The Bishop at the consecration

The consecration of the church took place on 5 December 1936. At 6.45am – for the last time in that place – there was a Solemn High Mass and Holy Communion in St Leonard’s, and then at 3.30pm, the Lord Bishop of the diocese came to perform the Rite of Consecration. The procession emerged from the Church of St Leonard, going round the exterior of the new church to the west door where it divided into two lines between which the Bishop and his officers passed. The closed doors came into view, marked with the two crowned letters, M. for Our Lady Mary, and L, for our Patron Leonard. There the Bishop knocked three times with his crozier, and after versicles and responses, the doors were thrown open and the procession entered, the keys being delivered to the Bishop by the People’s Warden. Accompanied by the assistants at the ceremony the Bishop proceeded to the Altar, thereafter visiting the font, the choir-gallery, the chancel, the lectern, and the pulpit before returning to the Altar steps for the Act of Consecration –

‘By virtue of our sacred office in the Church of God we do now declare to be consecrate, and for ever set apart from all profane and common uses this House of God, under the name of Saint Mary-the-Virgin, and to the Glory of the ever blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Amen.’

The whole ceremony was completed by the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass upon the new High Altar, its polished marble gleaming through lace, its majesty enhanced by the glorious baldachino, surrounded by the incense that is the prayer of the saints and the lights that signify Christ, our Light. The English cloth-of-gold High Mass vestments that were used on that occasion are still used at St Mary’s, though wear and tear and age have meant that a new set (this time French cloth-of-gold bullion) have had to be procured. Most fittingly these are a memorial to Fr Johnson.

As a result of the consecration of the new church, St Leonard’s Hall was transferred to the Mission Church of the Holy Spirit, which was used solely for services from that Advent Sunday. After 5 December 1936, the old St Leonard’s was used as the Parish Hall and the organisations of the parish met there ‘until such time as a permanent Parish Hall is built’ – that was to be many years in the future.

The congregation at the consecration

The bell of St Mary’s – the voice with which the Church speaks to the faithful is the old bell from St Leonard’s, melted down with another bell which had been given to the old church, and re-cast by the bell-founders, Messrs Mears and Stainbank, as a single 4 cwt bell, sounding E flat. The inscription on the bell read: ‘Our Lady of Kenton, 1936.’ Presumably the bell was christened at some time, but there is no record of that. She speaks to the parish daily in the Angelus, honouring the  Incarnation morning, noon and night; also at the elevation of the Host and Chalice at each Mass, so that those unable to come to Mass can unite themselves with those present at the Sacrifice; she tolls for the dead; she summons to prayer on Sundays and great feast days; and on days of Exposition (such as Christ the King) she speaks each hour to stir up the lazy and encourage the pious. The Priests of the parish are well aware what a great comfort to any Our Lady of Kenton is, for she can be heard for quite a distance.

One last section remains to be written in this part of the history of St Mary’s. On 9 April 1937, Fr Johnson sailed for Nassau and the Bahamas to preach a mission. On St George’s day, a fortnight later, his mother died in Kenton. She had been a constant inspiration to him, and indeed to the parish. During her long life she had lived through the days of the Catholic Revival in the Church of England. As a girl she could remember praying for Fr Tooth, imprisoned for the True Faith. She was born in Kirby Underdale, Yorkshire, on 12 January 1857, one of a family of twelve, whose parents were strong supporters of the Church. She was married in York, and was a regular communicant at All Saints, North Street, from the beginning of the incumbency of the saintly Fr Pat Shaw. She had five children of whom the first two, both girls, died in infancy. The others were boys, and all survived her. She was very much missed. There is a window commemorating her connection with St Mary’s in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel; it is a window to the south, showing her in mediæval costume at prayer with St Mary’s behind her.