Saltney church 'is something we should treasure'

Published date: 26 March 2014 |
Published by: Romilly Scragg 
Read more articles by Romilly Scragg  Email reporter


The foundation stone of St Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Saltney was laid 100 years ago.

Volunteers have been working night and day to get ready for the 100th birthday festivities, which begin in May.

When I turned up to lend a hand there wasn’t much left to do – the walls and ceilings had nearly all been repainted, and the wood and most of the brasses had been polished.

Outside, the guttering had been replaced and inside new lights had been fitted to show off the gleaming walls to best advantage.

And when the scaffolding was taken down last week, a fresh depiction of the Holy Spirit was unveiled in pride of place above the altar, replacing one painted more than 30 years ago and which had fallen into disrepair.

The gleaming revamped building is in stark contrast to the situation when Kenyan parish priest Father Kefa Oyagi Nyakundi turned up at his new parish about 18 months ago.

“It was awful,” said Fr Kefa.

“Everyone would agree. It was damp and dark – during winter it was terrible – we had to use candles.”

Fr Kefa said it was only when new lights were fitted that the true amount of work that needing doing was revealed.

“We were able to see the mess,” he said. “We looked up and it was terrible.”

But with everyone pitching in the church – which was originally paid for by voluntary subscriptions – has been transformed.

“I feel at home now,” Fr Kefa said.

“This is like my house. Imagine coming to a house that is like an abandoned building. It makes you feel abandoned. Now I feel accepted here.

“To have such a building in a community is a very special thing,” he added. “People adore this church and it’s something we should treasure.”

Parish council secretary Veronica Fox said the refurbishment, which has been partly funded by donations from Saltney Town Council, Broughton and Bretton Community Council and the Hawarden Embankment Trust, had brought people together like never before.

“Before we had lots of separate groups in the community but this has got us all mixing more,” she said

Volunteers have come in to paint or polish for hours at a time. Others have taken things home to work on, like Dee Wright, who has polished all the brass candlesticks, one at a time.

Centenary committee chairman Tim Hawes is due to finish painting the vestry in the coming days, having already painted the entire church ceiling with volunteers Richard Probert, Bob Sheen and John Kiersey.

And then it will just be a case of varnishing the pews and a last minute vacuuming of carpets before the big day on May 24, when the Bishop of Wrexham, Rt Rev Peter Brignall, will start the year’s celebrations when he takes Holy Mass with guests including former priests of St Anthony’s and staff, past and present, from St Anthony’s Primary School.

Events are planned throughout the year, with highlights including a parish barbecue in June, a strawberry tea in July, a fair in November and a carol service in December.

Rev Brignall will return on May 23, 2015, to close the centenary year.

“It’s a very exciting time,” said Fr Kefa.

“The refurbishment has been truly wonderful. Everyone has contributed. And to see something like this appearing is a beautiful thing.”

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