February 11 saw the opening of two more churches, one in the Midlands, the other in the West. , At Gravelly Hill North, Erdington, the Archbishop of Birmingham opened the spacious church of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. John; and at Topsham, Devon, there was the blessing and opening of the church of Holy Cross, a ceremony performed by the Bishop of Plymouth.
The Birmingham church, designed by Mr. Victor S. Peel, is of modern Gothic design, with accommodation for 430 worshippers. A hard natural marble, quartzite, has been employed for the paving of the sanctuary, aisles, and Lady Chapel. Although this material has been used for centuries in Rome, it has not until now been employed, it is stated, in an English church. The church has been built at a cost of £8,230.
About eighty priests, from many parts of the archdiocese, assisted at the opening ceremony. The Archbishop pontificated at Mass, with the Rev. Murtagh Dempsey, rector of St. Patrick's Stafford, as deacon, and the Rev. Albert L. Kelly, rector of St. Dunstan's, King's Heath, as subdeacon. The deacons at the throne were Canon Leonard Emery, rector of Oscott College, and Canon Edward Godwin, Ph.D., rector of St. Francis's, Handsworth. The rector of the new church, the Rev. Bertram Gould, was master of ceremonies, and the Rev. Bernard Griffin, D.C.L., was M.C. to the Archbishop.
The opening sermon, preached by the Rev. Reginald O'Reilly. D.D., Ph.D., rector of St. Peter's, Birmingham, was, in part. an interesting retrospect. Dr. O'Reilly referred to the labours of priests and laity, in bygone days, who by generosity and sacrifice had built churches. Such faithful, he said, endured toil, sometimes poverty, always anxiety: they were the true descendants of the martyrs of earlier times.
At a subsequent luncheon the Archbishop congratulated Fr. Gould on the progress made by that parish, a parish started only in 1921. The deanery in which it was situated, His Grace said, was more or less filled with new churches, and he was glad to say there were still more to come. In that part of Birmingham where there were new suburbs the Church was keeping pace with the growth of the city. For that reason it was a matter of congratulation that such beautiful churches were rising up in their midst.
Holy Cross, Topsham, is a building comparatively on the small side. Its accommodation is for 120, and simplicity is a note of its design. The architect was Mr. Wilfrid C. Mangan, whose Catholic churches in this country would now make a long and impressive list. The Topsham church is constructed of red brick, with a square tower as its chief external feature.
The site is on historic ground. Preaching, on the opening day, to a congregation which taxed the building to its utmost, Prior McElroy, C..R.L., of Bodmin, reminded the congregation that they were practically on the battleground of the rising, four hundred years ago, when the fighting manhood of Devon and Cornwall sought in arms the restoration of the Catholic religion. The parish priest, the Rev. Thomas J. Cahill, said that the new church had come into existence under considerable difficulties.
Among other clergy present for the opening were Provost Burns, Mgr. Canon Gandy, Canon Gaynor, Canon Cowd, Canon Lee, and Fr. Mariano Ortiz, O.R.S.A., Superior of the Augustinian Recollects at Honiton.