The priest at St Ann’s Roman Catholic church on Vicarage Road in Cheadle Hulme, Fr Chris McCurry, is retiring after 17 years in the parish and a ministry of 50 years.
Fr Chris was born in Wallasey in 1945. He studied for the priesthood at Ushaw College, Durham, and the Venerable English College, Rome. He was ordained at St Peter & Paul, New Brighton, in September 1970.
Churches Together in Cheadle Hulme’s Sarah Ball asked Fr Chris to look back on his time in Cheadle Hulme over the last two decades…
Fr C: There’s been change…and no change. What has changed is that the area has got busier, everyone’s been building – new properties or extensions. What hasn’t changed is the people. They’re so friendly.
When I was offered the place at Cheadle Hulme by the then Bishop of Shrewsbury, the late Brian Noble, I bit his hand off. I was right to do so. I’ve loved Cheadle Hulme since the minute I drove up. Serving this parish has been a very happy time.
SB: So it’s difficult to leave…?
Fr C: Absolutely…I will miss my congregation tremendously. It’s always the people. I’m not going too far though. Just to Timperley…
I will miss celebrating mass and preaching the word, but I hope I’ll still be able to do this occasionally in my retirement. I’ll be able to help out in other parishes – doing holiday or sickness cover. I imagine it’ll be a bit like being a grandparent…I will get to do the rewarding parts and then can ‘hand back’ the day-to-day responsibility.
SB: To be finishing your ministry in the middle of the coronavirus crisis must be strange?
Fr C: It’s certainly been a very weird year to have as my last in parish ministry. I was expecting to wind down gently… With every change of regulations, we’ve had to adapt and for me that means thinking about how to lead the services. For a time it was very tough celebrating Mass in church on my own – as that should involve everyone. Of course we can do that now. With restricted numbers and social distancing.
I haven’t really had a day off…I’ve just kept going…
SB: So what are you looking forward to most about retirement?
Fr C: (he laughs) Sleeping and having a lie in!
I plan to travel a bit, have some holidays and I’d like to spend more time listening to music.
SB: Music is very important to you isn’t it?
Fr C: Yes. As well as listening to music, just having it around me, I’d like to write more music. I’m not a high-flying composer but I love writing music for people to join in and enjoy or for an occasion.
SB: At your golden jubilee service, celebrating 50 years in ministry, the St Ann’s choir performed one of your pieces…
Fr C: I was so proud of them. They’ve not been able to meet or rehearse for months but they came together for that special occasion. They sang ‘Litany of Praise’ a piece I composed about six or seven years ago. It’s based on a passage in the book of Daniel.
SB: You were the Chair of Churches Together in Cheadle Hulme during your time here. How was it working alongside the other churches?
Fr C: Working together is important. The more we work together, the more we can achieve. I always felt the open-air Oak Meadow services which we did at Christmas and Easter were a good example of this.
At the Last Supper Jesus clearly prays for unity. He prays for all his followers. That’s not about uniformity. All our churches don’t have to be the same, but for all of us Jesus needs to be at the heart of what we do.
But we all, the churches, have a challenge. We must stay relevant to people’s lives. We know we are but we have to be able to show that.
Read more of Fr Chris’ thoughts as he looks back over his fifty years in ministry…