History of St Paul's Parish
Written by the Doctor Malcolm Taylor
It is with great pleasure and deep gratitude that I write a very short foreword to this commemorative booklet celebrating the Silver Jubilee of the official opening of St Paul's Church building (as being different from the Church hall).
We who use the building today owe a tremendous debt of thanks to those pioneers who set out with faith and hope to establish this parish over forty years ago; to those who supported the project in various ways; and to those who are now carrying on that great tradition of developing St Paul's Parish for the praise and worship of God.
May the next twenty-five years be as fruitful.
Father Pat Murphy, Parish Priest St Paul's Presbytery
21 Goodison Boulevard
Doncaster DN4 6BT
When I suggested that the production of a booklet containing a history of St Paul's might be a good idea for the 25th anniversary of the present Church building I didn't expect to end up writing it. I'm not sure that I am the right person either. Although I have been part of the parish since the early sixties, I have been, for the most part, peripheral to the action – not one of that really hard working band of parishioners who helped to build St Paul's in the early days.
Fortunately some parishioners are squirrels, and I have been greatly helped by the loan of old newsletters preserved by Joe and Mary Boyle and Stan and Phyllis Allott as well as by their shared recollections. Father Pat Murphy, helpful and encouraging as ever, produced a fascinating and moving taped account of the parish's early history, made by the late Eddie Kime in 1990. Many will remember Eddie as a tireless worker for the Church. Thanks also to John Neary for material about the music ministry, Pat Packham about the youth, and Jane Taylor for her illustrations
It has been a fascinating though sometimes frustrating exercise. Many newsletters lacked a date of publication, and some accounts conflicted, especially about dates. The result is inevitably incomplete, but will I hope prove interesting. Perhaps memories will be stirred (not shaken), - and corrections and glaring omissions raised in future editions of the parish newsletter
Malcolm Taylor, August 1998.
The Early Days
It all began in the early 1950's. A growing population and the need for homes led to the development of the new council housing estates in Cantley. Initially Cantley 1 - where all the streets were named after racecourses, quickly followed by Cantley 2 - where they were named after past vicars of St Wilfred's Cantley. For the Catholics among the new families moving in, attending Mass meant somehow getting to St Peter's Chains in Prince's Street in the town centre. It can't have been easy for few had cars, and there was no public transport.
In 1954, in order to meet the needs of the new arrivals, Father Monogue , the parish priest at St Peter's, arranged for the rental of a Scout's hut which was situated amongst allotments by the side and to the south of the railway line near Cantley bridge. A rental of ten shillings each week covered the cost of the hire of the hall, fuel for the stove, and for a man to open up and lock up afterwards. A wooden chest served as an altar. The weekly collections came to about £2.0.0. About twenty families attended Sunday Mass which was celebrated by Father Monogue or one of two newly ordained curates, Father Hugh Barr and Father Green.
The estate continued to develop rapidly, as did the congregation, and after a short time Father Monogue purchased a plot of land which was later to become the site of the future St Paul's. The Legion of Mary was formed with Charles Watters as its' first president. Every Sunday about twelve men met at midday together with a priest from St Peter's in the Hawthorne School. Their main task, and obviously a considerable one, was to visit every newly occupied house to identify Catholics and to create a parish register.
A Church in a Church Hall
The next exciting news was that Father Monogue was having a dual-purpose building built on the previously acquired site. It was to double up as Church and Church Hall and continues today (although apparently not for much longer) as our Church Hall. Joe Boyle thinks it cost £8,000.
On June 29th 1959 the new St Paul's was opened and blessed. Father Barr, who apparently had responsibility for the Cantley part of St Peter's parish, presided and celebrated the first Mass. A bungalow, at 210 Cantley Lane was bought for £6000 to serve as presbytery for St Paul's first Parish Priest, Father Bernard Jackson.
St Paul's Church Hall -The Parish Church from June 29th until September 11th 1973
A second hand light oak altar was bought from the late Canon Hudson's private Chapel in Barnsley. 'Borrowed' from St Peter's, and according to Eddie Kime in 1990: 'never returned and still in use today', were sanctuary bells, a couple of Formica tables, candleholders, and a communion plate. On one of the Legion of Mary visits a pedal organ was given and served for many years.
Activities of all kinds were taking place, mostly to make money. The Union of Catholic Mothers was formed with Mrs Pape as its' first president.
Father Jackson was not to stay long and was replaced by Father Matthew Valentine Malone who arrived on 2nd February 1962 and remained as parish priest until his death in August 1982. Father Malone will be particularly remembered for the building of the present Church and Presbytery. Father Matt, born in Donnybrook, Dublin, was quite a character, much loved, well rounded and convivial, he enjoyed company and conversation. He was also something of a poet and also an actor, once playing the part of Cardinal Wolsey in a 'St Paul's Players' production of 'A Man for all Seasons'. He had served as a Chap-lain in the armed forces, serving in Burma and the Far East, and remained an army chaplain until 1955. This experience no doubt lay behind his introduction of the annual Men's Dinner, which was held on Remembrance Sunday at Punch's Hotel on Bawtry Road. This event was very popular. For one thing the chef was a parishioner, and also, somehow or other, Father Matt managed to persuade quite famous guest speakers to come along. These included: Eddie Waring (Rugby League commentator), Roy Clarke (Last of the Summer Wine - also son of Father Matt's housekeeper), and Peter Docherty (Player-manager of Doncaster Rovers — then a good 2nd division side). Long before it was strictly permissible Father Matt allowed a girl to act as Altar server.
For Father Matt, important occasions for celebration not included in the Church's calendar included, St Valentine's day, which was his birthday, and St George's day, which was used as an opportunity to be nice to the English. At one party on a St George's day, about 1965, Father G Harney, now Parish Priest of St Peter's, and at that time a curate, paraded around the Presbytery with a smouldering lump of peat from the West of Ireland on a shovel in an attempt to create what he felt was an appropriate atmosphere.
Planning for a new Church
During Father Malone's 21 years at St Paul's the parish continued to grow in numbers as the Cantley estates grew, and later on as West Bessacarr came under development in about 1966. The Church Hall was full to bursting, and there was a great desire to have a proper Church. According to Eddie Kime: "The Bishop when approached replied 'Find a pot of gold!'" The parish had to prove that its' income was sound. Planned offertory giving was introduced, and there was a flourishing income from all sorts of activities especially the Friday and Saturday night Bingo and the Tote Double". Eventually, in the late summer of 1972 came the news that permission to build a new church had been granted. An architect, John Black was appointed, plans were drawn up and a model displayed. Dixon's builders of Balby were given the contract to build.
In April 1973 a new 'News Sheet' was started under the editorship of John Barnes and was published every week. Succeeding editions record a time of extraordinary excitement, energy, and activity in the lead up to the opening of the new church. A Parish Development Committee was set up and a Building Fund Account opened. Gifts or promises of money towards furnishing the new Church and offers to provide specific items such as the Altar, Font, and Stations of the Cross came in quickly. The red in the thermometer in the Church Porch climbed steadily. The new Choirmaster, Mr Phil Navas, advertised for additions to the choir.
One hopeful entry in the edition of May 20th seems rather poignant in retrospect: "Our new Church will have under-floor heating which should provide an even temperature, and which should not cost more to run than other systems". Time was to prove otherwise.
The month of June saw a campaign to get more parishioners to join in the Covenanting Scheme, fund raising events were encouraged, bricks were for sale at a £1 each, and preparations for the Annual Garden Party to be held in the grounds of Burton Grange proceeded apace.
By August as the date for the opening of the new church came closer the Church Hall came in for a refurbishing. Paint and polish was organised, and helpers were recruited to put new canvas seats on the sixteen-year-old tubular steel chairs. (Memories of sitting through Mass on torn and sagging canvas still linger). The Building Fund had topped £2,000.
A team under foreman Mr Ken Murray of Balby built the new St Paul's. Working with him were four bricklayers including his father Mr Richard Murray and his brother Jack, Robert Cooper and Paul Wright. John Chandler, a joiner completed the team. Mr Cooper, a Catholic who had the task of fixing the Stations of the Cross mentioned his problem of keeping to the Flemish bond for the brickwork. For one cavity wall he had to cut seven hundred bricks to preserve the pattern of the courses. He felt that the Church was full of light freedom - inviting everyone.
The Opening of the New Church
The new Church was opened on Tuesday 11th' September 1973. The Church, beautifully decorated with flowers by the nuns, was full with parishioners and guests. The latter included the Mayor of Doncaster Councillor Heaven and the Mayoress, Mr Harold Walker MP, and clergy from other Churches.
At 7.00 p.m. Father Malone received the Right Reverend William Gordon Wheeler, Bishop of Leeds, and The Right Reverend Gerard Moverley Bishop of Tinisia outside the Church. Bishop Wheeler blessed the Church as he entered and then went on to consecrate the altar. Then followed the sequence in which the stone of the altar was anointed in five places on the table and at the four corners commemorating the five wounds of Christ. The Bishop's homily was by all accounts kindly but included the reminder that the Church could not be consecrated until it was paid for.
Bishop Moverley concelebrated the first Mass with twelve priests including Canon Abberton, Father Barr and Father Jackson. The choir sang the 'Gloria', 'Credo' and 'Sanctus' in English for the first time in the parish.
Afterwards, every one crowded into the Hall for a party, and a buffet followed by a dance. The clergy it seems encountered some difficulty after retiring to the new Sacristy and Presbytery. By the end of Mass it was dark, the new Presbytery did not yet have the benefit of electricity and the retiring clergy had to make do with candles. Disrobing and identifying personal clothing must have been tricky.
The Presbytery was to take a little longer than the Church to complete, but the newsletter of 7th October reports Father Matt in residence and now spared the climb up the hill from Cantley lane. There was of course the new worry of a £55,000 Parish Debt, but there were great hopes for the under-floor heating even though the control panel hadn't arrived. Once switched on it was anticipated that the floor would heat up by three degrees each week reaching a 'comfortable' 68-72 degrees in six or seven weeks. Given that it was now already October hopes were understandably expressed for a mild autumn. The floor did heat up eventually, at great expense, but the Church remained cool.
Father Matt wrote a poem about it all shortly afterwards:
That night That was
And What a night it was.
Our family of St Paul's,
To Bless the walls,
To open our new Home.
Together, both our Bishops,
Mayor of Doncaster and
Member for this town:
But most dear, our families
United at the table of the Altar.
And Christ then came to join us
To stay with us
And bless and sanctify
Our Family then
The Stained Glass Window
If the novel design of the Church and the abstract 'Stations of the Cross' were not quite to everyone's taste there was general approval of the stained glass window. Richard King the artist explained his window as follows:
"The theme is The Holy Family and the treatment is symbolic. Thus through rhythmic line and colour in both glass and lead we perceive a window qualifying both the actual light and the concept of enlightenment.
The main idea was to create a window – not a picture – and to incorporate into it the ideas we jointly discussed. No nimbi are given to the figures nor is any attempt made to give a 'cult' quality to them. In this way I hope that onlookers will be able to identify with the figures themselves and be moved to subsequent meditation.
Joseph is the breadwinner – the worker – the guardian – the husband of Mary – and any man can identify with him. Above, to the right of the widow may be traced in line and form the symbols of his craft: the adze, the mallet, the bow saw, the square and so on as well as lines suggesting timbers.
Mary is the young mother protected by Joseph and in turn passing on this protection and love to her child through the juxtaposition of hands in a loving gesture. The Child holds a Noah's Ark in His hands – Joseph has made him this and the symbolism is self-evident.
The whole window is qualified by a large cross in white glass to indicate that the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph – and all families – are part of the great Scheme of Redemption and share in the triumph of the Resurrection. So it is a 'joyful window'. Many other thoughts have been enshrined in the glass that can lead the mind on to more abstruse thoughts – the moon beneath Mary's feet – the abstract forms in white above at centre to suggest the workings of the Holy Spirit. The purple cross at the left-hand side – the sorrow and sadness of the Passion and inevitable pain as a concomitant of human relationships. All these and more are there for all who seek."
1973 to 1998 - A time of growth and consolidation
As Cantley and West Bessacarr continued to grow so did the family of St Paul's. Father Malone needed help and so was joined by Father Peter Rosser in October 1975. Father Rosser stayed only a short time and was replaced by Father Edward (Ned) O'Connor who was curate for almost three years before leaving in February 1979. Soon after-wards, in early March, Father Peter Cullen arrived to serve not only as curate to St Paul's, but also to undertake duties as chaplain to Catherine McAuley and St Peter's High Schools. Father Peter was to serve as curate until Father Malone's final illness, a time of great stress and difficulty, during which the young curate cared for his older fellow priest with great tenderness. After Father Malone's death in August 1982 Father Peter took responsibility for the Parish until Father Patrick (Pat) Murphy, our present Parish Priest arrived in early April 1983. The two then worked together until Father Peter moved to Sheffield in October 1984, where he is currently a chaplain to the University of Sheffield.
On July 3rd 1980 the Rt Rev Monsignor Gerald Moverley JCD was installed as the first Bishop of Hallam and St Paul's became a parish within the diocese of Hallam.
The story of the clergy continued with the ordination of Bill Taylor as Deacon by Bishop Moverley in St Paul's on December 8th 1993. This was a great occasion for the Parish. Bill Taylor, his wife Philomena, (and their children as they in turn arrived), had been a parishioners of St Paul's since the 1960s. And so it was one of the 'parish family' who was being ordained. Deacon 'Bill' had studied for his ministry whilst continuing to work as an airline pilot for British Airways. He still takes to the air occasionally as well as serving the parish.
A Parish Jubilee 29th June 1984
An important event in the life of St Paul's was its' celebration of 25 years as a Parish. It was described as "A never to be forgotten week-end". "We were blessed because the events were celebrations of real joy emanating from a common spirit of Love and Co-operation. We were blessed because of the hard work put in by many people of all ages and blessed by the presence of Bishop Moverley who attended and confirmed about forty candidates". Unfortunately, it was announced soon afterwards, that Father Cullen was to move to another parish.
The Sisters of Mercy
Important to the parish, though with a wider commitment to Don-caster, have been the Sisters of Mercy. This order was founded by Catherine McAuley in 1831, its' special apostolic expression in service to others through the works of mercy – education, nursing the sick, care of the needy and the aged. The Clifford Convent was founded in 1870. Seventeen years later in 1887, Clifford opened its' first Branch Convent in Doncaster as a result of a request from the local clergy that the Sisters undertake the education of primary school children. In 1923 because of the growing need for some form of secondary education, the Sisters established the Convent Collegiate School at Rutland House Thorne Road. Later the sisters accepted the challenge to build, without any grant from the Department of Education and Science, the Catherine McAuley Co-educational Grammar School in Cantley. A new Convent was built next door. The sisters were now physically part of the parish and became closely involved in parish life.
Despite its' elegance and airiness the new church was not without its' problems. The under floor heating was never satisfactory. Fan assisted gas central heating was installed in 1980 at a cost of £ 1000 to attempt to resolve the problem but failed. In April 1985 a 'Church Improvement Scheme Appeal Fund' was launched. The aim was to carpet the Church, replace two rather flimsy doors, and double glaze windows. By dint of much hard work and generosity well over £5000 was raised, and by the end of 1986 the first two items had been completed, but the Church was still cold and remained so until two more heaters were installed at the end of 1987. Warm at last, but left with the challenge of balancing warmth against audibility, Father Pat has learned to juggle with the timing of the fans to get them to switch off in time for the readings. (Also to juggle with the views of others about what constitutes 'warm enough' or 'loud enough').
An unexpected bonus from the appeal was the generous donation of an electric organ, originally given for one of the auction sales held early in the appeal, this has continued to serve the parish well al-though a new organ is planned for the Jubilee. Other improvements announced in the February 1983 news sheet included the installation of the New Tabernacle, and the opening of the outside toilet de-scribed as 'having a green door and ventilation grill', there is no record of an opening ceremony for the latter. In the same edition Father Peter Cullen announced an open meeting of the parish to discuss proposals for regular open meetings and the formation of working groups to channel the talents of people who shared common interests.
Growing and Working Together Groups
The notion of working was hardly new in the parish, even working 'groups', but much was to flow from these initiatives and other changes over the next few years. Groups had previously been set up to meet needs as they arose: appeals, the organisation of parish events and so on. Of existing groups, the Society of St Vincent de Paul was extremely active with its programme of visiting and providing outings and entertainment for the elderly. There was an active Union of Catholic Mothers. The first Brownie pack had started on the 8th of May 1978, and the Co-Workers of Mother Teresa began to meet in November of the same year. In the background, as always, there were those who quietly cared for the fabric of the Church, Presbytery, Hall and grounds, - cleaning, decorating ,and repairing.
The December 1983 newsletter included, in addition to reports from established groups, those from the Liturgy, Youth and Drama, Mums and Toddlers, and Justice and Peace Groups. As time went on other new groups appeared. The Music Group in late 1984 and a Young Wives Group in April 1985. On 14th February 1987 the Youth Group was re-launched with a St Valentine's disco (the late Father Matt's birthday - he would no doubt have approved). In Au-gust 1987 a Children's Liturgy Group was formed, and in November 1988 the Divorced, Separated and Bereaved Group met for the first time.
Music underwent something of a change during Father Peter's time with an alternative to the traditional organ especially at Saturday evening Mass. This consisted of a band that included guitars, flutes and even drums. Father Peter played the guitar and tin whistle and was sometimes to be seen with a guitar slung on his back and tin whistles sticking out of his pockets. Shortly after Father Peter left, Father Pat Murphy suggested the setting up of a Music Group that continues to this day. This group has involved all ages and abilities playing a wide range of instruments. Youngsters started out with recorders, progressing to violins, cellos, flutes, clarinets, violas, trumpets and oboes. The result has been an enormous contribution to parish worship, as well as to the development of the young people involved. At Easter 1998 forty-seven musicians took part in the services, including current members and past members at home for the holiday.
The Young People
All parish work is important, but that with the young particularly so. The children's liturgy at the 9.00 a.m. Mass on Sundays is popular and a great start. Parish catechists work together with the schools to prepare children for first communion and confirmation. The Youth Group is active both socially and spiritually. It has produced shows and pantomimes, raised funds for charities; it has pre-pared Advent and Lenten services, Youth Sunday services, and is currently preparing a 'Rock Musical' about the conversion of St Paul. Every year since 1985 there has been a 'Youth Group Re-treat' at Champion House, Edale. This is attended by at least twenty young people, and some of those who attended in the early years now attend as leaders.
Lay involvement took an important, and visible, step forward with the appointment of Eucharistic Ministers, firstly in Father Peter's time and then with further appointments during Father Pat's ministry. Quite soon, by 1987, they were asked to prepare and lead Communion Services in place of weekday Mass when Father Pat was unavailable. In a newsletter, under the heading 'Leaderless', Maisie Mullaney and Bernie Fox described their first experience as follows: "After a hesitant start and as the week progressed, we be-came more aware of the Spirit of God among us. The prayers and hymns prepared individually each day added immensely to the meaning and purpose of the 'Bidding Prayers'. As we listened to the Word of God in the readings, we seemed to capture the fervour and dedication of the first Christians, who gathered together to pray in small groups and to break bread".
Less visible, and still finding its way, is the Pastoral Council. Occasional open Parish meetings were well established, and continue, but there was a view that the Parish would benefit from some sort of Parish Council, which would assist in the running of the Parish under the leadership of the Parish Priest. The idea was first discussed at a meeting in February 1988, a working group was set up in the December, and the first Pastoral Council met on 10th July 1989. After much discussion about its role it was decided that it should be primarily concerned with the spiritual development of the Parish, relating to Parish Groups, and presenting a theme for each year. In practice, although it has promoted such things as a 'Parish Mission', and is involved in planning for the 25th Jubilee, and the Millennium, it also provides ongoing support and advice to the Parish Priest, for example on such issues as Catholic education.
The Present and the Future
Now, 44 years since the first Mass in the Scout hut, 39 years as a Parish, and with its' Church building 25 years old, St Paul's faces the future. Materially, the roof will soon need fixing, in the offing is the prospect of a new Church Hall, and the debt that goes with it. Parish numbers are slightly fewer, but the family of St Paul's seems somehow stronger spiritually. One feels that more of its' members go to Mass because they want to; groups of all types are active, and there is a sense of caring for each other which spreads into the community. Whatever the future presents, perhaps managing with fewer priests, the family of St Paul's will, with God's grace, continue to grow and share our Lord's love with other people.