ONE OF THE OLDEST parishes in the Leeds diocese has marked its 150th anniversary with a Mass celebrated by two bishops.
St Mary of the Angels, Batley held a commemorative Mass at the parish's Crossbank church last Wednesday.
Bishop Konstant of Leeds and his coadjutor Bishop Arthur Roche joined parish priest Fr Tim Wiley together with other priests who have served in the parish and been ordained into the priesthood from Batley over the past 50 years.
Fr Wiley said it was a "great occasion and a tremendous event. The church was packed with people. It was a very special occasion for the parish. Many people came." The parish was established in the 1850s and the church was finally built, 20 years on, in 1870. Fr Wiley said "Bishop Konstant spoke about the importance of faith. We see that here, it was the pennies and ha-pennies of the poor that built St Mary's."
To mark the anniversary the parish has published a booklet setting out its history since 1853 the year when the parish was formally established following several years of Irish immigration to Batley from Co Mayo.
In the early years, Catholics in Batley walked to Leeds each Sunday to hear Mass. Later priests rode to the town on horseback from parishes in Bradford and Halifax until Fr James Wells was appointed the first parish priest of St Mary's in 1853 and set about raising funds for a new school and church.
The booklet was compiled by a small group of parishioners known as the Archive of the Batley Catholic Community. Chairman Denis Walsh said that in researching the book they discovered that the land for the first St Mary's school was donated by the Earl of Wilton. "A large sum of money for the building of the church was also donated by Simeon Colbeck, one of three wealthy Victorian Batley Mill owner brothers who became a Catholic and worshipped at the church."
He added: "A large part of the booklet has been compiled from tape recorded interviews with our oldest parishioners, some of whom were the sons and daughters of Irish-born immigrants or who clearly recall as children knowing some of the very first parishioners who came from Mayo."
The booklet contains over 50 photographs, old and new, covering church events and traditions over the parish's history.
Copies of the anniversary booklet can be obtained from St Mary's Social Club, Melton Street, Crossbank, Batley or by contacting the Archive of Batley Catholic Community on telephone 01924 503758.