On Sunday night bishop Dunn came to St Aidan`s to celebrate a Mass to mark the centenary. Well we think it was the centenary. The diocesan calendar says that the church was opened in 1906 but the parish priest, Fr Kennedy, in 2006 , who was about to retire that year, said that 2007 was the real date and so we celebrated as near as we could to the feast of St Aidan on August 31st. There had been a priest in the area since at least 1899 when a chaplain was appointed to the large convent nearby. We used a chalice at the Mass which had the inscription St Aidan`s 1904. The centenary was thus to mark 100 years of the church on its present site. Not that it is the same church! The present building dates from 1960 and has been described elsewhere on this blog.
As well as myself, the three other priests of the cluster who help with the running of the parish were present and concelebrated. I welcomed the bishop and also noted that bishop Lindsay, our senior bishop emeritus, who had consecrated the present church in 1990, had sent his congratulations to the parish.
At the end of the Mass a parishioner gave a summary of the parish`s history. He noted that now the parish attracts people from a wide area mainly because of the 5pm Saturday vigil Mass which was introduced by Fr Kennedy and seemed to fulfil a need. Bishop Dunn in reply was keen to point out that although there is not now a resident parish priest at St Aidan`s, it is still a real parish. I`m glad to say that the parish is well-looked after by an active parish council.
An incident which wasn`t mentioned at the Mass but which quite a number of parishioners have told me about was Fr Kane`s Golden Jubilee Mass in 1960. All was ready in the sacristy for the Mass to begin when poor Fr Kane dropped dead. My sources tell me that the Mass went ahead but it was `a different kind of Mass` by which I take it to mean it was a requiem. Fr Kane`s grave is in Benton cemetery and recently the headstone has fallen over after the council went around testing to see whether the headstones could withstand 35lbs of pressure. Many failed, including Father`s, so we are getting it repaired.
It would have been rather nice to have bowed out in 1960 before everything started. I can`t imagine what it must have been like as a priest in the 1960`s and 1970`s if you still had a love for the traditions of the Church. Fortunately now with Pope Benedict I hope a new balance will emerge and a new interest in the `hermeneutic of continuity` will make for saner times.