Our Lady's

Prior to 1964 Runcorn was a small Cheshire town of about 30,000 people which had one Catholic church, St Edward’s. It was then designated by the government as a ‘New Town’ and a 12-year building programme began to increase the population to c.70-90,000 people. Clearly, such a huge increase in numbers would, among other things, require additional places of worship for Catholics. As part of this development the parish of Our Lady’s came into being, along with the parishes of Holy Spirit, St Augustine’s and St Martin de Porres’.
This increase presented a problem to the Bishop of Shrewsbury, Bishop Eric Grasar who did not have enough priests to serve all the new parishes. It was at his request in December 1973 that the Salvatorian Community - a Religious Order - agreed to provide priests for two of the parishes, Our Lady’s being one of them. Prior to 1974 when Father William Doyle SDS, the first Catholic Priest in the New Town, arrived, Mass was provided in the Palace Fields Local Tenants’ Centre and the County Primary School.

Fr William continued to conduct Masses in the local community centre but occasionally baptisms were conducted in people’s homes. When it was eventually established, the church initially consisted of two bungalows (41 and 42 Cunliffe Close) with the dividing wall between them being removed to act as a small chapel for the few Catholic families living here at the time.

In April 1974, Fr Thomas Hennessy SDS arrived and it was he who made the choice that the parish should be titled ‘Our Lady, Mother of the Saviour’ because this is the special title for her in the Salvatorian Community. Fr Tom used to hold Masses in his home on the Glen as well as at Palacefields school and Southgate school. After Fr. Tom left, Fr. Frank Waters SDS who was assistant to Fr. Tom took over as Parish Priest.

A site for a dedicated church building had been set aside by the Development Corporation on land where the Knoll now stands. At a meeting with parishioners, however, it was decided that we could not afford a separate church and so a chapel was built, attached to Our Lady’s school. On 12th September 1977 Palacefields School was opened and the first parish Mass was celebrated in the school on Christmas Day 1977.

In 1978 there was a fundraising initiative to procure a mini-bus for the parish. Following a significant number of events enough money was finally collected to enable the purchase of the mini-bus which was very well used for all sorts of occasions. Sadly, it eventually fell into disrepair and was scrapped.

A well known priest who served Our Lady’s was Fr Stephen Leggett SDS who helped raise over £2 million on behalf of the Polish people who were then under Communist rule, arising from his chaplaincy to Polish seafarers at Runcorn Docks.

The New Building

On 28th August 1982 Fr Adrian Tait SDS became parish priest, remaining until his sad death on 14th November 2007. On 24th July 1997 he launched a long and hard fought campaign to have ‘our own Parish Church’ built instead of using the school hall for Mass. His dreams were finally realized when the new church building was dedicated on 23rd October 2003. He was, however, disappointed that lack of funds meant the large windows either side of the altar were only frosted and not stained glass. Shortly after, however, the parish received a bequest of £10,000. Fr Adrian put this money into a separate account for ‘safe keeping’. He then ordered two stained-glass windows. Only after these were paid for did he inform the Bishop and his Provincial Superior of the bequest. They are quite beautiful and have transformed the atmosphere in the church. Sadly, he did not live to see them completed, passing away just before they were installed - but they remain as a permanent reminder of a much-loved priest.

Fr. Lucas Ngwa from the Cameroon looked after the parish for a year, handing over to Fr. Bill Harrison SDS. 18 months later Fr. Bill retired on ill health and Fr. George Malecki SDS became parish priest in September 2010. Fr George left the parish in October 2014

After 41 years as a Salvatorian Parish, falling numbers in the Order meant the parish had to be handed back to the diocese and Fr Lucas returned in January 2015 as parochial administrator until he was replaced by Fr Ravi Bosco who became parish priest in July 2016.

St Augustine's

This was the first parish in Runcorn New Town to be entrusted to the Society of the Divine Saviour, the Salvatorians. At the request of the late Bishop Grasar they agreed to serve that community. The Salvatorians were already established in the Diocese of Shrewsbury having charge of a parish in Birkenhead and having previously had their Novitiate at Christleton, just outside Chester. The parish was to serve the Castlefields Estate and part of Halton Village. It was opened in December 1969 and the first priest lived in Richard Close. Sunday Mass was said in the Tenants' Centre. Weekday Mass was said in the priest’s house. Sunday Mass was subsequently said in a Community Centre and then in the School Assembly Hall. In 1977 the present church was opened together with a new presbytery.

The first parish priest of St. Augustine’s was Fr. Augustine Caulfield SDS who endured much friendly ribbing from his priest colleagues as ‘the man who named the parish after himself’!! However, the truth of the parish name is that it is a memory to the Augustinian Monks who populated the local Norton Priory for many centuries, a well documented piece of history from the hand of the much respected local historian, the late Bert Starkey.

Fr.Caulfield lived in a bungalow in Richard Close with a delightful chapel in the lounge area where daily mass was said. Sunday and Holyday Masses were celebrated in the local Castlefields Community Centre and eventually after a long delay due to building trade disputes, in the hall of the new St.Augustine’s primary school. Some two years after the school opened, Fr.Caulfield persuaded his superiors in the Diocese and his Order to permit the building of a small church which today is an oasis of quiet delight and its position on a busy road junction proudly proclaims the presence of God in the community. Several Salvatorian priests followed Fr.Caulfield; Fr Gerry Daley, Fr.Tuite, Fr. Liam to name but a few.

St Martin's

As part of the New Town the Murdishaw estate developed rapidly as Brookvale/Palace Fields was completed and a new parish dedicated to St.Martin de Porres was established. Fr Peter Walton came to live here in summer 1975. Sunday Mass was said in the temporary Community Centre. In summer 1976 a head was appointed for the school which was opened in temporary mobile accommodation in Brookvale. Then the building of a joint church/school building was begun, adopting plans used for the parish of Our Lady Mother of the Saviour in Palacefields.
The official opening of the chapel was on 29 June 1978. The second phase of the building was completed 1979/1980. Fr.Walton was then promoted to ‘Canon’ within the Diocese and was replaced as Parish Priest by Fr. Bill Mellor. Sadly Fr. Bill died very suddenly and unexpectedly before his work was accomplished.

Successive priests followed including Fr.Peter Robertson, Fr.Bernard Forshaw, then Fr. Colin Wilson. From Sept 2005 St. Martin de Porres was served by Holy Spirit with Fr Michael McCormack as parish priest but who sadly passed away in 2007.
He was succeeded by Fr Jonathan Mitchell. In September 2011 Father Jonathan was appointed Parochial Administrator to Our Lady and the Apostles, Stockport.
In September 2011 Father Lucas Ngwa was appointed Parochial Administrator to Holy Spirit and St. Martin de Porres.

From February 2012 all five churches in Runcorn were placed in the spiritual care of two priests only. Father George Malecki had spiritual responsibility for Our Lady Mother of the Saviour, St. Augustine's and St. Martin de Porres until his departure in October 2014. In January 2015 Father Lucas was again appointed as Parochial Administrator until July 2016 when this responsibility passed to Father Ravi Bosco.