Early morning rain cleared away for the first of Manchester's new-style Whit Walks last Sunday. The former carnival atmosphere, long associated with this 130year-old tradition, was largely missing as the accent was placed on prayer and hymn singing with the Blessed Sacrament being carried through the streets for what is believed to be the first time.
The appeal of the changed format was apparent from the thousands lining the route. Originally it had been predicted that there would be fewer walkers but, in the event, 26 parishes participated — more then usual.
A Continental flavour was added by the Polish, Ukrainian and Italian contingents with their colourful statues, and the secondary schools of Manchester and Salford were represented for the first time.
Led by St James' parish, Pendleton, the procession of 12 parishes from Salford and north Manchester set out from St John's Cathedral, Salford. Bishops Holland and Burke walked immediately behind the man-drawn float which carried the Blessed Sacrament.
After passing along Chapel Street, Deansgate and Market Street the procession reached Piccadilly where thousands had assembled for Benediction. From there the remaining parishes took over the walk to Albert Square for the second service of Benediction.
Afterwards Bishop Holland carried the monstrance to nearby St Mary's, the so-called Hidden Gem, where daily exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will take place.
There has been no perpetual adoration in Manchester since the old Cenacle Convent closed two years ago for alterations. Several alterations have been carried out in the 180-year-old
St Mary's to fit it for its new role. The pulpit has been resited, there's), allowing a clearer view of the sanctuary, an altar for Mass facing the people has been erected and the altar rails replaced.
From Monday to Friday there will he exposition after the 7.45 a.m. Mass until 5.45 p.m. On Saturdays it will begin at 9.30 a.m. but there will be no exposition on Sundays because the city centre is normally deserted