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Golden Jubilee

30th November 1911 - 30th November 1961
Thursday, 30th November 1961 Solemn High Mass at 7 30 pm in the presence of His Lordship the Bishop,  The Right Reverend Edward Ellis, D.D., Ph.D.

 The celebration of the golden jubilee of Holy Souls Church on 30th November, 1961, is not only a source of gratification and thanksgiving by the congregation, and indeed, by the whole Catholic community of Scunthorpe ; it is, at the same time, an occasion for reminiscence concerning the past, and speculation about the future. The celebrations will commence at 7 30 pm with High Mass, to be sung in the presence of His Lordship the Bishop of Nottingham, the Right Reverend Dr. Edward Ellis. D.D. Later, a reception and dance will be held in the Crosby Hotel.

Although the majority of those present at the reception will obviously be parishioners of Holy Souls and St. Bernadettes, it is expected that a number of non Catholic townspeople will be present to join in the festivities. This would indeed be fitting, as a very high degree of friendliness has always existed between Catholic and non Catholic in Scunthorpe. The Catholic community has many times been indebted to non Catholics for valuable help at crucial times in the community's growing strength.

When the formal opening ceremony took place on the morning of Thursday, 30th November, 1911 the Right Revd. Dr. Brindle, D. S.O., Bishop of Nottingham, observed during the course of his sermon that there were a goodly number present who were not members of the Catholic Church. These included the organist, Dr. T. A. Couldrey and one of the soloists at the High Mass, Mrs. McGregor.

The tiny Catholic Community of the time must have had to work extremely hard to have built such a beautiful and imposing Church. One must remember that in those days Scunthorpe had a population of only 19,360 of which the Catholic proportion was probably much smaller than is now the case. The fact that a permanent church of such calibre should have been constructed within fourteen years of the establishment of the mission speaks volumes for the efforts and determination of this small group.

It was in August, 1897 that Bishop Bagshawe appointed the first resident priest in Scunthorpe, Father Rupert McCauley. It is recorded, however, that Mass was said in Scunthorpe for the first time on the Feast of All Souls, 2nd November, 1892, the celebrant being the Parish Priest of Brigg, the Very Revd. Dean Kirby, and the location, the house of a Mr. E. Field, a recent convert. It may well have been the date of this first Mass that led to the church, when built, being dedicated to the Holy Souls. Mass continued to be said each Sunday, first in the clubroom of the North Lincoln Volunteers, and later in the Drill Hall.

Father McCauley's stay was very brief, his health quickly giving way and constraining him to leave in March, 1898. After a brief interval. during which the Norbertine Fathers of Crowle ministered to the needs of the Catholics of Scunthorpe, Father Hooker was appointed to the charge of the mission. He arrived in October, 1898 and before he left in 1900 he had obtained a presbytery, the front room of which was designated as " The Chapel of the Holy Souls."

Father Hooker was succeeded by Father Bermingham who, in turn, after only about a year in the town, was replaced by Father Kerins, who died in September, 1904. For a short time the mission was in the care of Father Lindeboom who soon, however, returned to Nottingham.
The arrival of Father Leo Mouthuy in 1907 led to the establishment of the permanent church. With the assistance of funds from the estate of Thomas Arthur Young, late of Kingerby Hall, Market Rasen, Father Mouthuy bought the site on Frodingham Road, and erected the corrugated iron structure which is still serving as a parochial hall.

When Father Frederick Askew followed Father Mouthuy in the Lent of 1900 the congregation had sufficiently increased in number for a final effort to be made to raise enough funds to build the church. The building was designed by Messrs. Kirby and Son of Liverpool, and built by Mr. S. Clauke of Crosby.

The church was immediately recognised as one of the most striking buildings of the small town. Contemporary descriptions refer to it as. a " new feature to the local architecture " and " an addition to the not very varied loveliness of Scunthorpe." Particular reference is made to " the elegant and massive tower " a feature which has always attracted much admiration from visitors to the town. Although Scunthorpe has grown tremendously since the church was built, Holy Souls remains one of the most elegant and most admired buildings in the town.

The original plan appears to have included a Lady Chapel which was to have been erected as a North transept. It was to have accommodated " some fifty worshippers " and to have been " divided off from the nave by a pleasing perspective of Gothic arcading." Lack of funds apparently prevented the completion of this intention, or possibly there was a change of mind, for older parishioners will doubtless recall the old Conference Room which, for many years, occupied the site of the Lady Chapel and which served the parish in many capacities during its existence.

It was in this room, for instance, that the first Catholic educational venture was launched, a private school by the name of St. Paul's College, having a brief existence there under Mr. and Mrs. McNamee. Here too, the first Catholic Boy Scout Troop had its headquarters.
From the Conference Room access was gained to the sacristy, which in those days was on the north side of the church. Close by, too, was the first organ.

Reference is also made in the original description of the church to the pulpit which apparently came from Frodingham Parish Church. This is not the pulpit at present used in the church, which was installed by Father Lakin about 1931.

The Stations of the Cross are described as " artistically wrough on canvas with ecclesiastical settings." These too, have since been replaced by those now in use which were donated by various parishioners, as a result of an appeal by Father Firth.

The church decoration was described as but temporary. The wooden altar was transferred from the church hall which had hitherto served as a temporary church. It was intended to replace this with a more permanent altar, described variously as " elaborately carved wood" and `sculptured stone." In fact, a new wooden altar was installed by Father Firth about 1923, and this in turn was replaced by the present marble altar as part of the new and enlarged sanctuary conceived by the present parish priest, Father Andrew Murdoch.

At the official opening by Bishop Brindle, High Mass was celebrated by Father Cossins, of Corby, assisted by Father Firth of Crowle, and Father Ryan. Other clergy present came from as far afield as Hull, Grimsby, Derby, Sheffield and Worksop.

The Church is described in a publication of the time as " small but distinctly good," and is said to have cost about £2,000. For the congregations of the next two decades, however, the church proved more than sufficient in size, and the pioneers who built it could well be excused for thinking that they had shown ample foresight in their planning. The period brought many vicissitudes, both nationally and locally, and the congregation increased only slowly.

The war Of 1914 18 brought much extra work to Father Askew, who had always been a prominent figure in the town. The influx of a number of Belgian refugees called for special efforts from the small Catholic community, and the establishment of a Mass centre at Dragonby where many of the refugees lived, involved Father Askew in extra pastoral duties. In 1919 his health broke down and he retired to Harborne Hall, Birmingham.

His successor, Father Francis Firth, built the presbytery adjoining the Church. Scunthorpe at that time, however, was sharing in the national industrial difficulties and little expansion' was possible.

In 1925 Father Firth moved to Derbyshire and an unsettled period followed. For a time the parish was served by the Franciscan fathers of Panton Hall, near Wragby, until the arrival of Father van der Kallen of the St. Joseph's Missionary Society, Mill Hill. Father Kallen proved a most energetic priest, especially in organising the younger people of the parish, but he died after a very brief illness, in February, 1928. He was followed for a short time by Father Key, also of the St. Joseph Missionary Society.

For a period of twenty years, from 1929 to 1949, the parish was in the hands of Father Albert Lakin. It was during this time that the foundations were laid for the organisation and development of Catholicism in Scunthorpe as it is today. During the 1930's, it became obvious that Scunthorpe was destined to grow very rapidly, and very substantially. As long ago as 1895 the five villages which make up Scunthorpe had been combined into one town under an Urban District Council. By 1930 the population had reached 33,761, and steps were begun to seek Borough status, this being finally obtained in 1936.

Meanwhile, the town had been rapidly spreading to the south, and west. As the population increased, so did the Catholic proportion of that population, and soon it became apparent that the one Church of Holy Souls was inadequate for the needs of the growing number of Catholics.

Father Lakin took the first steps to meet these needs by opening a Mass Centre in 1939 to serve the Brumby and Ashby districts. At the same time he bought a site sufficient for a new church, and priest's house, but the Mass Centre existed in a succession of hired rooms an Anglican church hall serving the purpose at one time for a period of eleven years.

For a great part of the time he was parish priest, Father Lakin was handicapped by indifferent health. Nevertheless, in addition to laying his plans for the future development of a new parish, he devoted equal attention to beautifying his church. He it was who, as already mentioned, installed the present pulpit. He was also responsible for the construction of the gates to the baptistery and for the installation of the present organ. In 1936, when the silver jubilee of the church was celebrated, he had the whole church completely re decorated. As part of his scheme, he completed the stained glass windows above the altar by the addition of windows representing Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Teresa of Lisieux. The central window and the windows of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, had been erected some time previously.
During the next few years, many more stained glass windows were added by various members of the congregation, until the windows on either side of the church were almost entirely constructed in this medium.

In Father Lakin's time too, the presbytery was enlarged when it was found to be necessary to appoint an assistant priest to the parish. The present boundary wall was also built and the pavement in front of the church widened by the cession of a strip of land to the Corporation.
In 1949 Father Lakin died quite suddenly. By this time Scunthorpe's population increased to 50,000, and with the post war easing of building restrictions, the time for active expansion had arrived. The Bishop sent Father John Merrigan from Cleethorpes to undertake the task.

Work proceeded apace and in October, 1950, a temporary chapel was opened on the site bought by Father Lakin, the chapel being built by voluntary labour. The following year, the Presentation Sisters opened a convent in Ashby and provided staff for the independent primary school which opened in the temporary chapel in the autumn of that year. The school grew so rapidly that extra classrooms had to be added in 1953, and again in 1954, A Priest's house was built in the same year.

Now all was ready for the creation of the new parish of St. Bernadette's and its first parish priest, Father McGillicuddy, arrived in November, 1954. Holy Souls had given the new parish an excellent beginning, providing her with a school, temporary chapel, presbytery and convent.

Co operation between the two parishes was the keynote of the next few years, particular attention being devoted to the building of schools. In 1955, St. Bernadette's Primary School was opened and St. Bede's Secondary School followed in 1961.

In 1955 Father Merrigan left, and after a brief period under Father Simon Nolan, Holy Souls passed to the care of Father Andrew Murdoch in 1956. Apart from co operating with neighbouring parishes in the work of building schools, Father Murdoch has devoted much time and energy to the further beautifying of Holy Souls Church.

Reference has already been made to the new marble altar installed by Father Murdoch, who enlarged the whole sanctuary and fitted new altar rails, also of marble. The re decoration of the sanctuary, only recently finished, has completed what can truly be described as a transformation of the church. Now statues of the Sacred Heart, of Our Lady and of the Infant of Prague, together with two new crucifixes of striking appearance, all add significantly to the beauty of the church.

Father Murdoch has also had a new heating and lighting system installed, whilst in the grounds of the church he has had built the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. The recent purchase of Caritas House is also worthy of mention, this being formerly the home of the Grasar family, at one time proprietors and publishers of the well known " Dowry of Mary" magazine. From this family comes the present Vicar General of the Diocese of Nottingham, Monsignor W. Erie Grasar, undoubtedly the most distinguished son to date of Holy Souls Parish.

Meanwhile, Scunthorpe continues to grow. At the recent census it was found to have a population of 67,257. That it will continue to grow for at least the next quarter century at probably the same rate, or at even greater rate than at present, is almost certain. Although the area covered by Holy Souls will probably be the least affected part of the borough, it will nevertheless behove the parishioners to be prepared to do yet more building.

A primary school for Holy Souls Parish must be provided within the next few years. At the same time the pressure on the accommodate ion in Holy Souls itself, even with six Masses said every Sunday, appears to indicate the need for at least a Mass Centre in another part of the parish.

St. Bernadette's too, has its problems. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that in 1911 Scunthorpe with a population Of 19,360 had one Catholic Church. In 1961, with a population of 67,257, undoubtedly including a much greater proportion of Catholics, there is still only one church.

Our jubilee, therefore, is a time for reflection as well as rejoicing. In giving thanks for the many blessings which have attended the Catholic Community of Scunthorpe over the past fifty years, we must not be complacent. Let our celebrations on 30th November be an occasion for considering the past, celebrating the present and preparing for the future.