Pews packed as faithful gather for anniversary Mass

Wednesday 1st June 2022

People gathered for an evening of joyful remembrance last night as Our Lady of Grace church in Prestwich celebrated a treasured memory for our diocese.

Tuesday 31st May marked 40 years since Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass at Heaton Park as part of the first ever papal visit to the UK.

To celebrate, Our Lady of Grace church held an anniversary Mass, where parishioners, priests, and bishops gathered to celebrate that historic occasion.

The main celebrant of the Mass was The Right Reverend Tom Neylon, Auxiliary Bishop of Liverpool, who was ordained by the Holy Father in that Mass at Heaton Park.

He was joined by three other priests ordained that day, in addition to The Right Rev. John Arnold, Bishop of Salford, and The Right Rev. Bishop Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, as well as a number of other priests from our diocese.

In his homily, Bishop Tom shared memories of the day, as well as how he came to be one of the 12 men ordained by Pope John Paul II at the Heaton Park Mass. He spoke fondly of the warm welcome of the Prestwich community, and remembered different people who played a part in the celebration.

Highlighting the magnitude of the occasion, Bishop Tom said: “When some of us who are here were young – for some, that could be quite a long time ago – did we ever think a pope would come to visit England, Scotland, or Wales?

“Did some of us who are present in this church this evening ever think we might be ordained a priest or assisted in some way at a Mass celebrated by the Pope just down the road from here?”

He continued: “The Feast of the Visitation, which we celebrate today, is an appropriate one to gather for any anniversary. God revealed Himself in an extraordinary way in a very human situation.

“But the conversation between Mary and Elizabeth is more than an encounter between two women who are expecting the imminent birth of the children they are carrying.

“This is also an encounter that each one of us can savour.

“Hopefully, each one of us can in some way echo Mary’s words that we heard in the Gospel tonight: “The almighty has done great things for me. Holy is His name.””

Exhibition of Papal Visit

You can also find out more about the Pope’s historic visit by exploring a fantastic exhibition at Our Lady of Grace Church, in Prestwich. The exhibition will run until Sunday 3 July and can be visited between 9am and 6pm Monday to Saturday and between 8am and 12 noon on Sundays.

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