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St. Saviours Parish - 50 YEARS (1959-2009)

St. Saviour’s Parish celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. The parish was officially formed on the 1st September 1959 and dedicated to “Saint Saviour” (from the Latin Sanctus Salvator, or Holy Saviour) becoming the first Catholic parish in the country to bear this title since the Reformation.

St Saviour’s Parish was formed in anticipation of a rapidly expanding population in Ellesmere Port, created by the relocation of thousands of young families from Liverpool under a large-scale “housing overspill” scheme that began in 1959 and continued over the following decade.

St Saviour’s first parish priest, Fr Joseph O’Donnell, began the life of the new parish by celebrating two masses each Sunday ~ one in the Cemetery Chapel at Overpool and another in Great Sutton Village Hall. Soon after this Fr O’Donnell began saying daily masses in the front bedroom of his rented home on Brooklyn Drive.

Fr O’Donnell is fondly remembered by early parishioners for his enthusiasm and determination to develop St Saviour’s Parish. “He had the ability to share the joy of every achievement, no matter how small, with his ever growing parish family,” recalls one of the original parishioners. “He sowed the seeds of faith, optimism, generous hospitality and a genuine welcome for all - which remain the spirit of St Saviour’s to this day.”

A major milestone in the history of St Saviour’s Parish was the opening of the church hall, designed to serve as a temporary church just in time for Easter Week services in 1960. According to a 1961 account (Diocesan Year Book, 1961), workmen and parishioners rushed to complete finishing touches on the hall just half an hour before the Maundy Thursday services. The hall was formally blessed by Mgr. Rees, the Vicar General, on 24th May 1960 – the Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians.

Even as the new church hall was being completed, plans were being laid for two schools (Infants and Juniors) to serve the ever increasing numbers of children in the parish. Provision of schools became an urgent priority as more and more young families moved into new homes in the area.

St Saviour’s lost its first parish priest when Fr O’Donnell died suddenly on 18th July 1964. “He had been suffering from a heart condition but had managed to keep active most of the time, so it was a tremendous shock to lose him,” recalls a long-time parishioner.

Fr Michael English was appointed parish priest in 1964, with Fr Dennis Maher as the first curate. Fr English spearheaded efforts to complete construction of the schools with St Saviour’s Junior School opening in April 1966 and the Infants School opening eight months later. St Saviour’s together with adjoining parishes was also involved in the construction of a Catholic Secondary Modern School in Ellesmere Port (now Ellesmere Port Catholic High School) and Fr. English also drove the construction of Pius XII Infants and Junior School in Little Sutton, which opened in 1971 and 1973 (now St Mary of the Angels Catholic Primary School).

A Social Club was constructed next to the church hall to create a parish community and to help with finances. Over the years additions and improvements have also been made to the original church hall to enhance its role as St Saviour’s Church.

In 1984 – 85, during Fr John Blanc’s time, the parish celebrated its 25 years. In more recent times Frs. Russell Cooke, Paul Standish and currently Philip Atkinson, assisted by Deacon Tony Hunt, have made developments that have helped to enhance the building as a church whilst upholding the very special social ministry that the parish is noted for including events such as dances/social evenings, meals, gatherings, etc.

Over the past 50 years parish priorities have shifted to address the changing needs of the population. Many successful and vibrant parish groups have been formed, The Union of Catholic Mothers, Legion of Mary and St Vincent De Paul Society along with a strong and growing Youth Group.

Since 1959 the number of parishioners at St Saviours has swelled from 400 to 4,000 an obvious sign of how the demographics of the parish has changed.

Many parishioners have deepened their faith and widened their horizons by travelling together to several destinations in the UK and Ireland as well as to the Holy Land, Rome and Assisi, Lourdes, and even New York, sharing experiences of both a spiritual and social nature.

Several events, trips, concerts and gatherings will be held over the next few months to celebrate and commemorate the 50th anniversary of St Saviour’s Parish.

Jean Barton & Maureen Gillam