This has been a momentous year for the Most Holy Redeemer parish in Billericay, Essex, as it has been celebrating the 100th anniversary of its establishment throughout the year, writes Mark Nuttall.
Its “birth” was in very different surroundings from the present church in Laindon Road. On September 13 1910 Bishop Patrick Fenton, Auxiliary of Westminster, blessed and opened a chapel (which had been converted from a drawing room) for public worship at St Edith’s Covent at 129 High Street in the town before a congregation of 60 people. Thus the parish was formed.
Over the years the parish has grown along with the town, overseen by a number of parish priests.
Probably the most famous of these was Canon Aloysius Roche (pictured below left), who was appointed “parish priest for time being” in 1918 but stayed for 48 years, during which time he became well known as an author and radio broadcaster.
Since then many priests and parishioners have played their part in the development of the parish and the church itself, especially following the liturgical changes arising from the Second Vatican Council in 1967.
The present parish priest, Fr John McGrath, leads Billericay’s Catholic community at another exciting period of growth, with weekend congregations regularly numbering over 800.
He has overseen preparations for the centenary year celebrations that have included a series of spiritual and social events. Of particular forthcoming interest to parishioners was the centenary lecture that was delivered by Fr Stewart Foster, Brentwood diocesan historian and archivist, on the evening of Friday September 10. This was followed later that evening by the opening of the centenary exhibition, which will run until September 19. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a vestment worn by St John Payne, who was martyred at Chelmsford in 1582.
The highlight of the entire year was to be the centenary Mass on the anniversary date itself, Monday September 13, when Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood was expected to preside alongside many former parish clergy.
Meanwhile, on September 25 the parish choir will sing in Westminster Cathedral and the following month there will be a centenary ball for Most Holy Redeemer at Grondon Park golf club.