A year of celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of St Bernadette’s parish in Shevington began in earnest recently with a special series of Masses.
Archbishop Malcolm McMahon was the main celebrant at the 9.30am Mass on Sunday 22 February, with another Mass following on the anniversary itself – the next evening – attended by a number of former parish priests.
Father John Hindley, the parish priest at St Bernadette’s, said: ‘The Masses over that weekend marked the beginning of the year-long celebrations for the 50th anniversary of St Bernadette's parish. We were delighted to welcome Archbishop Malcolm on 22 February and he made a great impression on all the parishioners with his warmth and friendliness.
‘The parishioners also appreciated seeing some of the former priests that have served the parish and also the priests from the pastoral area at the concelebrated Mass on Monday 23rd, the actual anniversary.’
Additionally, there was a Mass for pupils from the primary school and a day of activities at the school focused on the anniversary. Fr Hindley added: ‘The celebrations used the past 50 years as inspiration for the future, so that St Bernadette's continues to be a vibrant parish, committed to spreading the Good News.’
St Bernadette’s was originally built as a chapel of ease served by the priests of St Marie’s, Standish and was blessed and opened in 1961. A contemporary copy of The Catholic Parish Magazine described it as ‘a single storey building constructed of Canadian red cedar wood, with very attractive vertical timbering. On entering one is surprised at the spaciousness of the building which will seat 300 persons comfortably.’
With the town growing due to the arrival of the M6 motorway, Archbishop George Beck decided in 1965 that it should become a parish in its own right and Fr Frederick Ness became its first parish priest. His successor, Fr Charles Brady, oversaw the subsequent opening of the primary school in January 1971.
St Bernadette’s has been served by nine parish priests, with the present incumbent, Fr Hindley, arriving in 2006. Fr Hindley, writing in a parish history to mark the anniversary, said: ‘The building was designed with a useful life of 25 years but the modesty of the outside belies what is inside, and the personality of the people who shape the parish, who come to worship God here. The best way to thank those people from 50 years ago is to ensure St Bernadette’s is still thriving, moving forward and building on the work they began.’
The history of St Bernadette’s recalls the early days of parish and school, remembers the contribution of former parish priests and highlights the effort of different parish groups down the years. For a copy, contact author Steve Grimes on 01257 426090.