Page 8, 13th September 1963

13th September 1963
Page 8
Page 8, 13th September 1963 — Dynamo in Bishop's Robes

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Locations: Rome, Leeds, London, Liverpool


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Dynamo in Bishop's Robes

By Marian Curd

Like the late Pope John, Archbishop Heenan moves with the times. He has made the fullest use of radio and television -and it is said that there are those in plenty who will ,.not set foot inside a church but will make an instant appointment with their TV set when they hear that the Archbishop is to appear.

• He has appeared on TV with Anglican prelates, government leaders, and teenagers.

• He has told unionists at a Mayday Mass that he hoped Britain would never have a separate Catholic trade union movement.

• He has bluntly accused Communist shop stewards of trying to disrupt our industry.

• He has emphasised to workers that Pope John did not become "soft" on Communism in suggesting that it was time to talk to Communists and learn if useful agreements could be reached.

• This summer the Archbishop told Catholic teachers in their professional magazine that there were too many for whom teaching was "just a job". who have given up reading and who get to school just on time and leave as soon as possible. Replies by teachers were equally frank,

`Radio Priest'

Ilford-born Father Heenan, educated at St. Ignatius. Stamford Hill, at Ushaw and in Rome. was parish priest of Manor Park, London. when he first hit the public "ear" as the BBC's "Radio Priest". In the anxious wartime days he became known for his simple presentation of Catholic attitudes.

Although he soon quietly disappeared from the BBC scene owing to his refusal to allow his Catholicism to be watered down, he became a familiar sight to wardens and civil defence workers, taking the last Sacraments to the dying, helping to dig out trapped victims, and working a stirrup-pump in his shirt sleeves when his own school caught fire.

His biography of Cardinal Hinsley under whom he had studied at the English College, Rome was written during his years at Manor Park, as were his "Letters from Rush Green", and "They Made me Sign"-books making moral principles plain in modern idiom.

Late in 1947 Cardinal Griffin gave Fr. Heenan a new task. As the new Superior he was to revitalise the Catholic Missionary Society which had been brought to a standstill by the war.

Great Mission

A tremendous drive and the C.M.S. was off again. The following summer a well-organised mission took the Mass to a host of Oxfordshire villages which had not heard a public Mass since the Reformation. Forty hand-picked priests took part and a caravan

trailer dedicated to Our Lady of the 1%; aN sok went on the road.

The C.M.S. General Mission in 1949 took Dr. Heenan's work to the entire country. Three hundred volunteer priests took part.

Only a week before his consecration in 1951 as Bishop of Leeds Mgr. Heenan took part in a public debate with Communist author Mr. Andrew Rothstein on the motion "That the liberty of the citizen is only possible in a Soviet Socialist State".

The new bishop was on firm ground, In lay clothes he had spent four weeks in Russia in 1938. He proceeded to demolish the rosy Communist dreams before an audience which, by mutual agreement. was 50 per cent Communist and 50 per cent "others".

Long wait

Leeds had waited nearly a year for its new bishop. Yorkshire newspapers paid tribute to Mgr. Heenan as broadcaster. as an outstanding opponent of Communism. as an able writer, and they remembered with pleasure that he had been 'mined under Yorkshire-born Cardinal Hinsley and had gained Doctorates in Philosophy and Theology.

Only six years later came Mgr. IIeenan's next move: This time to Liverpool in succession to Archbishop Godfrey who was by this time at Westminster. "The laity of the diocese were uniformly proud and pleased." writes CATHOLIC HERALD Liverpool COTrespondent Mgr. Cyril Taylor.

"But." continues Mgr. Taylor. "the first reaction of the clergy was different. They recognised at once that Liverpool had received a worthy successor to Archbishop Godfrey and to Archbishop Downey under whose long episcopate they had been so happy. Their pride and satisfaction, however, were mingled with a little apprehension."


Mgr. Taylor continues : Many disturbing stories some, no doubt. grossly exaggerated had filtered down from the East and West Ridings of Yorkshire. Such expressions as "the cruel see" and "not how arc you" but. "where are you?" were rapidly passed from mouth to mouth.

The new Archbishop was not unaware of local clerical feeling. He was quick to reassure them. As soon as possible he made it convenient for all who could to meet him personally, showing himself fatherly and friendly.

"It must not be taken for granted." he said with endearing humility, "that because the Holy Sec has promoted me Archbishop it approved of all I did in Leeds." His episcopate had got off to a splendid start.

The new Archbishop soon showed that time-wasting banquets for entertainment's sake did not interest him. He at once began a vast round of parochial visitation -a round which took him four years to complete.

His visitations were unique. Mothers. babies, children. the sick at home, patients in hospital. all met him. And at the end of a weary round he was always a most agreeable guest at the presbytery table.

Vatican II The parishes finished, he began a round of all the religious communities in his territory. It was a source of sorrow to him that the many demands of the Vatican Council caused him to curtail his second round of visitations.

Dr. Heenan inherited Lutyens' unfinished crypt on the Cathedral site at Brownlow Hill, Quickly this was completed and taken into use as the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Then came a competition to design a permanent Cathedral to cost no more than Elm and to be completed within 10 years. NonCatholic architect Mr. Frederick Gibberd, designer of Harlow New Town and London Airport buildings. caused a great stir with his prize-winning circular style.

This striking building in modern idiom will be a permanent monument to the foresight and drive of the eighth Archbishop of Liverpool.

The curial offices were then modernised. the administration streamlined. Parochial development went on apace, foundation stones were laid, new churches and schools opened.

The Archbishop urgently promoted the expansion of grammar school places and fostered the welfare of university students. A portion of the Cathedral site was allocated for a new University Chaplaincy, and the magnificent new Christ's Training College is due to open nail September.

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