral's Consecration in 1967 and, 50 years on, has participated in an audio project celebrating its Golden Jubilee.
Eileen Petrie was only eight years old at the time yet there are certain impressions which have not left her of that day, five decades ago, when she attended the very first Mass at Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral. It was the Mass of Consecration, celebrated by Bishop Augustine Harris, on 14 May 1967 and for Eileen, a pupil from St William of York primary school in Thornton, the sights that greeted her inside the newly opened place of worship were rather overwhelming.
"I remember walking into the Cathedral as I'd never been into such a big building before and I remember how light it was and how many people were there – it was a bit scary in a way for a child. Another memory is there was some modern dance in the ceremony, and it was the first time I'd seen anything like that."
If a shock to the senses then, the Cathedral became a place of succour for Eileen subsequently. As a teenaged pupil at Seafield Convent Grammar School, she and a friend would travel into Liverpool each Maundy Thursday to attend the lunchtime Mass of Chrism there. "The year I did my A levels, when I was 17, I asked Archbishop Worlock to pray for me," she says. "The friend I was with was cross because I didn't ask for her too, but I did get an A for my English!"
Eileen, who later worked for the Diocese of Westminster's Pastoral Centre, is today a regular parishioner at St Peter and Paul's in Crosby. Her presence at that first Cathedral Mass 50 years ago meant she was perfectly placed to play a part in 'Voices of the Met Cathedral', the Heritage Lottery-funded project, to which 50 people each contributed a memory or anecdote about the Cathedral's half-century.
"I am on one of the listening posts talking about the opening ceremony and I interviewed some people as well," says Eileen. "The project started around March and was officially launched on Light Night [19 May]," she adds, explaining that there are listening posts placed along Hope Street – at the Unity Theatre, Hope Street Hotel, Philharmonic Hall and Everyman Theatre as well as the Cathedral itself – which will move later to Liverpool One.
Today, at 58, she reflects that the Cathedral remains a special place for her. "I know Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral very well and have been very privileged to see many cathedrals abroad," says Eileen, who works with charities in the Merseyside area. "I still think of the Metropolitan Cathedral as my cathedral, though. I'm very proud to be a Catholic in Liverpool and what has always struck me is how the Cathedral comes to life whenever there is a service in it. It changes so much when there is a service on. The biggest thing I love, though, is the light and how the light changes through the day as the sun moves around."