50th Anniversary of the Parish 1959 - 2009
A Brief History -
The appointment of Father Frank McGowan in 1959 marked the beginning of Christ Church parish. Since 1947 a monthly Mass had been celebrated in an upper room at the Heald Green Hotel but by 1952 the Catholic population had increased so Father Houghton of St. Chad's celebrated Mass weekly.
In 1957 he announced after Mass that he had purchased land on Finney Lane for the future building of a church. Parishioners immediately formed a Steering Committee to prepare for the arrival of a parish priest. Six of those pioneers, two of whom are still parishioners, were awarded the Bene Merenti for their committed service to Christ Church. Father McGowan celebrated his first Mass on August 30th 1959. As the congregation was now too great for the upper room at the Heald Green Hotel, Father realized the urgent need for a new meeting place.
The Hall was built and the first Mass was celebrated there on Easter Sunday 1960. The foundation stone of the church was laid in July 1961, the inaugural Mass celebrated on December 8th 1962 and the formal opening and blessing by Bishop Grasser in January 1962.
Father McGowan's theme for the church was 'My house is a house of Prayer' he sought to create an atmosphere of peace and love. His vision was of a strong simple interior relying on wood and stone for its focused impact, but he also commissioned artists and craftsmen to work with modern materials - stainless steel and fibreglass. Eddie Blackwell designed the tabernacle, monstrance and altars. Michael Gibbons carved the pews and altar furniture and J E Nuttgens designed the stained glass Stations of the Cross.
Over the years three assistant priests, Father Michael Lester, Michael Hartley and John Hovington served with Father McGowan, later on Father Harry Stratton also helped with the weekend Masses. In 1994, on the occasion of his Golden jubilee, Father was made Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Chapter. he retired that year but lived in Heald Green and celebrated Mass at St. Ann's Hospice each week until his death in 2000.
In 1994 Father Peter Burke succeeded Canon McGowan as Parish Priest. he introduced the Parish Council, the RCIA course, the Children's Liturgy and increased the number of Eucharistic Ministers and readers. Father Peter led memorable pilgrimages to Rome, Assisi and the Holy Land. he encouraged John Brady to study for the Permanent Diaconate. John was ordained in 1999 and served the parish until his death in 2008.
Father Ambrose Nicholson (1999 - 2007) was our third Parish Priest. he reordered the church , making use of and enhancing its original materials, and supervised its redecoration. Under his care parishioners enjoyed pilgrimages to Knock, Iona, Lindisfarne and Canterbury. During this time Father Michael Dyson retired and came to live in Heald Green, where he plays a valued part in parish life.
In 2000 our Millennium project was to raise money to help build the Church of the Holy Rosary in Uchira in Tanzania East Africa. To date we have raised £23,000. Christ Church was represented at the opening ceremony in 2008 and the lovely tapestry in church celebrates the ongoing support and friendship between the two parishes.
Today Father Paul Lomas is the Parish Priest. He has completed the reordering and the sanctuary has new furniture carved from wood which matches the original. The Hall remains the meeting place for parish activities and has been modernized and refurbished. The tradition of pilgrimages is thriving and a group is looking forward to Oberammergau next year.
Throughout the fifty years parish life has flourished with many groups providing for a range of ages and interests. It has been served so well by so many parishioners who have given generously of their time and talents to enhance the liturgy and worship. In the community the parish serves St. Anne's Hospice, Cheadle Royal Hospital and works successfully with 'Churches Together'. For parishioners the church remains as Bishop Grasser described it:
"A spiritual home where we meet together and come to pray"
The Golden Jubilee year began with a Celebration Mass on Sunday 30th August 2009 at which Bishop Brian Noble presided. Mass was followed by a lunch for one hundred and thirty people at the Hallmark Hotel in Handforth.
Bishop Noble with the concelebrants Father Paul Lomas and Father Mike Dyson with the Altar Servers (Click image for a larger picture)
Throughout the year there will be events for all the various groups to mark this important anniversary:- including a Harvest Meal in the Parish Hall. a picnic for the children and trips and outings. We look forward to meeting and praying together in our Spiritual home in the years to come.
An Anniversary Prayer