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

The War Years (1939-1945)

Extracts from the Parish records:
August 1939: Practice Evacuation: Children registered for evacuation, teachers and helpers are to assemble at school on Monday with kit bag, containing clothing, gas mask and rations for 24 hours.
September 1939: Garden fete in aid of Catholic refugees
November 1939: Appeal for Polish Refugee fund.

June 1940: Evening service for the fallen wounded and others serving in the forces. All should pray daily for the welfare of our soldiers as well as for peace.
July 1940: As air raids might cause physical exhaustion, the laity is allowed liquid refreshment before going to communion. Needless to say this dispensation ought not to be availed of unless there is necessity.

April 1941: We have been asked by City Authorities to take charge of a food centre to feed 1000 persons in case of great emergency. A great number of voluntary helpers will be needed. For this purpose and to arrange officers and a small committee, a general meeting of all volunteers will be held in the sacristy after evening service. We appeal to anyone who can volunteer for this willing service.
May 1941: Urgent appeals for volunteers for fire watching. Regular first-aid training taking place in the schoolroom.
June 1941: Collection for Diocesan War Damage Fund.

July 1942: The Girls Training Corps. This organisation fulfils all state regulations for girls training. The company was formed by Miss Wandsworth who is handing over to Miss Coulter, a teacher at the school.
31 January 1943: From next Sunday the 9am mass will be offered up every first Sunday for the safety and welfare of all parishioners in the services. There will be a general Communion on that day for the same intention and Holy Hour in the evening.
9 May 1943: Several men were listed as missing in action.

August 1944: The names of those killed or wounded in action were listed.
26 November 1944: A novena was held for the spiritual and temporal welfare of Poland.

June 1945: The Bishops have asked Catholic families to give hospitality to the Dutch children who are expected to arrive in Leeds in July. These Dutch children are suffering from malnutrition and it is hoped that their health and well being will be much improved by their stay in England. The Dutch government insists on Catholic children being billeted in Catholic homes. Any Catholic family who wishes to take a Dutch child into its home is asked to give the name and address at the presbytery. It is a great act of practical charity.

The Consecration of the Church 1952

When the debt of the new church was fully paid for by the parish, the Church of St Augustine of Canterbury, was solemnly consecrated by His Lordship Bishop Heenan, the bishop of Leeds, (subsequently Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.).

Forty-five priests attended the ceremony, and among the parishioners present were many who had attended the laying of the Foundation Stone in 1935 and the Opening of the Church in 1936. “Now they had come to see the happy fulfilment of years of prayer, work and sacrifice” Yorkshire Catholic Monthly July 1952

The benches were removed and the relics were brought in procession and placed in the Altar, a reminder of the first few centuries AD when the Christians who were being persecuted in Rome would hide and celebrate Mass in the catacombs.

The relics are those of St Emerentiana, Virgin, Martyr (feastday 23 January) and Pope St Pontian, Martyr (feastday 13 August). The Bishop was assisted by the Rev. P. J. Reeves (Deacon) and the Rev. F. Moverley (Sub-Deacon). The Rev. H. P. Hennelly acted as Custos. The Mass which followed was celebrated. by the Rev. P. F. Scannell. All these priests were at some time attached to the parish:

“The Consecration of St Augustine’s Church, on 19 June 1952 was the fulfilment of a long cherished hope, a fitting climax to work begun 55 years ago and sustained throughout the years by the ardent faith of a united people.” Fr Charles H O’Flaherty

In the evening the Bishop conducted the Perpetual Novena Service. In a short address he spoke of the beauty of the church building and of the splendid work done in the parish by the priests of St Augustine’s, past and present. He also congratulated the people on the achievement of clearing the debt in such a comparatively short time. His Lordship concluded with an appeal that this new era in the history of the parish should be marked by an increase in spiritual fervour and he asked all parishioners to make a greater effort to attend daily Mass.

The evening service concluded with Solemn Benediction celebrated by the Bishop assisted by Fr. Reeves and the Rev. Fr. A. K. Cluderay (formerly of St Augustine’s).

On Sunday, June 22nd Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated by Fr. Cluderay and a special sermon was preached by the V. Rev. Canon Henegan, V.F.

At the Evening Service the sermon was preached by Fr. Hennelly. Fr. Reeves and Fr. Cluderay were again present and they assisted at Solemn Benediction. The service closed with the Te Deum.

“When the Church was consecrated all the benches were taken out and I was taken aback at the vastness of the empty church, but was wisely told ‘Nothing is too big for the Greatness of God’. The ceremony seemed to last for ages. We stood for hours following the Bishop and Clergy as they blessed the walls and all the parts of the Church.” Sr. Imelda (Mary Healy)

The Consecration of the
Church in June 1952


The Church Relics

Pope St Pontian
Pontian was pope between 230-235. Maximinus the Thracian unleashed a persecution against the Church. Pontian was arrested and deported to Sardinia. In order to allow a new pope to be elected, Pontian abdicated on 28 September 235. He endured suffering and harsh treatment in the Sardinian mines and it is believed that he died as a result of the inhuman suffering he had to bear. Pope St Fabian brought Pontian’s body back to Rome in the year 236 or 237 for burial in the catacombs of St. Calixtus. Pontian’s sepulchral monument, bearing his name and episcopal title inscribed in Greek, was discovered in 1909. His feast day is on 13 August.

St Emerentiana
Virgin and martyr, died in Rome in the third century. According to legend she was the foster sister of St Agnes. Some days after St Agnes had died, Emerentiana, who was still a Catechumen, went to visit her grave. While in prayer she was attacked by pagans and killed with stones. She is represented with stones in her lap, also with a palm or lily.

Memories of the 1950s
The demography of the parish started to change after the Second World War. The parish was still predominantly Irish and people of Irish descent (the English were always a small minority in the parish) there were now significant groups of Italians and Polish and smaller numbers of other Europeans. The parish was however a very thriving community.

In June 1952 there was an appeal to the men of the Parish to help with digging the foundations of the parish hall. Work had come to a standstill because of the lack of volunteers. The next week it was reported that one man had turned up for one evening and the records go on to say “We know that the people of this parish can do better than that, so we hope to have a better response this week.” The following week Fr. Daly thanked all those who had helped at the digging during the week and reminded those who had not yet done their part that they would be welcome next week.

“Our parish priest suggested that we build a Parish Hall. One Saturday afternoon in June 1952 we began digging and continued two evenings per week. The digging team consisted of Mr W. Fulthorpe, Mr G. Clowes, Mr P. Garbutt and myself John Healey. Fr. E. Daly gave us a hand on the Saturday afternoons. Peter and I used to go to the off-license and return with a few bottles of Tetleys, which cooled us down in the afternoon sun. Alas, our digging had to cease as we hadn’t applied for planning permission.” John Healey

Maureen McHale recalls: “We missed out in not having a hall in the early days and when Father Daly was here he tried to get a hall built. I can remember him going round to the homes of families with young lads asking them to help dig out for the foundations.”

Fr. O’Flaherty left St Augustine’s in 1956 and on 9th September 1956 there was a Parish testimonial in recognition of his work and on 10th October 1956 a Children’s Concert and Presentation at the Clayton Hall as a tribute to Fr. O’Flaherty.

On 14th October 1956 a Parochial Committee was formed. Many Parish events were held at the Astoria. and Whist Drives were held every week at the Clayton Hall in aid of school funds. The teachers Whist Drive and Dances in January 1957 raised £129. The Football Pools season’s profit in 1957 was £4,835 - 8s - 2d. Mass Attendance at Easter 1957 was 2,122 and the collection was £27-14-0.