St Anne, Blackburn - Roman Catholic
BibliographyA book written by two members of the parish community of St. Anne's Blackburn has details of the history of the parish and published another edition later with additional information after the fire. The book is 'A Labour of Love' and copies are still available from the Church
The church was gutted by an arson attack with extensive fire damage on 21 Dec 2000. Initally demolition of the 1928 building was thought the only option but about £600,000 was raised to carry out the restoration and it was officially re-opened by the Bishop of Salford, the Right Rev. Terence Brain, at a special service on Sunday 13 June 2004. During the closure period services were held in the neighbouring school. The new church can cater for around 200 people, as opposed to the 800-capacity it had before the blaze. The parish has been merged with Sacred Heart and is administered from there. Photographs of the re-opening can be found in the archive section of the Sacred Heart website.
When Mr. Peter Kaye, as he was called, was Rector of St. Alban's, land was bought for a chapel and school where, in 1849, St. Anne's parish began its existence. The first Rector was an apostolic priest, Fr. Joseph Vincent Meaney, a member of a family which had sent out many priests from Ireland to labour among the Irish poor abroad. Fr. Meaney died here in 1874.
His assistant, Fr. Edward Woods, a native of Westmeath, was then appointed by Bishop Vaughan. Apart from his parish duties, his life work was the foundation of the Congregation of the Divine Pastor, to which he devoted himself fully. At St. Anne's he ruled a small community. Several aspirants to the priesthood owed their vocation and training to him. He waged a fierce war against intemperance and his Congregation was formed specially to meet this evil and took inspiration from the agony of Christ's thirst on the Cross.
In his way of life he preached by example and had a great devotion to the poor, which he showed by manifold good works, and he gained in this way the respect and affection of all his people. He had the privilege of watching over the destinies of St. Anne's for nearly forty years. He died in 1913 after a short illness during which he prepared for death. He died while a chapter from St. Francis de Sales on the love of God was being read to him at his own request.
Fr. William Shine was transferred here from St. John's, Burnley, where he had built the church. After 12 years he was preparing to build a new church for St. Anne's when death took him in 1925. He had the joy of walking in the public procession to lay the foundation stone.
The task of building the magnificent church in the Byzantine style which the parish now possesses was allotted to Fr. Thomas Henshaw, afterwards called to be fifth Bishop of Salford. The church of which he remained very fond throughout his life is in part his memorial. The present writer's only experience of the church at St. Anne's was on a Sunday evening when Bishop Henshaw happened to be passing through Blackburn. His delight in the shining edifice was only equalled by his pleasure at finding the church full of a devout people at their evening devotions, as he knelt unperceived at the back of the church.
Fr. Thomas Singleton succeeded Bishop Henshaw, and in his later years lived in retirement in the parish.
It is interesting to put on record that an assistant priest here, Fr. Patrick O'Connor, nephew of the Frs. Meaney who worked in Blackburn, left Blackburn after the deaths of the last Fr. Meaney in 1874, to become later Bishop of Armadale, Australia. Fr. Joseph Meaney volunteered to go with Fr. Turner to help in Leeds during the fever. A great tribute was paid to him after his death in Blackburn by Dr. Morley, father of the famous John Morley; he said he was a scholar steeped in the classical tradition.
Taken from "Salford Diocese and its Catholic past", a survey by Charles A. Bolton, a Priest of the above Diocese. Published 1950 on the First Centenary for the Diocese of Salford.
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