Thanks by Mgr John Ryan - Re-opening Mass 30/9/12
Your Eminence, My Lord, Brothers, honoured guests, dear friends:
May I echo the Bishops words of welcome at the start of Mass; and thank you all for coming this afternoon to join us in these celebrations. A number of you have travelled a long way to be with us. Thank you for taking such trouble; we are honoured and blessed by your presence.
In particular thank you Your Eminence for so quickly and generously agreeing to be with us today. Cardinal Cormac and I go back a long way. We first met forty years ago when I was a sixth former and about to start studies towards the priesthood at the English College, Rome where Father Cormac had recently taken over as Rector. Our relationship was always interesting. I am grateful that the Cardinal saw in my rigorous argumentation idealistic, passionate principle and not aggressive insubordination, as others might have done. They were wonderful years. Truly a time when foundations for life were made.
Bishop John, thank you for being with us, and, as Chairman of the diocesan Trustees for allowing us to spend our money on this project. Support from the diocese is, of course, essential for such an undertaking. We have the diocesan property manager, Tom Garrud, to thank for steering us towards underfloor heating below a stone floor; and Ed Whittaker for paying the bills. There cannot be many Financial Secretaries with whom it is always a delight to speak, even when bad news is being imparted. We are very fortunate to have Ed.
On the sanctuary here are clergy from the parish, from the deanery, some who have worked here and a few old Romans. Thank you, brothers, for coming. It is a particular joy to welcome back Fr Tony Burke. Tony was parish priest here, with John McMahon and dear Gerry Harney, in what was undoubtedly a golden age for this parish. It is wonderful to see you both, Tony and John.
You may have difficulty in recognising your old home. In the nine years I have been here, every area of the campus has undergone some renovation. That suggests there has been some grand scheme unfolding. In fact it has been a piecemeal operation led by chance more than design. We needed some space for meetings and social get together and so the presbytery was reordered. Douggie caused the ancient wall in the car park to tumble and so the new garage was built and the graveyard was extended. Finally the windfall from Brinsworth allowed overdue renovation to be undertaken in the church itself.
Overseeing all this work has been Allan Hair of John Hill Associates. Allan your meticulous care is in evidence throughout. I hope the outcome delights you as much as it does me and the parishioners here. Thank you. We were most fortunate in engaging the services of O&P Construction of Wath. Ably led by Bob Mitchell, with on-site work supervised by the excellent John Daly, not only has the work been executed with great skill and sensitivity, but it was completed early. To be professional is, for me, the highest accolade. All the people involved were properly professional; and really seemed to enjoy working in this environment I cannot speak too highly of all who contributed, electricians, carpenters, decorators.
This lectern was built for us some years ago by Paul Lupton and when the sanctuary floor was to be redesigned and marbled Paul had to be the one to do it; and he has done it so splendidly. It is clear that this is holy ground, sacred space.
The renovation has been wonderfully well carried out. And we must also be grateful to those who work, unheralded and largely un-thanked through the years to maintain St Bede's: Peter Shaw who looks after high-level matters, Mick Deehan, Mick Duggan and Ciaran Boyle who keep the grounds and graveyard in pristine shape; Chris Bowen, master craftsman, who has improved the place in many ways; Chris Hind who looks after the organ for us. The cleaners, a small band who labour every week. Thank you all.
The church building exists to help people raise their hearts and minds to God. Quality of liturgy is a major part of this task. Thanks then to Paul and the choir for their skill and commitment through the year, each year; and to our servers who enhance our worship, most of the time.
The building itself and its iconography also serve that sacred purpose: to raise our hearts and minds to God. The statues and Stations have been beautifully restored by David Everingham. We were very fortunate to have you recommended to us David.
In the porch we have a tiled mural of Christ the Light of the World, a first indication of lovely things in the church. It was painted and the tiles were made by Doug Watson, who with Janet has come from Henley to be with us. Thank you Doug; and I hope we will have more of your work in St Bede's in the near future.
A stunning feature of the church is the stained glass; all, apart from that at the liturgical east and west ends, has been introduced in the past four years. When we were thinking of stained-glass a card, a flyer, came through the letter-box showing a fascinating design and I looked at the advertised web-site. Thus began our association with David Moore and Pendle Stained-Glass. It is a delight to have you David, and Sarah, and Roy with us. Roy is the designer of most of the new windows; and they are fabulous. I still see new things in them, and the effects when the sun shines are always striking. Please as you look round the church do not miss the windows here on the sanctuary - a lovely meditation-in-glass on Psalm 8. Information on all the windows is in the Order of Service.
Down the corridor where the sacristies are are paintings from South Africa, on a theme of Mary, the Mother of God. The most recent and an utterly splendid addition to our devotional art also concerns Our Lady. Fr Burke began the custom of an annual Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour forty or so years ago. Under that Title our Lady is patron of the Diocese. The novena has run every year up to the present one when the renovations prevented it. But when we resume next year there will be a new focal point for the devotion. Helen McIldowie-Jenkins has exceptional talent. Helen accepted the commission for a work with which she has become very familiar. And what a stunning creation. Helen has come from London with Victor to be with us. Thank you Helen. And we look forward to a new work from you, next year: an icon to honour Bl. William Richardson, a very local martyr.
I would ask you, your Eminence to bring our celebrations in church towards a conclusion by blessing the icon with prayer and incense in a few moments
But first my final words of thanks go to the parishioners of St Bede's, who include those of St Edward the Confessor, Brinsworth who lost their church and the sale of the land enabled the renewal of this one.
Your Eminence, the parishioners here have been wholly supportive of me in my time here, and have backed, not without some trepidation, the schemes I have proposed from time to time. They are also the most generous people I have worked with. Apart from supporting all the major charities like CAFOD, LIFE and so on, and every passing a good cause, such as priest-friends of mine from South Africa, they have allowed me to send, in the past nine years over £110,000 to help educate young people in South Africa in order to help them escape from poverty and that wicked cycle of deprivation which poverty sustains. We have both renovated the St Bede's and never lost sight of the need to help those in need.
To all of you my heartfelt thanks and now Your Eminence, would you bless with word and incense our beautiful new icon.