A Short History of the Parish of St. Edward the Confessor – 1970s onwards
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. Holy 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!
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! Canon Frost left the parish in 1994.
Fr. 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 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. St. Edward’s also hosts a Malayalam Mass once a month.
However, an underlying shortage of priests continued 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. From 2007 to 2019 if a priest wasn’t available to say Mass at one of the churches it was replaced by a service of the Word with Holy Communion served by a deacon. In 2013 the provincial house of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales in England relocated to Kettering and a priest from there helps in our parish, when available.
2018 saw serious issues with the fabric of the church at Holy Trinity, Desborough. Parish Mass was relocated to the parish hall and plans drawn up to convert the hall into a new church for Desborough.
In September 2019, Canon John Koenig, parish priest for 25 years retired due to ill-health. He was replaced by Fr. Gregory Marchwinski. In November 2019, due to the sudden death of Fr. Wilson Kottam MSFS who was acting as second priest to the parish, Mass at Burton Latimer, Desborough and Rothwell was only available once a month as a Saturday Vigil Mass and the number of Masses at St. Edward’s in Kettering were reduced.
In March 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak saw all churches and places of public worship being shut by the government, in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus. A private daily Mass continued to be celebrated by Fr. Gregory within the Presbytery during this time, with parishioners taking part in a Spiritual Communion in their homes. Many parishioners were able to access a virtual broadcast of Mass from Northampton Cathedral to help support their worship.
Although Mass in person gradually became available again – firstly in St. Edward’s church in 2021 and then in the community churches at Rothwell, Desborough and Burton Latimer once a month in 2022 – a pastoral decision by Northampton Diocese was made to close St. Bernadette’s church at Rothwell in August 2022. It was planned that the church of Holy Trinity would amalgamate with St. Bernadette’s and become Holy Trinity and St. Bernadette’s church. Following discussion with parishioners from St. Bernadette’s in September 2022, the Bishop decided to postpone the closure of the church for a year to see whether it is possible to build up the congregation at St. Bernadette’s again. At Desborough itself, continuing issues with the church led to the Parish Hall being permanently renovated and converted into the church of Holy Trinity in September 2022, with plans to demolish the old church and turn it into a car park.From September 2022 all three churches, in Burton Latimer, Desborough and Rothwell have 2 Masses a month.