St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Leeds Centenary Book.1905-2005

Groups and Confraternities

The Children of Mary
This was a group for young women. They had a uniform of blue cloaks and long white veils, which they wore in processions and played a significant role in the annual, May procession, carrying the Statue of Our Lady. They did a lot of sewing and altar work looking after the altar linens, preparing the Altar of Repose for Holy Thursday and they also visited the sick of the parish.

The Guild of St Agnes
This was a junior version of the Children of Mary.

Guild or Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament
Members made a promise of monthly Holy Communion and Sundays were allotted to either the women or the men and on special occasions to both and this was announced from the pulpit the previous week. This ceased to have the same relevance after Vatican II when fasting from midnight changed to three hours and then as is now, to one hour’s fasting before receiving Holy Communion. Also prior to Vatican II, many people, out of respect for The Blessed Sacrament, would only receive Holy Communion if they had been to confession the previous day.

The Sword of the Spirit
This is described in the ‘Leeds Catholic Directory’ in 1948 as a movement or Crusade, inaugurated by His Eminence, Cardinal Hinsley, for the restoration of a Christian Social and International Order, and a renewal of Christian influence on public opinion. It involved Prayer, Study and Action. A group in the parish in the late 1940s and early ‘50s used to meet every Sunday evening. Kathleen Murray, who was a member said “It was Fr. Hennelly’s ‘baby’ – more of an intellectual group. We would read Scripture and discuss theological issues.”

The Youth Club
The youth club started by Fr. Cluderay in 1948 was held weekly in the infant school and initially attracted a membership of about twenty, growing to double that number within the following few years. The evening would start with a few prayers before playing games such as draughts, chess, cards, and table tennis and in the summer when the weather was fine, a game of cricket would be played outside. In the summertime they were more active going on walks to local places of interest such as Temple Newsam, Roundhay Park or Adel or they went on cycle rides to places further afield such as Otley, Ilkley or Wetherby. The special treats in the winter were trips to the Theatre Royal on a Monday evening when it was cheaper – four and a half pence (less than 2p in today’s money).

House prayer groups
These were initiated in the late 1960s, probably 1968 or ‘69. One such group that flourished included many of the families living on Copgrove Road (the Gilmartins, Rogers, Lanarks, Oldroyds, Wallis’s and Morans) They met monthly in each other’s homes, reading and studying a Gospel passage and used ‘The Grail’ format for their meetings, which was ‘To See, To Judge and To Act’.

During one of these meetings the group decided they should do something to enable the elderly with restricted mobility to attend Sunday Mass and decided the Parish needed a mini bus. Like many ‘Catholic Activities’ the need for funding led to the development of ‘House Social Evenings’ in the form of Cheese and Wine Parties using ‘Home Brew’ made by Edgar Oldroyd and Kenneth Gilmartin.

Links with St Aidan’s Anglican Church on Roundhay Road probably started when the parish rented their hall for Mass on Sundays and Holydays in 1935. Parishioners recall that following Vatican II in the 1960s Nigel Bavage was invited to give a series of talks in the parish to educate and explain to parishioners forthcoming expectations and changes. Groups of parishioners started meeting with members of other Christian churches in the area and Fr. Dwyer was invited to give a talk at St Aidan’s about Catholic devotion to Our Lady. (Before Vatican II the Laity were not allowed to take part in any non-Catholic or Protestant service). Meeting Christians from other churches highlighted for those Catholics who took part, their lack of biblical knowledge so a bible study group was started in the parish.

One Good Friday in the mid 1970s there was an outdoor re-enactment of Christ’s Passion. St Augustine’s steps were used for His Trial before Pontius Pilate prior to the man who was playing Christ being given a Cross to carry in parade towards St Aidan’s. The man was then tied up on the cross and taken down quite ceremoniously. In the third millennium the ‘Churches Together’ in this area are far less dramatic. They have a silent Good Friday walk carrying a symbolic cross from Banstead Park through Harehills stopping at Potternewton Park where they join other groups from other parishes in an open air service finishing off with Hot Cross Buns and tea in Trinity United Reform Church hall.

Shared prayer has now become the norm and each church in the ‘Churches Together’ group plays host in rotation to monthly prayer meetings and over the last few years has arranged ecumenical groups during Lent in preparation for Easter.

Left: Palm Sunday Walk 1998 Christians in Harehills have a short service on the steps of St Augustine’s after walking through the streets singing hymns of praise in memory of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.
Right: Good Friday 2005 Christians congregate in Banstead Park before setting off on the silent walk to Potternewton Park. Churches represented are St Augustine’s, Trinity United, St Aidan’s and Harehills Lane Baptist Church.