Fr Michael V Brown part 2

The day immediately after the opening of the church, work began on the converting of the old church into a parish hall. Fr Brown built a stage "erected almost entirely by himself at a cost of £60" The old church floor was sanded and treated and made into quite a reasonable dance floor and a sound system was installed by the April

In May 1969, we had a Catholic Mayor, Alderman V Hemmingway, a parishioner of St Luke's and Fr Brown agreed to be his chaplain. On the 8th May there was a Pontifical High Mass at the Cathedral and in the afternoon a special service at St Luke's. Fr Brown commented

It was a beautiful day and the councillors thoroughly enjoyed the service in the setting of the new church and the refreshments served in the hall (converted church) afterwards

21st June. Ordination of Rev Leo Heakin at S Luke's, by Bishop Burke. Fr Brown had known Leo Heakin as a small boy during his time as curate at the cathedral. The ordination was performed  according to the revised rite.

It had been said that the new rite was rather drab, but in the setting of the new church it was most impressive, and one parishioner said it had done more good than 20 sermons. (no reflection of course on the parish clergy)

Fr Brown was also pleased the collections which had risen during the building of the church had stayed up at the levels that they were when there was a big push to raise money for the new church. Of course, although the church was now built, it still had to be paid for.

The PP was very gratified because it seemed to show the people approved

There is an almost universal feeling of satisfaction. The people are proud of their church. The women come by weekly rota to wash & polish the floors and keep it beautiful. The ceremonies can be done in a fitting manner

Fr Brown put his carpentry skills to further use during the summer of the following year when "obtained a quantity of blockboard & formica for nothing and made some coffee tables, some with mosaic tops, which were offered for sale." These raised almost £60.

In fact Fr Brown had quite a reputation, and was justifiably proud of  for his practical woodworking and DIY skills, however his electrical work was infamous and potentially lethal and it was considered lucky that no-one got injured.

The same year on the Feast of St Luke, Fr Brown wrote a hymn to St Luke sung to the tune of "Land of my Fathers"

August 6th 1972 Trip to Lourdes led by Fr Brown

In 1975 the building of the new Presbytery began and the Parish Priest was able to move in around the 20th October "It is a great improvement on the old one" 

Later in 1975, Fr Brown lost another curate. After a long interview with the Bishop, Fr Pilkington was granted a sabbatical year, which he had asked already at the time of his ordination and the Bishop finally allowed him to go.

"This came as a great surprise to Fr Brown." Fr Brown wote in the log, "Once again we have to start at the beginning"

That new beginning was Fr David Lannon who very soon set about being very active in organising many aspects of the parish.

Later in 1975 lamented about the roof of the new church which had already been leaking in several places. 

In prolonged hot weather, the copper expands, and when rain comes there is a leak. I would never recommend a copper roof ... 

This was just 6 years after the completion of the church and it was to be a consistent problem from then on in and unfortnately was not cured during Fr Brown's time as Parish Priest.

In 1981 Fr David Lannon was moved to St Mary's Eccles and Fr Patrick Coyne from Rochdale was appointed in his place. Fr Brown wrote

There was a noticeable atmosphere of happiness in the house.

In December 1981 the housekeeper, Miss Heywood, died. From that time the two priest Fr Coyne and Fr Brown did their own cooking. Fr Brown wrote in the parish log (in the 3rd person as was his usual style)

Fr Coyne is a very good cook and Fr Brown isn't bad either. Mrs Richardson does some par time help & one or two others, like Mrs Marie Murray. We cope.

Apart from his time in the parish and his practical woodworking skills which he clearly enjoyed, Fr Brown enjoyed fishing and most years there would be a fishing holiday, sometimes to Ireland with his friends Fr Knight and Fr Caulfield. He also went fishing more locally and would catch trout on early morning outings. We have a few reports of friends waking up to find a trout in a plastic bag pushed through the letterbox.

From mid-1981 plans began to be put in place for the Papal visit to Manchester. Not only was this an occasion that everyone was looking forward to, but it also had a need for volunteers and a need for even more money to pay for it. There were additional collections made and many private donations. Harold Riley produced a special print of his painting of the Pope embracing a child which was sold for £15 per copy with £10 to go to the expenses of the visit. 

Pope John Paul II momentous visit to Heaton Park, Manchester was on 31 May 1982. Fr Brown "recorded it all on video tape and have shown it in the hall to parishioners, a treasured record of an historic and moving event"

Fr Brown and the parishioners were tireless in their fundraising and finally in 1989, the debt to build the church of 20 years earlier was finally paid off. This enabled the Consecration of the church to be arranged and this ceremony finally took place on 18th October 1989

25th July 1990 Fr Brown celebrated his Golden Jubilee and there were a number of events organised to mark the occasion. In October there was a folk mass  with the choir organised by Mrs Evans. Later in the month there was an Organ Recital by Dermot Brannan and then the next month there was a Jubillee Dance at Buile Hill Park Cafe.

During his Jubilee year, the 3 life time friends, Fr Knight, Fr Caulfield and Fr Brown decided to retire. The diocese bought a bungalow for the three of them in Alkrington. On visiting it, Fr Caulfield decided it was too small for all of them and he decided to go and live at the Little Sisters. Towards the end his time as Parish Priest he wrote 

It is now 14 months since the operation on my foot. I can walk without crutches and sometimes without a stick but gingerly. Sometimes pn uneven ground (e.g. cemetary) I get a sharp pain which makes me yelp. After sitting a while I can move for a minute or two without the stick and at bedtime it is quite swollen. I still sit on a high stool at the altar. Perhaps it's about time I retired

This was Fr Brown's final entry into the Parish Log and his retirement was not to last long. He died on 15 April 1992

 

Sources

  • Parish Log
  • Interviews

Can you help?

  • Any photos of the ordination of Fr Leo Heakin?
  • Is there a copy of Fr Brown's self penned hymn?
  • Any photos of Fr Brown while on fishing trips?

 

Parish History Group

If you would like to help research the history of the Parish or have any stories or photos then please get in touch. history@ourladyofhope.org.uk or speak to Paul Ashton, Stephanie McDonough or Pat Murray

We have some specific requests for information

  • Photos of our Assistant Priests/Curates
  • Photos and stories of the Charter Players
  • Photo of James O'Garr  (1891-1979)
  • Servicemen of WWII (your parents/grandparents/great-grandparents ?)
  • Early photos of Ss Peter and Paul