The centenary of the parish church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Penzance (dedicated before the Papal Definition of 1854), was celebrated last week, and during the festival an announcement was made that the Rev. G. F. Centel', the parish priest, had been made a Canon of Plymouth Cathedral. The Bishop of Plymouth visited the parish during the octave of the solemnities, when he administered Confirmation to 163 candidates, including the Rector's mother, Mrs. Centel! (received into the Church by her son a couple of years ago). The Bishop was also the celebrant at Pontifical High Mass on the centenary day.
The parish church is a splendid building. and was one of the firm Catholic churches to be built in Cornwall since the Reformation. There is an impressive high altar, wills a magnificent reredos in local granite, serpentine and marble, which was the grit in 1869 of Sir Paul Molesworth, the tenth baronet of one of the most well-known of the county families of the Duchy. The parish has an elementary day school.
The church is regarded as one of the outstanding Catholic centres in Cornwall, and during the war its ministrations have been greatly appreciated by evacuees and exiles from France and Brittany.
It was particularly fitting that the church should be dedicated in honour of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady, for in the Middle Ages a chapelry of the Blessed Virgin was built on one of the headlands which jut into the sea along that stretch of coast. The town took its name from that chapel, for Penzance is made up of two Cornish words meaning " the Holy Head."
The new Canon. who was appointed Dean of Cornwall in 1942, was born in Jersey in 1899. He qualified as a medical practitioner and specialised in radiology, and did special cancer research work, holding appointments at several hospitals. After becoming a Catholic in 1925 he studied for the priesthood at the Bede College, Rome, and was ordained on March 7, 1932. His first appointment was as curate set Plymouth Cathedral, and he wag sent to Penzance in the autumn of 1935 as parish priest.
The spiritual and temporal welfare of the parish has greatly prospered under his rectorship, and the church itself has been beautified with a noble and spacious sanctuary with granite pulpit and communion rails. A granite baptismal font was placed in the church by him in memory of Canon Bernard Wade, for 40 years Rector of Penzance.
The.debt incurred by the building of the new sanctuary was, by a wonderful effort of the parishioners, paid ofT just before the centenary day.
Canon Centel' recently had the joy of celebrating the first Mass to be offered since the Reformation at St. Michael's Mount, which is in the Penzance parish.
Speaking at a lunch after the Centenary Mass, the Bishop said it was one of the happiest occasions of his episcopate in Plymouth, and that he had reserved the canonry for Father Cantell as a testimony to his magnificent work and that of his parishioners.