News from around the Archdiocese of Liverpool
LIVERPOOL CATHEDRAL CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
- A LOOK BACK AT OUR COMMEMORATIVE ISSUE
Building a parish from scratch - by Simon Hart
Anybody wondering about the merits of missionary work in the 21st century should spend an hour with Father Denis Parry. A Liverpool Archdiocesan priest, Father Denis can tell them about the day he turned up in the Peruvian diocese of Carabyllo, on the northern fringes of Lima, with the task of creating a new parish ... from scratch.
‘I knew nobody, I had no land, no house, no nothing, so I began by celebrating Mass first of all on some waste ground,’ he begins. ‘That was August 2006 and word got round to people so first they’d bring out their stools and by December, on some wasteland, people built a chapel of bamboo sticks.’
It was the first step in a process which concludes next month with the opening of the parish church of Our Lady of Guadeloupe. Milestones along the way include the building of a parish house, completed in 2013, and Father Denis adds: ‘We began to use the basement of the house as a temporary chapel and then, in 2015, began work on building the church which is due to be consecrated on 12 December, feast of Our Lady of Guadeloupe.’
It is evidence of the ongoing significance of the Liverpool Archdiocesan Missionary Project (LAMP), set up in 1979, which used to send priests to Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru but now focuses on Peru alone. Father Denis is one of three Liverpool priests there along with Fr Joe Bibby, based in the diocese of Sicuani high up in the Andes, and Fr Simon Cadwallader, now returned to his old parish in Lima. This month brings a rare chance for all three to come together at a retreat yet they are united by their work in ‘connecting our diocese with the poorest of the poor’.
In the case of Father Denis, next summer marks 25 years since his departure for South America to fulfil a boyhood dream. ‘It was always in me. I felt the call to be a missionary priest when I was a little boy. I remember when a missionary priest came to my school to talk about the work they did, and that was the first time it appealed to me.’
Now 73, he actually spent 20 years working as an auditor for the brewer Whitbread before responding to his vocation. After two years as permanent deacon at St Mary’s, Lowe House, he began training for the priesthood in 1991 and was ordained in 1994, at 46. A visit to South America in 1996 – while serving as assistant priest in the parish of St Sylvester – told him ‘that is where I wanted to go. I came home and asked Archbishop Patrick Kelly and he let me go.’
The intervening years have brought challenges – notably the loss of an eye to cancer – yet a life that began in the now demolished Gerard Gardens, off Scotland Road, has never been dull, not least for the task of founding a parish spanning 20 miles and holding some 35,000 people.
‘Working on the missions has been a great blessing for me,’ he reflects. And important too. Donations from Liverpool Archdiocese – notably the parishes of St Mary’s, Lowe House, in St Helens and St Jude’s in Wigan – have accelerated a process that ‘would never have been possible for people in that area. To build a church would have taken 50 years. They wouldn’t have had the money available. But my mission is to also give the people the responsibility – I’ve always said we priests come and go but the Church will be for your children, your grandchildren, and people have responded. I couldn’t say how fulfilling I’ve found it.’