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Holy Family RC Church

Mornington Road, Rochdale

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Holy Family in the early days
 
Notice the high altar at the top of the main steps, the altar rails, the platform above the Tabernacle used for the Monstrance at Benediction, the lantern style lights and the shape of the front benches before the Baptismal Font was moved.
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CLICK HERE  for an account of the early days of Holy Family parish, written by a parishioner who was here when it all began.

 

CLICK HERE  for some details of our musical history

 

  


The following chronological history follows the life and times of the various priests who have served here. Information is taken from parish archives and from local knowledge. If there is anything you could add, please contact us with further historical information. Thank you!



Priests of Holy Family

 

 

Fr Murphy, 1954-58 (First Parish Priest)

Appointed after the tentative beginnings of the parish in Balderstone Hall where the people of newly built Kirkholt estate were originally served by visiting priests from St John's parish. Remembered as a great walker and always active around the new parish, it was Fr Murphy  who presided over the planning and building of our fine red-brick church which was then to become the heart of the Catholic community in the area. In May 1958 he moved to become parish priest of St Hugh of Lincoln, Stretford, where he later died suddenly on August 20th 1960.


Fr John Laid (Curate until 1958)

Assistant to Fr Murphy, Fr Laid remained at Holy Family for less than a month after Fr Murphy had moved on, responding to Bishop George Beck's call to become curate at St Ethelbert's, Bolton. At this time, only 50 people were receiving weekly Holy Communion here at Holy Family, and Fr Laide was not replaced.


 

Fr William Hopkins, 1958-1972 (Second Parish Priest)

The longest serving Parish Priest of Holy Family to date, Fr Hopkins was appointed on May 22nd 1958, and quickly found himself alone with the parish as Fr Laid was moved away on June 12th. Unhappy with this situation, he was joined on March 7th 1959 by Fr Corry, the second curate, (who was later to be replaced successively by Frs Birmingham and McDonnell). Already Fr Hopkins had begun negotiations for the planning of a new parish school, and this was to occupy much of his great energy over the next few years. Plans were finally approved for building on the Great Gates Road site in March 1962, and Fr Hopkins worked strenuously throughout the area to ensure that Catholic families would take advantage of this great asset. On September 9th 1963 the new school opened with 250 pupils, and a parish Gala Day hailed the celebrations. Fr Hopkins wrote with great joy in his log book this day: "No-one who has tried to run a parish without a school can fail to appreciate what a wonderful means of saving souls it is." His continuing negotiations for the school would see the building of two (separate) new classrooms - and the adding of a further, temporary classroom - with 363 pupils registered to start school in September 1970.


Schoolchildren, 1962.  Recognise anyone?
 (Photo courtesy of the Evening Chronicle)
 

 
It was Fr Hopkins who was faced with introducing to Holy Family the great changes brought about by the Second Vatican Council. On November 29th 1964 Mass began to be celebrated in English, and on April 11th 1965 Mass was said for the first time facing the people. (He tried to have the High Altar turned around for this purpose, but this proved impractical). Then on July 30th 1966 Lay Readers were introduced for the first time.

After illness and surgery in November 1970 (during which time he reported that the parish was "well cared for" by the then curate Fr McDonnell), Fr Hopkins never regained full strength again, and died in 1972.



Fr Michael Corry (Curate 1959 - 62)
Fr Corry was appointed on March 7th 1959, a great relief to Fr Hopkins who had spent almost a year serving the parish alone. He remained until August 11th 1962, when the Bishop (George Beck) transferred him to St Anne's, Crumpsall.


 

Fr Peter Birmingham (Curate 1962-1970)

Appointed to succeed Fr Corry, Fr Birmingham distinguished himself in many ways, not least by his work with the young people of the parish. On February 2nd 1964 he founded the first Holy Family Youth Club for 14 - 21 year olds, which remained open and active until the day he left - on which very day it would close! This was February 4th 1970, when Fr Birmingham was moved by Bishop Thomas Holland to Holy Saviour parish in Nelson, as Assistant Priest.




Fr J McDonnell (Curate 1970 - 1974)
Moving from St Mary's, Horwich, to succeed Fr Birmingham, the newly appointed assistant was not to have an easy time, as Fr Hopkins would soon become ill. Fr McDonnell found himself having to take charge at Holy Family in November 1970 during the parish priest's hospitalisation, and was commended for his work. When Fr Hopkins died, Fr McDonnell remained in the parish for 2 years to assist the new Parish Priest, Fr Duggan, but on leaving in 1974 he was not replaced, and Holy Family has not had a curate since.

 

Fr Joseph Duggan, 1972 - 79 (Third Parish Priest)
Appointed Parish Priest in March 1972 to succeed Fr Hopkins, Fr Duggan remained at Holy Family until being asked by Bishop Holland to take over St Joseph's, Heywood in November 1979. He served at St Joseph's until moving in 2004 to Nazareth House, where he remained active as their Chaplain until his death in January 2014. His quiet, kindly manner is well remembered.




 

Fr James Tubman, 1979 – 88 (Fourth Parish Priest)
Succeeding Fr Duggan, Fr Tubman served as Parish Priest for 8 years before moving to Sacred Heart, Colne, at the request of Bishop Patrick Kelly.

 

 

Fr William O'Connor 1988 – 96 (Fifth Parish Priest)

Nephew of the second incumbent, Fr Hopkins, Fr O'Connor worked strenuously in the parish and presided over many developments. Most obvious to any visitor to the church is the Grotto, dedicated to Our Lady, which he saw completed along with the enlargement of the car park and other additions and improvements to the church grounds. Inside the church more changes were made to reflect the changing needs of the modern liturgy. The now redundant high altar was reduced to a shallow, decorative frontal, and the Baptismal Font was moved to a new position at the front of the church, the front pews being adjusted to accommodate them.
 
Fr O'Connor is also well remembered (and was commemorated for some years by a prominent photograph there) for his kindly hard work at Springhill Hospice, which opened within the parish boundaries a short time after his arrival at Holy Family.

 

Ill health forced Fr O'Connor's retirement, and he returned home to Ireland in 1996, where he later died in June 2008.


Fr Vincent Naylor, 1996 – 1999 (Sixth Parish Priest)
Fr Naylor was appointed to succeed Fr O'Connor by Bishop Kelly, one of this bishop's last appointments in Salford Diocese before himself moving to Liverpool as Archbishop there. Fr Naylor arrived at Holy Family on 9th September 1996, and during 3 years as Parish Priest carried out not inconsiderable repair and restoration work. He presided over the complete redecoration of the church, inside and out, and obtained (from Beechwood Convent as it closed) the present organ, in place of a far less competent instrument which had been in use here for several years. Fr Naylor also saw the lighting system in the church modernised, as the old lanterns were failing and in danger of becoming unsafe. He too is remembered for his hard work, care for the elderly and frequent visiting at the Hospice. In 1999 he accepted from Bishop Terence Brain the position of Chaplain to the Little Sisters of the Poor in Longsight.

 

 

 

Fr Martin Collins, from 1999 (Seventh Parish Priest)
Fr Martin arrived at Holy Family on September 1st 1999, moving at the request of Bishop Brain from the position of Assistant Priest in the Inner City Team Parish, Manchester. Serving at another time of change in the Church, he worked with parishioners to prepare for a future in which it is lay people, members of the church family, who will take ownership of their parish. It is expected, in time, that there will be no resident priest at Holy Family, but it is hoped that developments such as the "Family Room" and the working party that served in its planning will keep the community strong, to continue its witness to Christ for future generations. In April 2015, after a little short of 16 years of service, Bishop John Arnold reassigned him to the parish of Holy Cross, St Matthew and St Gilbert in  Eccles as Parish Priest and assigned Fr Gaspar Oladosu as Parish Administrator.  He is well remembered for building up a family church, well structured and organized.