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Thursday 5 June 2014

St Wilfrid's Sesquicentenary

Yes, apparently that is what you call the celebration of 150 years, a sesquicentenary! It's a good word for a great celebration.  St Wilfrid's Church was full to celebrate a century and a half of Catholic life in this place with solemnity and joy.

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Bishop Terence with (from left to right) Canon Michael Ryan (former PP), Fr Richard, Canon Alan Sheridan (The Dean), Fr Michael Marsden (former PP)

Bishop Terence introduced the Mass by reading the account of the opening of the church as recorded by the York Gazette in June 1864. Cardinal Wiseman preached for one hour and ten minutes. (The Pontifical Mass was followed by lunch and Solemn Benediction. Similar ceremonies went on each day for the rest of the week. We just don't breed 'em like that any more!) Our bishop wisely made no attempt to break any time records and spoke movingly about the history of this church and its people in words that were shorter by exactly one hour.

St Wilfrid's Choir sang the Ecce Sacerdos by Elgar to welcome the bishop and Locus Iste by Bruckner to give thanks for the gift of our church. Christ is our high priest. It is he who makes this place holy for us. After Holy Communion the choir of St Wilfrid's School sang a setting of The Lord is my Shepherd.

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St Wilfrid's School Choir

After Mass there was a party in the Rectory Garden and an exhibition of the history of the parish. Among the exhibits was a very faded photograph almost certainly taken on the occasion of the opening, and the trowel used to lay the foundation stone. There were many photographs taken over the years recording the changes in the building - and in the people!

During the party a magnificent birthday cake - including a very correctly attired sugar statue of St Wilfrid - was cut by Canon Michael Ryan and we all sang Happy Birthday to our church.

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The Cake

Parish registers were available for inspection and people queued to see the records of their family celebrations - and to make sure they actually had been married. Some were relieved to see that Fr Richard really was baptised and validly ordained a priest!

Many people signed the Visitor's Book to make sure their names will be part of the exhibition planned to celebrate the 300th Anniversary (Tercentenary!) of the church on 4th June, 2164. One parishioner wrote: "I have been in this parish for 70 years. I would not want to be anywhere else!" Sentiments a lot of people would agree with!

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Fr Richard welcoming the Bishop, parishioners and visitors at the end of the Mass

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Photographs by Lars Karlsson