Canon Brian celebrates 50 years of priesthood


Father Brian with (from left to right) Canon Stephen Myers, Fr David Pearce,  Fr Joseph Farrell, Fr Guy Sawyer, Bishop Alan Williams and Fr Anthony Cho

On Saturday 4 May, retired and former parish priest, Canon Brian O’Shea returned to St Thomas of Canterbury Roman Catholic Church, Grays to celebrate his 50 years of priestly ordination which took place on 4 May 1974.  The event was hosted by current parish priest, Canon Stephen Myers with the assistance of a variety of groups and individuals within the parish who ensured that the service and party ran smoothly.

Over 190 people, including family, attended the special Golden Jubilee Anniversary Mass which was concelebrated with Bishop Alan Williams, Canon Stephen Myers, long-term friends and fellow golden jubilarians both Fr Guy Sawyer and  Fr Joseph Farrell, Fr Paul Boagey,  Fr David Pearce and Fr Anthony Cho.

During the service, Fr Guy said that “to do Canon Brian justice, a couple of hours would be required”, as “he had touched the lives of so many” and offered “unrivalled care” that benefited all the parishes where he served as a priest in Essex, not to mention his “mischievous” sense of humour.  Fr Guy alluded to Canon Brian’s original career as a journalist and how, following his calling to the priesthood, he used his journalistic skills for the benefit of the wider Church including his talent for writing poems.

The special occasion was also an opportunity for parishioners from both St Thomas’ in Grays & St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Stifford Clays to give Canon Brian a suitable send off and to thank him for his 12 years of service, something which they had been unable to do because of Covid restrictions at the time of his departure in August 2020.

Amongst the many well-wishers who attended the celebration Mass and party were: former Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, former headteacher of The Campion School John Johnson and his wife, Penny Johnson, Headteacher of Grays Convent High School for Girls, past and present pupils, staff and parents from St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School and Grays Convent High School for Girls.   Penny Johnson described Fr Brian as “a true friend to our school” who was “warm, kind and interested in all that we do. He always had a kind word for our community”.  There were also parishioners from other parishes where Fr Brian had served as a priest including: Colchester, Loughton, Basildon, Chelmsford and Wanstead.

At the end of the Mass, Bishop Alan thanked Canon Brian for his service and spoke briefly, expressing Fr Brian’s sentiments at the time of his departure during Covid restrictions that, “one day, we’ll return to more normal times”. He also acknowledged the  ‘Freedom of the Borough’  award made to Canon Brian by Thurrock Council in 2020, to honour his work locally as a pastor and priest to all.

Speaking on behalf of the parish, Mike Walsh also expressed his gratitude to Canon Brian for his “great warmth, empathy, intelligence, understanding, sympathy, spirituality and all with good humour”.   Fr Brian was presented with gifts, including a cheque and a card which had been signed by parishioners.

The celebration continued with a party in Our Lady’s Undercroft with a buffet lunch and refreshments for all guests. Parishioner Roger Chinnon had made and decorated a cake for Canon Brian.

Canon Brian commented: “It is an honour and great privilege to be back in my beloved Thurrock. The parishioners have pulled out all the stops to make it a deeply memorable and happy occasion.  What a joy it’s been to serve in Grays!”

Written by Sylvia Merrigan

Photos courtesy of Moira Staerck