Lancashire: celebrations as church is returned to former glory

 There will be celebrations today at Holy Cross church in St Helens, Lancashire, as the Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Reverend Patrick Kelly, joins civic leaders and parishioners to give thanks for the restoration of the church and the regeneration of the area. The celebrations begin at noon with the blessing of the newly refurbished church by the Archbishop followed by Mass at 12.15pm. The project has seen the Archdiocese of Liverpool in partnership with St Helens Council and Ravenhead Renaissance with the 142 year old church restored to its former glory in the heart of the town. Phase two will see St Helens Council and Ravenhead Renaissance joining together to create incubator units for new businesses in refurbished former school buildings. It will also involve the demolition of the existing parish hall, which will be replaced by a new meeting facility. Archbishop Patrick Kelly said: "The celebration will not only recognise the history of the church and the contribution of so very many, but will also be a wonderful opportunity to give thanks for the work of regeneration in the town of St Helens." Council Leader Marie Rimmer, chair of the Local Strategic Partnership said: "It is very fitting that this project should be pivotal in the success of the exciting and innovative town centre regeneration. Holy Cross church has been and is important to many people from all walks of life and plays a strong ecumenical role in the Borough." Canon John Pennington, Parish Priest of Holy Cross, said: "I am delighted with the wonderful opportunity which we have had to preserve and enhance the beauty of this historic church, the magnificent stonework of the building now shines through for all to see.' The Foundation Stone of the church was laid on 3 May 1860 by Fr Seed SJ, who was then Father Provincial of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Religious Order and ministered in the parish until 1932. The architect of the church was John Joseph Scholes and the builder John Middlehurst. The opening was marked by a Solemn Mass on Thursday 1 May 1862, which was sung by Fr T Ullathorne SJ in the presence of Bishop Alexander Goss of Liverpool, Bishop James Brown of Shrewsbury and Bishop William Turner of Salford. Over sixty priests attended the celebration which was followed by a reception in the Volunteer Hall at which Fr Ullathorne said: 'Now today you have your church, take care to fill it'. In October 1886 the Sacred Heart Shrine in the church was opened. Fifty years later on 5 May 1912 the Golden Jubilee of the church was celebrated with Pontifical High Mass presided over by Archbishop Thomas Whiteside of Liverpool with Bishop Robert Brindle of Nottingham preaching. On that occasion 3,000 people clamoured to share in the reception, which was held in St Helens Town Hall. In 1962 the centenary of the church was marked with Mass and the publication of a history written by J J Willcock. Source: Archdiocese of Liverpool

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