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

Curates’ Memories

Fr. Tom Kenny
Fr. Tom arrived in the Parish in the autumn of 1960, replacing Fr Gerry Spelman. It was only his second appointment and his first move after ordination – always a difficult time. He has many very good memories of his time in Harehills:

• The many wonderful families who attended the Church in those days
• The wonderful school with Sister Bride as head and ‘Johno’ as deputy
(Sister Bride later became a Parish Sister working with Fr. Tom in Bradford)

• The many wonderful families who attended the Church in those days
• The wonderful school with Sister Bride as head and ‘Johno’ as deputy (Sister Bride later became a Parish Sister working with Fr. Tom in Bradford)
• Huge numbers at Mass, and long queues for confession
• The excitement of the refurbishment of the Church
• The amazing American style fund raising called ‘Cathos’ culminating in a banquet in a large ‘tent’ and a realisation by many that there was a need to give
• Helping George Hardcastle with Scouts and Cubs
• And last but not least being near to Alwoodley golf course!

He served in the Parish until 1965 and was asked by Bishop Dwyer to move to Normanton

In later years he experienced his own ‘refurbishment’ through Charismatic Renewal which, with the experience of living through the wonderful changes in the church and an experience of being healed of a bad stammer, leaves him where he is today: namely serving in Wakefield, filled with excitement and expectation of what is yet to come despite being fairly badly disabled with a failed knee replacement.

Fr. Edward McSweeney
“I was honoured to serve in St Augustine’s Parish during the late fifties and early sixties. There I got to know many dedicated Catholic people. I was privileged to work with Fr. Tom Kenny and the late Frs. John Craig and Gerry Spelman. I felt fortunate to have some little share in the life of St Augustine’s Parish.”

Father John Tomblin
“It’s a long time ago and I don’t remember much. The first Mass I said when I arrived at St Augustine’s was at 10am on the Sunday morning. There were about eight hundred people in the congregation and I felt a bit overwhelmed as I had never said Mass in front of such a large crowd before. I enjoyed my time there and when I did parish visiting it seemed as though everyone was going to church. The total Sunday Mass attendance in my time exceeded 2,500.”

Fr. John was a curate at St Augustine’s for five years from 1962. He is now 81 years old and still active as the Parish Priest of St Joseph’s, Wath upon Dearne in the Hallam Diocese.


Monsignor Bryan Sharp
“I was only at St Augustine’s for fifteen months. I arrived back from studying in Rome and was appointed to the parish in September 1966. Fr. O’Donovan was the parish priest and Fr. Tomblin my fellow curate. The church was full at each Mass, which we now celebrated facing the people. It is somewhat awesome facing eight hundred people. I had the visiting area between Harehills Road and down Roundhay Road where there were a lot of Irish families.

One of my first duties was to establish a youth club, which met mainly for music on Sunday evenings in the hall. In addition to my parish duties I was working as Vice-Chancellor of the diocese and on the marriage tribunal. In January 1968 I was appointed parish priest of St Brigid’s, Churwell.”

Mgr Sharp is currently parish priest of St Mary’s Horsforth.

Fr. John Nunan
I was appointed to St Augustine’s in 1978 and left in 1983. The parish priest at the time was the late Canon Charles Murray and the other curate was Fr. Anthony Fenton.

The Parish was divided into three districts. I looked after the Harehills Lane end and from 3.30pm until 6.00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday did parish visiting. I have very happy memories of the people I met in those years.

Canon Murray extended the house, prior to my time, and did a good job on it. However it was still a very cramped home for four adults and an office etc. The curates each had a bed-sitter, a room with a bed, two chairs, a desk and a wardrobe and it was often very gloomy because there was no view from my window, just a brick wall.

Canon Murray not only extended and renovated the house, he also had the new school built. At the same time Catholic Education was re-organised in the city and St Andrew’s and St Dominic’s Schools were built. This needed a lot of fundraising. I was involved in the covenant campaign in those days. I remember visiting every known catholic household in the Parish. Normally priests did not go into each other’s territory certainly not into the Parish Priest’s!

The income from the covenants was raised substantially. On the strength of that we, the curates encouraged Canon Murray to have the Church decorated and I suggested that a carpet would be a good idea. He said ‘Get an estimate’. The following morning, before he could change his mind, I got a carpet firm to come and measure up. There were three samples and the carpet was ordered within twenty minutes! That is the carpet that is there today. It cost less than £2,000 and is still in reasonable condition given all the people who have walked over it during the past twenty-five years.