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

Alan Salada writes:
It was a cold afternoon in December 2000 when my wife Sheila met us at Heathrow. She had been in England a few months nursing at St James’s hospital. My first impression was ‘what terrible weather’; I felt as though I was in a freezer. We travelled from London to Leeds to live in a house near St Augustine’s Church where I and my daughter Alyssa went daily until she started school and I started work about two months later.

At that time I noticed that few people were worshipping Our Lord and most of them were elderly. I was welcomed by Father Michael Kelly who then introduced me to John and Clare McLoughlin and subsequently I soon got to know other parishioners.

We feel so blessed that we know Fr. Michael, because he has been so supportive to us and all the other Filipinos. He invited my wife and I to be Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Rob Gabbot, the choirmaster at the time, invited our family to join the music ministry. It wasn’t long before more of my brothers and sisters from the Philippines joined us. We all say yes for the Lord.

Since I was an active Couple for Christ (CFC) member in the Philippines, I missed the household gatherings where we worship the Lord with songs, scriptures readings and sharing every week. I asked Fr. Michael Kelly if he knew about Couples for Christ and he referred me to Fr. Conde who in turn gave me the name of Rene Garcia, the head of CFC in England. I believed that I came here to Leeds not just to be with my family but also to carry the mission of Couples for Christ. It was then with the help of the Holy Spirit that we were able to organize a Christian Life Program in Leeds in preparation to become a fully pledged CFC. With God’s help the first mission harvested a lot of people and as of now we are nearly 200 members in Leeds alone. One of the missions of CFC is to give assistance to the parish priest. Our members are actively contributing to the life of the parish as Readers, Eucharistic ministers, music ministry, church cleaning, typing and printing the weekly newsletter, and the parish magazine.

The Christian Life Program weekend in August 2004

We help to make the parish vibrant by inviting more Filipinos to worship in St Augustine’s Church. We also brought some of our Filipino culture by inviting Fr. Ruel Pangan from the Philippines to celebrate the “Simbang Gabi” last December 2004. It is a novena of evening Masses for nine consecutive days before Christmas Day.

With the support and help of Fr. Michael we are able to use the parish halls for the activities of CFC. We are currently planning to do a mission in Bradford to set up a CFC there hoping to harvest more people. “The harvest is plenty but the labourers are few.”(Matt. 9:37)

Most of the Filipinos in Leeds are nurses helping to ease the shortage of nurses here in the UK and ninety nine percent of these are sending money back home to help their parents and their less fortunate brothers and sisters. We feel so blessed and wish to share it with our families. That’s the reason why Filipinos work hard for extra income.

What we are proud of is that we never forget our spiritual lives, we pray and worship the Lord every Saturday or Sunday and some of the weekdays. That is why I believe CFC was born in Leeds to remind us always to keep our hearts burning and inflamed with the love of the Lord, to serve Him and to be an evangeliser for Him in Leeds.

Thousands of Filipinos are now in Leeds including husbands, wives and children. What has really surprised Fr Michael and the ‘locals’ is our culture of having many godparents during a baptism. At first he found it strange when he asked the God parents to stand and a whole row of people did so. He said that the Filipinos seem to like building a football team of