Diamond jubilee celebration for Sawston church

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Diamond jubilee celebration for Sawston church

The Community of Our Lady of Lourdes celebrated the 60th anniversary of the blessing of the first church in Sawston with a packed congregation at a solemn Thanksgiving Mass on Sunday December 9. Patricia Wallman reports.

Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Alan Hopes and Fr John Minh and there was also a blessing of a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and a celebration cake.

The Community started with a small number in the Chapel of Sawston Hall. When the number of Mass participants kept growing, they had to say Mass in various halls, local churches, or private homes all around the southern parts of Cambridge in the early 1950s.

The Huddleston family, who owned Sawston Hall at that time, kindly donated a piece of land and two semi-detached cottages to Northampton Diocese. Fr Christopher Roberts was entrusted with the duty of shepherding a scattered congregation of about 400 people in more than 30 villages in the south of Cambridge. He and the early parishioners worked very hard to raise funds for a pre-fabricated church on the donated land, and used the cottages as the Presbytery.

It was such a good time for the Catholic Church in Cambridge area because there were two churches built in 1958: St Laurence’s in the northern part of the city was blessed on August 24, and Our Lady of Lourdes in Sawston on December 8. The year 1958 was the first centenary of the apparitions in Lourdes, so Canon Stokes who came from Our Lady & the English Martyrs Parish to bless the Sawston church, dedicated it to Our Lady of Lourdes.

Wasting no time at all, on January 31, 1959 Fr Roberts submitted an application to the General Register Office for the church building to be recorded as an official place of worship for Catholics. On February 5, 1959, a certificate was issued by the Superintendent Registrar for the solemnization of marriages at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Sawston. So the church building became established in the eyes of God and in the eyes of man.

In the summer of 1959, during a Eucharistic Procession within the grounds of Sawston Hall, Bishop Parker solemnly declared that Our Lady of Lourdes Church would be the ‘hub for missions’ in Sawston and the surrounding areas. To facilitate other social activities for parishioners, Fr Roberts built the hall in 1963. It was swapped with the original church in 2010 and is now used as the new church for the Parish.

Like other communities, Our Lady of Lourdes in Sawston have experienced good times and bad times. However, following the tradition of the holy martyrs such as St Nicholas Owen and St John Rigby, they have shown deep faith in God and loyalty to the Catholic Church. They have also imitated the generosity shown them by the benefactors, especially the Huddleston family. Over the last 60 years, the community have donated a good amount of money to charities, including a van to Mother Teresa and her Congregation. They tirelessly volunteer to help with many local projects like the OWL Cafe (now the Footprint) for the benefits of the disabled, and Hope into Action for the homeless and refugees.

For the Diamond Jubilee year, parishioners in Sawston prepared themselves spiritually with a special Jubilee prayer and patiently collected a good number of photos for a pictorial history of the Community. Some of them were on display in the church hall during the Jubilee celebration. Many more photos will be put on a CD and an album for the future generations to learn about the living Catholic faith in the areas.

In his homily, during the 11.15am, Mass, Bishop Alan said that the last 60 years were full of grace for everybody in the Community. This Diamond Jubilee is a good opportunity for all of us to give thanks to God, and to move forward as a Parish with the continued devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes and with the example of the faithfulness of Saint John Fisher.

The celebration was significantly marked by the episcopal blessing of a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, donated a benefactor. Hopefully a shrine will soon be built to promote the devotion of the parishioners.

The Bishop and the children jointly cut a cake on this special occasion for everybody to enjoy with tea and coffee. Some parishioners who witnessed the blessing of the original church were also present at this Jubilee celebration. They are moved to see the good works started 60 years ago continue to be done in the Parish, especially in the lives of their children.

Pictured above, Bishop Alan and children from Sawston cut the celebration cake. Picture by Mrs C Huebner.