Liverpool remembers priest who helped Irish famine victims

Source: Archdiocese of Liverpool

A Memorial Service is to be held in St John's Gardens, Liverpool, at the statue of Father James Nugent, a man termed 'Liverpool's greatest apostle of charity'. The service will take place tomorrow, 4 March 2005, at 3pm exactly 183 years after Father Nugent's birth and in the centenary year of his death. The Service will be attended by the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool and Chair of the Nugent Care Society's Governing Body, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Frank Roderick, and trustees and staff of the Charity. Ms Kathleen Pitt, Chief Executive of the Nugent Care Society, said: "We at the Nugent Care Society feel honoured at having this opportunity to celebrate the life of our founder, Father James Nugent, and in having the opportunity to continue his work with and for people in the Archdiocese of Liverpool." Fr James was born on 3 March 1822 in Hunter Street and studied for the priesthood at St Cuthbert's College, Ushaw and the English College, Rome. He was ordained priest on 30 August 1846 by Bishop George Brown, then Vicar Apostolic of the Lancashire District. Later the same year he began work with those who had come to the City to escape the Irish famine and were now struck down with fever; a disease that claimed so many lives, fifteen priests among them. He opened his first 'ragged school' in Spitalfields in 1849, the first of many to help the 'poorest of the poor' and in 1860 he founded two Catholic newspapers as a means of evangelisation: the Catholic Fireside and the Catholic Times. In 1863 he became the first Catholic Chaplain at Walton prison where his zeal for social reform was quickly reinforced as he felt that criminals were made by circumstances rather than by choice, a radical view for his time, and that it was better to save children from becoming criminals. During the years that followed he was actively involved in the establishment of numerous institutions in Liverpool and in 1887 he resigned from parish work to devote himself exclusively to the care of the poor and became well travelled for his day with frequent visits to America and Europe. In 1896 Father Nugent celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his priesthood and Lord Derby, then Mayor of Liverpool, set up a committee to give public recognition of his work. The following year at St George's Hall he was presented with a portrait and gift of £1,926, which he used to continue his good work. He lectured in America and on his return in 1903 a banquet was held at the Adelphi to welcome him home at which Mr L S Cohen, Head of Lewis's, suggested a statue to honour him. Father Nugent opened his last home in the Dingle in 1904 when he was 82 and died the following year. He is buried in Ford Cemetery and at his funeral the city was brought to a standstill with crowds, including many non-Catholics lining the route to pay their respects.

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