A History of Catholic Life in Weymouth and Portland
"Priests and People are One - that is our precious tradition" (Bishop Cyril Restieaux)
Part VIII Towards the New Millenium
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A Third Ordination at St Augustine’s
The 28th October 1989 saw the Ordination of David John, who had been working as Deacon in the Parish for 2 years. Before realising he had a vocation, David had worked as a statistician. After the seminary, he worked in parishes in Truro and Teignmouth before coming to Weymouth.
The church was crowded for the Ordination with approximately a further 100 parishioners in the Church Hall behind, following the service on closed circuit television. David’s father read the first reading.
At events like this, priests from around the Diocese lend their support. This picture, taken at an advanced stage of the celebrations shows the three Ordinands from St Augustine’s, Fr Robert Draper (1981), Fr David John (1989) and Fr John Web (1986)
Fr John stayed for a few months after his ordination before being sent to assist in another parish.
Corpus Christi Procession
Around 1990 a Corpus Christi procession was held in the grounds of Lulworth Castle, a property owned by the Weld family. The Welds and the Blundells in Lancashire had kept the faith through the Reformation and were local benefactors. The Weldmar Hospital Trust is a Hospice founded by Sir Joseph Weld.
The picture shows Fr Mulvaney carrying the Blessed Sacrament with Sir Joseph Weld holding the canopy.
Churches Together in Weymouth
In September 1990, a joint service at St Augustine's for Churches together in Weymouth was held at 6.30pm. This was to mark the inauguration on 1st September 1990 of the new ecumenical body 'Churches Together in England'.
Fr Patrick Mulvaney gave the welcome address and the Homily was given by Rev Fr Peter Sanders OP, MA.
The LIFE Baby Shop opens in Weymouth
The LIFE Group had been formed in 1980. One of its main functions was the Counselling and Caring of women who either had a ‘crisis pregnancy’ or had a post abortion crisis. However, it had been difficult to have a presence in the town and attract clients.
The Group therefore agreed to open a Charity shop which would also have premises to offer this service. It was decided to focus on baby clothes and children’s clothes, toys and equipment, these having an affinity to the LIFE mission.
Fr Phelan was a strong supporter of this initiative.
A run down property was located in Great George Street and the first months of 1992 were devoted to its renovation.
The landlord of the shop was Gerry Fusco and he waived the rent until the shop had been refurbished and was up and running. Although the shop has always been run on a business like footing and a commercial rent paid, Gerry proved to be a great friend of the shop throughout the remainder of his life.
The shop opened in August 1992 and was an immediate success.
Counselling and Caring services started in January 1993. The number of clients rose and rose until by 1997, over 600 clients were passing through the door per year.
Fr Phelan’s Jubilee
In 1993 there was a Mass of thanksgiving for Golden Jubilee of Fr Joseph Phelan, who had been ordained in 1943.
Many are the stories told about Fr Joe. Here is one that is typical of the man. One evening in 1992 or 1993, getting dark, he was summoned to the front door of the presbytery to be confronted by two local villains, one with a knife. Although well in his 70’s, Fr Joe moved fast, a right jab which Mike Tyson would have been proud of put the knife wielding villain down – all the puff knocked out of him, the other fled. Later he was summoned to meet the Chief Constable who presented him with a scroll of merit and also a small statue of a laughing policeman. Later, this time Joe was away, some villains returned, stole his TV and Video and to Fr Joe’s annoyance knocked the block off the statue of the laughing policeman.
The picture below shows Fr Joe Phelan (on the left) and Fr Patrick Mulvaney taken in the presbytery grounds at Dorchester. The picture was taken sometime in the 90’s.
Fr Mulvaney leaves Weymouth
In 1994, a crisis arose in the sister parish of Holy Trinity, Dorchester and the Bishop decided that Fr Patrick Mulvaney as a well experienced and charismatic priest should move to take over and heal that parish. This was greeted with sadness by his parishioners at St Augustine's. His successor at St Augustine's was Fr Patrick Chrystal.
Fr Peter Coxe leaves Portland
In 1996, there was a Mass to celebrate the ministry of Fr Peter Coxe, Parish Priest of Our Lady and St Andrew, Portland. Fr Coxe was leaving Portland and returning to the English College at Valladolid. Mr John Cranny, Miss Amy Deeney and Mrs Margaret Evans gave a presentation to Fr Coxe. Fr Peter Collingwood gave the Farewell Address.
Fr Coxe was the last Parish Priest in the Parish of Our Lady and St Andrew. A lack of vocations to the priesthood meant that resources were being spread more and more thinly. Added to this was the discovery that the fabric of the church building required expensive repairs. The Bishop decided to close the Church and for the parishioners to be served from St Joseph's in Weymouth. Sister Benignus O’Brien FDLC was appointed to offer pastoral care to the parishioners on the Island.
1997 Retirement of Fr Phelan – Fr John Webb succeeds him
In April 1997, Wilfred John Westlake was instituted as a Reader by Fr Joseph Phelan at St Joseph's Church.
Later that year, Fr Phelan retired after 54 years serving as a priest in the Diocese. Fr Brian Kenrick succeeded him as Parish Priest for a few months. He moved on and in 1998 Fr John Webb was inducted as Parish Priest by Rt Rev Christopher Budd, Bishop of Plymouth. After the homily by Bishop Budd, Fr Patrick Chrystal read the letter of Appointment.
Sister Aquin retires after 22 years as Head Teacher of St Augustine’s
In March 1999 Sister Mary Aquin O'Carroll retired as Head Teacher at St Augustine's school. Parishioners and other well wishers packed the St Joseph’s Church at the Mass of thanksgiving for the dedicated work carried out by this well loved and respected Sister. Fr Chrystal gave the homily. There was a touching send off by St Augustine’s pupils with the pupils giving three cheers for Sister Aquin.
Wilfred Westlake is Ordained as Deacon
On 18th July 1999 Wilfred Westlake was Ordained to the Permanent Diaconate by Rt Rev Christopher Budd, Bishop of Plymouth at St Joseph's Church. Fr John Webb was the Sponsor. After Wilf had been Ordained, Bishop Budd concelebrated Mass with Fr John Webb and Fr Patrick Mulvaney. In the preface to the Celebratory Booklet, Wilf Westlake described his journey to his Ordination:
“Just over nineteen years ago on the Sunday before Palm Sunday, I was in Jerusalem, to be more exact in the Garden at Gethsemane, with several men from HMS Ardent. If we ever have a date to look back on to say,‘God worked his spirit in me on that day’, this was mine.
“I did not feel the power rise up in me, and things lay dormant for some years, until another piece of the puzzle was put in place. It came at a time when I was not expecting it, in the form of a Sister of Mercy, a whisper from an angel, the Lord is calling you.
“It still did not sink in, but from that moment things got worse, and even more trouble loomed, but that was inevitable, in any process of formation. Things got moving when the Dean asked me to help him with some pastoral work – in a prison – and I have been doing time ever since.
“Over the past three and a half years of formation, events have taken place and each step has been a mile stone, none of this could have been achieved without the help support and prayers of all of you in the parish, for the Masses you have said for me and Joan, for the times you gave me encouragement to continue.
“I wish to thank everyone for support that has come from the Bishop, the Dean, The Priests and The Deacons and members of St Josephs Parish, to the Sisters of Mercy especially Sister Geraldine, but most of all thanks to my wife Joan, who has been through the bad times as well as the good, whose love and prayers have helped me through the formation.
“May God bless you all”.
On Tuesday 20th July, a Mass of thanksgiving was celebrated at St Joseph's