Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, the apostolic nuncio in Cairo, visited St Mary’s the Mount church, Walsall, on Saturday July 23, to celebrate the golden jubilee of his priesthood, writes Józef Łopuszyński.
Among the concelebrants at the Mass were Archbishop Bernard Longley of Birmingham, Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop Philip Pargeter and Emeritus Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark.
Michael Fitzgerald attended St Patrick’s primary school in the parish in which he grew up. Following his ordination in 1961 he celebrated his first Masses at St Patrick’s and St Mary’s the Mount.
Joining him at the church to mark his golden jubilee were his sister, Bernadette, from Australia, and relatives from Ireland who had come especially for the occasion.
Archbishop Fitzgerald said: “It’s a great occasion to be back in this parish where I celebrated my first Mass. It’s great to be welcomed by the whole parish and by Canon [Peter] Taylor, who had been so kind to my parents when they were in the parish and also to myself when I would come and visit. I’m very happy to be back.
“I was so happy that Archbishop Longley, whom I told I was going to have a celebration, said: ‘Oh, I’ll come along’, and also Bishop Philip Pargeter whom I knew quite well.
“And of course Archbishop Kevin McDonald: we had worked together in Rome and I knew him well.”
Cousin Freda Fitzpatrick explained the family background.
She said: “Originally from Kildysart in County Clare, Michael’s grandfather was a schoolteacher, headmaster and inspector. He therefore moved around Ireland and had three sons: Thomas, David, and Louis.
“Michael’s parents were GPs in Walsall. They lived in Lichfield Street and as far as we know worked from there in their early years. They did move the surgery but we are not sure to where. They later moved to live on the Birmingham Road in Walsall.
“Michael’s mother was Josephine (Jo) Twomey, originally from Waterford, Ireland. She died in 1980. Michael’s father was Thomas Fitzgerald, born in Ireland. He died in 1982.
“Michael’s sister, Bernadette, has lived in Sydney for many years. She emigrated there with her husband when she got married and her family were all born and raised there.”
First cousin Ray spent many summers with the family in Walsall, both in Lichfield Street and in Birmingham Road. His cousin Michael introduced him to the game of cricket, a love he still has to this day.
Freda said: “The family very much enjoyed the day of celebration with Michael and it is great credit to the parish of St Mary’s the Mount for the wonderful hospitality they put on for one of their own.”