As well as the London Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee,
2012 was the centenary of the purchase of this church!
Bishop Collins bought the church in 1912, his foresight has enabled the present congregation to worship in this beautiful building. The parish celebrated this occasion with a year of activities and events.
Our parish celebrated the start of its centenary year with Mass on Saturday 28 January - exactly one hundred years to the day since the first Mass was celebrated in the building. Fr. Jim Dunne, our Parish priest, was joined in the celebration of Mass by Fr. John O'Gorman, who lives in retirement in the parish, and Father Michael Whalen whose parental home is in the parish. They were assisted by Deacon John Hawthorne.
The Mass was celebrated using the kind of music which might well have been experienced in 1912. O Sacred Heart, O Bread of Heaven and Faith of Our Fathers are all hymns which enjoy a great resonance for the older parishioners and they were certainly sung with gusto as were Credo III and Missa de Angelis. Elgar's Ave Verum sung by a group of young parishioners provided a welcome time for reflection after Communion.
During the Gathering Rite various symbols from the parish's history were carried in procession to the altar. These included old photographs of the church, a patten from 1938, a small statue of the Sacred Heart which has been in the parish since 1912 and the SVP collection box which was made by a long standing chairman of the conference who was a carpenter at one of the many local pits. Fr. Jim even managed to unearth his biretta, a relic of his Ushaw days. These offered the congregation a chance to contemplate the roots of the parish and the ways in which it has developed and changed over the years while still remaining true to its traditional values.
After Mass, in true Sacred Heart style, we all enjoyed refreshments in the parish hall.
Centenary celebrations continued over the year. Bishop Seamus joined us for our Centenary Mass in June, the young people of the parish received the Sacrament of Confirmation and the parish hosted a very successful visit from John Bell of the Iona Community in November. The year concludde with a Mass on Sunday 30th December, which looedk towards the future, celebrating the gifts and talents of our young people.
The final Mass on 30th December was followed by a hog roast in the parish hall.
In early 2011 the Centenary Committee approached the Justice and Peace Group and asked if we would find a charity that the parish could support during the centenary year. The objective was that events to support the charity would act as one of the focal points for the celebrations, but it would not leave the parish with a long term commitment after 2012. We asked CAFOD and they suggested a choice of any one of six projects which they were supporting around the world at that time; these were gathered under the banner of Connect2. From these, we decided to support an irrigation project in the parish of Biera in Ethiopia, a once prosperous area which is now suffering from severe drought.
On Saturday, 14th May 2011, when members of the African Community, who normally worship at St. Joseph's in Gateshead, joined us to celebrate an African Mass in our church. This was a hugely successful evening, the church was packed and a great many people gave their own time to prepare an excellent dinner afterwards. It was a memorable, joyful occasion and here is a short clip to give you a flavour of the music we all enjoyed.
Our first fund raiser was a water bottle appeal which received outstanding support and raised £750 with the help of St. Oswald's School. This was followed by a range of different events, some of which were held outside the parish in response to a request to reach out to the wider community. Overall we sent over £3000 to Biera.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to these activities and supported the fund raising.
At the end of this Project, CAFOD sent the following message:
“We will be leaving Biera in January 2013. Leaving has been a very difficult decision to make because of the connections our staff have made with the men, women and children who live in the community. But because our work in Biera has been so successful, we're now in a position where we can leave the community to manage their own future development and move on. When we started in Biera, many people were unable to grow crops and earn money because they couldn't access water. The irrigation project is thankfully complete. In Biera, we have helped to build a much-needed water reservoir, alongside 700 metres (just under half a mile) of irrigation channels. It means that 243 homes or 1,215 people will benefit from access to water. The men and women of Biera can now harvest up to three times a year - a boost in production in the area and therefore more money for the farmers of Biera and an added incentive for people to stay there. The great thing is it's not just about productivity or earning more money; it's the feeling that the community will be able to stand on their own feet.”