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

The Parish Today in 2005.

St Augustine’s is now a one priest parish and Fr. Michael has delegated most of its management to the laity enabling him to concentrate more on his priestly spiritual role. Many groups or ministries have been formed among the laity to give him support and take responsibility for the various different aspects that come together to form the upkeep of the buildings and the general life of the parish. There is probably a far greater percentage of parishioners who are actively involved than there ever has been in the past.

Weekly mass attendance for the majority of the younger generation of Catholics, who have been brought up in this country, is no longer considered essential. Young parents are eager for their children to receive a catholic education in the parish school, but very few of them support the parish by attending Mass or parish functions. The result is that year-by-year as the size of the congregation decreases, the average age increases.

However the parish has been fortunate to become home for the many young Filipino immigrants, who due to the national lack of nurses, have come to this country to work in the hospitals and nursing homes. They have formed their own little community at St Augustine’s and attract the Filipinos who live in other parts of the city. It would appear to be very similar to the way St Francis’s in Holbeck became a focal point for many of the Irish immigrants of the past before the Irish centre was built on York Road.

Also more recently, the parish has become home for many Catholics from the African continent and it is a wonderful site to see them at Mass on Sundays in their brightly coloured ‘national costumes’. During the Mass of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, Fr. Michael washed the feet of twelve men, all from different nations reflecting the fact that St Augustine’s has truly become an ‘international parish’. The overall effect, as well as enriching the parish family life with new cultures and wonderful food at parish functions, has resulted in a steady increase in Sunday Mass attendances and the lowering of the average age, preventing St Augustine’s from becoming a ‘Parish of Geriatrics’.

Holy Thursday 2005
The twelve men who had their feet washed during the Mass of the last supper were all different nationalities reflecting the cosmopolitan nature of the parish. The countries represented were:
Back row left to right: - Belarus, Poland, India, Ireland, Italy, Tanzania and Mauritius.
Front row: Ivory Coast, Philippines, Honduras, Sri Lanka and England.

 

The Irish immigrants of the early twentieth century were treated with suspicion by the indigenous population and not always made to feel welcome. They were from a different cultural background, practised a “popish” religion and were generally considered as “foreigners with split loyalties.” They came in such large numbers; the few loyal English Catholics must have felt “swamped” as they changed the face of Roman Catholicism in Leeds. These and their descendants have now become the indigenous population of today.

It is hoped that in today’s modern world and especially at St Augustine’s, immigrants from abroad are appreciated and given a warm welcome enabling them to feel ‘at home’.

Mary Mendoza writes:
I first started going to St Augustine’s church in May 1983. It was the nearest church to St James’s Hospital where I had started midwifery training.

Over the years I have a special place in my heart for St Augustine’s. It is where I married, and my three children, Daniel, Carmen and Sara were baptised. My husband is from Honduras in Central America. There are so many people from different countries that attend our parish and this makes for an exciting and vibrant church. Carmen my middle child is currently preparing for her First Holy Communion on 15th May 2005. Once again St Augustine’s church will be the place where we celebrate as a family.


April 2002 Daniel and Carmen with Fr. Michael who is holding Sara just after baptising her.