Reflections on change ~ 2


Date: December 2021

I was ordained in 1967 by Bishop Wheeler...
Someone once said “Change is a sign of life. And to change often is a sign that you have lived well”.

However it is important that we do not change merely for the sake of being fashionable. We must not let the desire for change rule our lives. Change should always be a challenge and that is what Pope Francis is asking us, as a global community, the Church; and also what the Bishops of England and Wales are asking of us as “the Local Church”.

The world we live in does not stand still, neither can we as individuals, or as members of our Parish community in Otley. Otherwise we become irrelevant and the Good News we have to proclaim will go ignored.

This then is the context in which “synodality” (seeing, judging, acting) or even more simply looking with eyes of faith at “what’s what”; judging with charity “what works and what doesn’t”, and having the courage to “take action to implement agreed change”. All this for the good of the Church, internationally, nationally and locally.

Some people may say “Why do we need any change?”. Let me demonstrate with some local statistics from our Annual Diocesan Year Book. It is evident from these that over the last number of decades the shape of our Diocesan Family has changed dramatically. Fewer people attend Masses and fewer celebrate the Sacraments, but the number of pastoral sites - chapels, churches – seems not to have correspondingly diminished. This means that overheads remain high and income for servicing sites is diminishing. There seems to be far more energy invested in “running the hardware” than in evangelical innovation. Such a response is detrimental to the Gospel message. Of course this is a generalisation and is in no way meant to be a criticism of our administrators, clerical or lay. We are caught up in a system which is difficult to “short circuit.”

The discussions we have been called to take part in as preparation for the Synodal meetings, locally and internationally, are the means of reminding us of our essential calling. Through Baptism each of us is reminded that we are first and foremost called to be missionaries of the Gospel for our troubled and sometimes over-selfish world.

Let me illustrate the speed of change that we have been asked to embrace over the last 60 years by briefly highlighting some of these changes: I was ordained in 1967 by Bishop Wheeler after five years study and formation in the international seminary of St Sulpician in Paris. My fellow students came from many different parts of the world. The most exotic were from South America, USA, the Far East along with a group of Maronite, Melkite and Armenians; these were not of our Western Roman Catholic Latin Rite but of those Easter Catholic Rites – similar but different to the Eastern Orthodox. So it was a great blessing to be in their company and to see the Church from a different perspective.

During my five years in France, the Second Vatican Council began its work. Change of a radical nature would be asked of us all. Our diocese, like many, struggled to make sense of it all. The “People of God”, as we were now called, were confused but most adapted to the “new” Mass. There were plenty of priests and it was about 17 years for a curate to become a Parish Priest.

With such a “glut” of clergy, Bishop Wheeler appointed me firstly as a temporary curate at the Cathedral, I served there for 1 hour 40 minutes, then he appointed me curate at St Augustine’s in Harehills. In those days it was a “factory church” - 7 Masses on Sundays, after three 2-hour long sessions on Confession on Saturday. I survived there for 9 months then I was asked to join the staff at St Bede’s Grammar School in Bradford. I lasted there 4 years.

It was during my time in Bradford that I encountered two non-Catholic clergy – one Anglican and one Methodist. They were both in deprived areas of Bradford and had come to the common conclusion that “as people did not come to them, they would go and meet them in their place of work”. They were delighted when the Bishop gave me permission to join them This pastoral initiative was given the title The Churches Industrial Mission- now ecumenical. Of course the Bishop could not fund me – only parishes had funds for parish work. “Don’t worry, my Lord” said I, “I have a cunning plan”. So I became a “Worker Priest”. This phenomenon was not new. The first Apostles were fishermen. But I became a seasonal coach driver with Wallace Arnold Tours whose depot was next to St Joseph’s Catholic church in Bradford. I worked for them during the high season for ten years (May to October) and I really did meet people who were curious about what I was about. The book about my varied adventures has yet to be written, but I did meet a good number of ordinary folk and some famous and extraordinary folk including Sir Len Murray, General Secretary of the TUC, and two Popes - St Paul the 6th, and St John Paul the 2nd: I have pictures of me being greeted by these two saintly men.

It would be impossible for a priest to undertake such a ministry today. But it is necessary that the future of the Church, and the proclamation of the Gospel, that we can with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, let ourselves be changed – to “think outside the box”. The temptation is to try to stand still. Or worse, like Lot’s wife in the Old Testament, and simply “look back”.
Fr Paul Moxon (retired priest).

Many people enjoyed going to big Community events...
When I came to live in Otley in 1972, Otley was a small market town with a variety of shops, a market every Friday and Saturday, two cattle markets and 26 public houses to cater for the many farmers and visitors that came to the town. There was no by- pass and all the traffic went through the crossroads in the centre of Otley. We were impressed to find that there was a choice of doctors’ surgeries to go to, and that there was a hospital in Otley where you could go for minor injuries and other illnesses. We enjoyed going for walks by the river and the boats on the river were a big attraction to both adults and children, who also enjoyed playing in the outdoor swimming pool during the Summer.

My son Anthony started school at St Joseph’s and I got to know many other mothers when I dropped him off at the school gates. We usually went to 11.15 a.m. Mass on a Sunday and met other children and parents there. There was no problem about parking because the church car park was much bigger then. On a Tuesday evening I went with three other neighbours to the meeting of Catholic Mothers in Clitherow House and got to know more parishioners of different ages. We met in the upstairs room at Clitherow House and there were usually about thirty members there each week. Two of the members went to visit people who were sick and would then report back to the meeting. As Anthony got older he and many of his classmates became altar servers at Our Lady and All Saints and took it in turn to serve at Mass. I often saw Lady Charlotte at Mass and she always smiled and was friendly but I now regret that I did not try to get to know her more.

In 2001 many parishioners took part in a Drama called “The Hard Road” produced by Lisa Gustaffason which told the History of The Irish who came to live in Otley at the time of the Irish Famine. Thomas Constable, Lady Charlotte’s grandfather lived in The Manor House and was very kind to the people who came over from Ireland. Many of them became ill and were buried in an unmarked grave in Otley Parish Churchyard because there was no Catholic Graveyard at that time. In 2001 a memorial stone was erected in the Parish Churchyard to mark the spot where they were buried, and at the same time a memorial was erected on the outside church wall of Our Lady and All Saints to list the names of the people who were buried in the churchyard.

One of the biggest changes during my time in Otley, was the takeover of Otley by Leeds City Council, and the loss of the Outdoor Swimming Pool, and the Otley Civic Centre. The Otley Museum was situated in the Centre and many big Community events took place there. The introduction of Presto Supermarket at the corner of the bus station was an important innovation as it was the first large supermarket in the town. About the same time, the Bus Station was reduced in size and several new shops like M & Co and The Card Factory were built on the available space. The Cattle market at Bridgend was closed, but the Cattle Market near the Chevin remained open. Otley Show was held in May each year and was a great local attraction for both farmers, local people and visitors.

The street market on Friday and Saturday had a large number of stalls selling a variety of goods. There were many shops in Otley and you could buy most of the things you needed locally. There was Tempest’s hardware shop in the Market Square which sold almost anything you needed to do repair jobs in the home. There were three ladies’ dress shops. One was near Cohen’s chemist, one was near Teal’s cake shop and the other was Carole’s on Beech Hill. There was also a Men’s Outfitters and two fruit and Vegetable shops , one was situated near where Oxfam is now and the other was at the corner of the Bay Horse passage where the Ladies Hairdressers is now. Both of them were always very busy and you often had to queue to be served. There were three shoe shops, one was situated in the Market Square, another at the Traffic lights where the Travel shop is now and the other on the opposite corner near the Traffic Lights. There were many banks and no cash machines. There were four butcher’s shops and my son reminded me that there were many sweet shops in Otley. One of them was opposite the church near the Otley Show Office, another was in Manor Square next to the Second Hand Shop. There was also a sweet shop either side of the bridge. One of them was a cafe and sweet shop where cyclists used to gather and the other one at the corner of Farnley Lane was a Newsagent and Sweet shop. There was also a Fish and Chip shop on Farnley Lane which has now been converted into a house. There were not as many cars in Otley as there are today and if you travelled by car it was usually easy to find a parking space.

Many people enjoyed going to big Community events at Otley Civic Centre. I particularly enjoyed going to plays produced several times a year by local people and also to socials organised there by St Joseph’s P.T.A. I understand that the Art Group used to meet there and when they had to move out, they were told they could go back there when it was refurbished. Unfortunately, it was never refurbished, and was left to deteriorate by Leeds City Council for many years. It was sold by them and although I understand that it would have cost a lot of money to make the improvements that were necessary, I think that it would have been money well spent for the benefit of the local community. I feel that Leeds City Council has made many improvements in Leeds but they have neglected the Community needs for the people of Otley.
Moira 23/11/21

We attended Mass every week and confession once a fortnight...
I was born smack bang in the middle of the swinging sixties, 1965 to be precise. This was to be a time of great change (Vatican 2) and must have felt very radical to many older Catholics. However I have no recollection of church before the 1970's and definitely didn’t view it as swinging. I do have a very clear recollection of my Grandmother saying the rosary all the way through Mass - as she would have done throughout her life as she really did not understand the Latin Mass. I feel blessed to have grown up in the church when I did. I was brought up in Our Lady of Lourdes in Headingley and attended this church until my mid-thirties when I moved to Otley. Church and parish for me were the main focus of my ‘social life’ as much as a social life exists for a child, with seven siblings. We attended Mass every week and confession once a fortnight. The summer and Christmas fayres were times of great excitement when I could go with my pennies and spend them as I wished. Even my wardrobe was dictated by the church's year, new outfits for Christmas, Easter and Whitsun would be rotated as my Sunday best and relegated to ‘playing out clothes’ when the next one came around. We had a very active parish priest in Fr Brian Sharp who always encouraged the youth of the parish to take part in the annual pantomime, this I did from around the age of 9 (junior chorus) to 18 (principal boy). When numbers were short Fr Sharp loved nothing better than playing the pantomime dame himself.

In my late teens I can remember being encouraged to read regularly in Mass by a very inspirational curate (Fr Kevin Firth) who was a frequent visitor to our house. I can also remember having several ‘house masses’ which always felt extremely special as although both my parents were extremely ‘faithful’ we did not pray regularly together in our Catholic home, (unless you count the sprinkling of Holy water would occur during severe thunder and lightning storms). As a teenager, from the age of 13 to 16, I attended the Junior Legion of Mary every Wednesday evening. A group of young parishioners would gather together to say the rosary and assign work for the following week. This would be visiting the elderly in the parish or the nursing home run by Little sisters of the Poor in Headingley. The allocation of the Little sisters was always a popular assignment as the Nuns always made sure that you were provided with a delicious lunch. Church did manage to feel ‘cool’ when I was in my teens, as we had a ‘folk group’ in the parish so the hymns we sang seemed modern and lively especially compared to those we sang at school. I loved going to Mass and would often go before an exam (perhaps some revision would have also helped), I can remember going into church when hearing about the death of John Paul 1 or a relative - the church building always felt like home to me and it always seemed to be open. In my lifetime so much has changed - girls can be altar servers, I would definitely have done that if it had been allowed in the 70’s, shops are now open on Sundays, there’s even television during the daytime. Life has opened up, but a part of me looks back wistfully to those less complicated times when living simply was not an option but a necessity.
Diane, December 2021.