A celebratory evening Mass took place at the parish of St Joseph the Worker in Hutton recently to mark some significant dates in its history. The occasion was essentially two jubilees rolled into one: 60 years since the opening of the first church (now the parish hall) in 1959; and 50 years since the opening of the present church (16 July 1969). It was attended by Bishop Alan Williams and Bishop Emeritus Thomas McMahon, priests and people – and, poignantly, Fr Patrick Daly, a nephew of the first parish priest Father John Harden and currently assistant priest at Brentwood Cathedral. Fr Dominic Howarth, who was himself ordained in the parish, was also present.
Diocesan archivist Fr Stewart Foster (left), who had cousins in Hutton in the time of Fr Arthur Barrow and has recently published a history of the parish, gave the homily.
He looked back to 1647, to the English Civil War when Hutton Catholics were persecuted by Parliamentary forces. “Their steadfastness, and their trust in Divine Providence,” he said, “may be recognised quite unmistakably three hundred years later when, in the immediate post-war period, ordinary people, supported by their priests, took it upon themselves to revive the Catholic Faith in different, yet by no means easy, circumstances.”
Early in the 1950s, post-war housing growth meant that Hutton, part of the Cathedral parish, needed separate provision in terms of a church and a school. “And so it was that through the efforts of parishioners such as Pat Mills and her husband Jack – whom no celebration of this parish could fail to mention – that on 21 March 1954 Canon Holmes, Administrator of the Cathedral, celebrated the first public Mass in Hutton since the Reformation, doing so in the Dining Hall of the Poplars Residential School.” For five years the Catholics of Hutton thronged the Hall at the Poplars, he said, before a temporary church (below), dedicated to St Joseph the Worker, was opened (now the Parish Hall) 60 years ago.
“But there was no resident priest until the arrival in September 1960 of Father John Harden, who took up lodgings in Boundary Drive before eventually securing the purchase of the present Presbytery in 1962. And in that same year Father Harden became the first Parish Priest of Hutton when, on 6 October, the parish was formally erected, separated from the Cathedral.”
“Fr Harden and his successor Fr Arthur Barrow laid the foundations of the present church of St Joseph the Worker, opened fifty years ago on 16 July 1969. This is our second reason for celebration: the Golden Jubilee of the present Church of St Joseph the Worker.”
Fr Stewart gave thanks for the fidelity of the priests and parishioners of Hutton over the last sixty years.
“Many of those people have gone to God, including not only Fr Harden and Fr Banks but also Fr Gordon Godfrey (under whom the church was consecrated by Bishop Casey on 30 April 1976) and Fr Brian Drea. Others, parishioners and priests, are still very much with us, including Fr Cornelius Joyce and Fr David Crabb, both, like Monsignor Arthur Barrow, in retirement. Yet each of them, in their own way, can testify to the fact that this parish was established and developed by immense trust in God, coupled with self-sacrificing hard work by parishioners who, for the most part, were themselves often struggling in material terms, holding down jobs, saving to buy a house, raising their families, and yet who laboured with such great energy on behalf of Holy Church.”
Never inward-looking, over the years the parish supported Consolata Fathers from Italy who who came to learn English before departing for Kenya or Tanzania, he added. And more recently, the parish has been twinned with the Cathedral parish of Dundee, Natal in South Africa. “How fortuitous it is that Fr Gerald Gostling, a Brentwood priest who has worked in the Diocese of Dundee for the past 15 years, is here tonight. Indeed, Fr Gerald has just celebrated a Golden Jubilee of his own, fifty years as a priest.”
Fr Stewart went on to paid tribute to Father Leslie Knight (far left), by far the longest-serving parish priest of Hutton who has been in post for 21 years – and welcomed the presence of the only priest so far ordained in the parish, Fr Dominic Howarth (left). Another past parishioner and a former altar server, Shaun Bailham (now Brother Joseph), is a Dominican Friar.
Fr Stewart recalled the words of Bishop Wall, who laid the foundation stone of the Hutton church: ‘It should never be forgotten that Jesus Christ is the Foundation and Cornerstone not only of every church building but, more crucially, of the living stones of God’s Holy Catholic Church.’ Fr Stewart concluded: “You, the parishioners past and present of St Joseph the Worker, Hutton, are those living stones. And, as Bishop Wall went on to say as he stood in the half-completed building, everything that happens here – in this church and in this parish – begins and ends with Christ who is really and truly present to us and for us in the Sacrifice of the Mass. Back in 1647 those few persecuted Catholics living in Hutton could only have dreamed of such a moment as today; and yet their perseverance, their witness, their courage and their hope in God has been rewarded. May it ever remain so.”
Following the celebration, Hutton parish priest Fr Leslie said: “It was a fantastic evening. Almost 200 parishioners were present.” He was very appreciative of Fr Stewart’s informative homily. “He is amazing – you could hear a pin drop during his talk. 1647 will remain long in our memory.”
Afterwards, Bishops Alan and Thomas chatted to parishioners at a reception in the church hall and garden.
Read the full ST JOSEPH THE WORKER homily by Fr Stewart Foster
The Parish of St Joseph The Worker, Hutton & Shenfield: A History (compiled by the Diocesan Archivist, Fr Stewart Foster) has been produced to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the first church (1959) and the Golden Jubilee of the present church (1969) and runs to 69 pages with colour/b&w illustrations.
The suggested donation for the publication is £5 (cheques payable to ‘Catholic Church, Hutton’) and it is available from: Brentwood Diocesan Archives, Cathedral House, Ingrave Road, Brentwood, Essex CM15 8AT.
Pictures courtesy of Arthur Edwards MBE