A Short History of the Parish of St. Edward the Confessor – 1970s onwards

Pencil sketches by C. Dudley Brown of the churches of St. Edward's Parish

1971 saw the purchase of the Methodist church in Desborough for £6,000. The first Mass was offered at the new Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in June 1971, however renovations inside the church, using both voluntary help and paid labour were to last for a year. Occasional Masses took place until October 1972 when the church could be served on a regular basis. Pencil sketch of Holy Trinity Church, Desborough, by C. Dudley BrownHoly Trinity Church contained a magnificent pipe organ and in 1978 the Desborough organ was moved to Kettering to replace the electronic organ there that was past its best. Unfortunately the organ builder was a conman and stripped anything good from the system (he was later caught by the police). The organ was put together with string and faith!

1973 saw the opening of a second primary school dedicated to St. Thomas More, built near the unused Convent of Our Lady High School (closed in 1972). Originally intended for 160 pupils with eventual expansion plans to 280, its’ first year’s intake was just 20. All this financial outlay resulted in a time of financial appeals and stringent cutbacks. There was a public protest after one cold winter Mass as the church heating had been switched off. Fr. Jenkinson asked his parishioners to be understanding and to put on an extra pullover!


St. Thomas More Primary School, Kettering
The sudden death of Fr. Jenkinson in 1977 led to the appointment of Fr. Pat Bailey. Fr. Jenkinson had been the first Catholic priest locally to preach in an Anglican church. However it was Fr. Bailey who worked hard to bring together the Christian communities of Kettering. The Sisters of Our Lady worked with him in the drive for Christian unity, making such gestures as inviting Free Church ministers to hold their retreats at the convent. In 1990 Fr. Bailey moved to Bedford, leaving behind a much more ecumenically minded congregation, and a few expanded waistbands, as he was known as an expert amateur chef!

Fr. Jim Marks, home from missionary service in South America was appointed as Parish Priest. 1990-1991 saw the fiftieth anniversary of St. Edward’s church and the centenary of St. Edward’s Parish celebrated with a Pontifical High Mass by Bishop McCartie. Anglican and Free Church clergy and ministers held places of honour as guests. Unfortunately due to ill health Fr. Marks had to retire as Parish Priest in 1991. He was replaced by Canon Brian Frost.
Canon Frost arrived from Rushden. As had Fr. Bailey before him, he had a keen interest in ecumenical work and in fact was asked to become president of the pensioners parliament, an organisation founded in the 1930’s by a Non-conformist minister and based at Carey Baptist church. He was also known for his keen interest in “the Poppies”, Kettering’s football club, and for the fact that parishioners never knew when he popped around to visit whether they were about to be invited to undertake a parish job or to join him at a concert! Sadly a fall in 1994 led to a long period of convalescence and he had to move away from the parish.

Canon John Koenig outside the Presbytery, 2009Fr. John Koenig (Canon since 1997) joined us as Parish Priest from Thrapston in 1994. At the time of his arrival the clergy consisted of a parish priest, 2 assistant priests and a deacon. However since then a general shortage of priests in the diocese has led to many changes. In 1998 the parish gained its first married priest, in the person of Fr. Brian Leatherland. Many clergy left the Anglican faith when the Church of England voted to accept women to the priesthood. The Pope agreed that former Anglican clergymen could study for the Catholic priesthood. Fr. Leatherland was ordained at St. Edward’s in January 1998 and he and his family remained with us until 2001.

Between 2012-2015 Fr. Paul Inman, also a former Anglican clergyman, joined the parish as an Assistant Priest, with his family.

The new millennium saw the arrival, on supply work, of visiting priests from all over the world. This has helped enrich the understanding of the parish community. Fr. Dariusz Bialowas, assistant priest 2006-8, established a monthly Mass in Polish for many of the Polish migrants who have been attracted to work in Northamptonshire. The Polish Mass continues, served by a priest from a neighbouring parish. St. Edward’s also hosts a Malayalam Mass once a month.

However, an underlying shortage of priests continues to affect the Parish. 2002 saw only 2 priests available to care for the parish. For a time Holy Trinity church was served from St. John Ogilvie’s parish at Corby and regretfully St. Luke’s, which had shared the Grange Methodists church premises since 1998, had to close. As each priest may only say 3 Sunday Masses each, and St. Edward’s church has 4 masses, while Holy Trinity, St. Bernadette’s and St. Nicholas Owen have one Mass each, this led to an agreement with the diocese in 2007 that each week, on a rota basis, Mass at one of the churches is replaced by a service of the Word with Holy Communion, led by a deacon. This pattern currently remains (2013), although with the arrival in the parish in 2013 of the provincial house of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales in England, Fr. Bosco says Sunday Mass when available.

Photo montage of the churches of St. Edward's parish