St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Leeds Centenary Book.1905-2005

RCIA) Converts and Easter Baptisms

It is part of the Church’s Mission of evangelisation to provide instruction in the Catholic Faith to those of other or no faith who request it (catechumens). At St Augustine’s this has predominantly been the prerogative of the clergy although when the convent was open on Roundhay Road, some individuals received instruction from one of the sisters there. Records show that in 1934 there were fifteen converts and in 1935 there were eight.

With the gradual decline in priestly vocations, many of the traditional priestly roles have been delegated to members of the laity. At St Augustine’s changes started to take place in 1997 when parishioners were encouraged to attend Diocesan training courses to learn about ‘Alpha’ and ‘RCIA’. (Rights of Christian Initiation of Adults).

Claire McLaughlin explains, “We started running Alpha courses and RCIA courses in the parish about eight years ago. Since then we have learnt to adapt and use other material especially videos by David Wells. We haven’t used Alpha for a few years now as it hasn’t been appropriate for the people we have been getting. This years RCIA (2004-2005) was adapted and became RCIC (Rights of Christian Initiation of Children) because we had a lot of children although three adults also attended. Only two of the children were English born with an English Background. The adults and many of the other children came from French speaking African countries. There could have been a serious problem, for those who had French as a first language and were not yet at the stage in English at which they could fully understand what was being taught; but God does not leave us in the lurch! Roger Nyantou, friend and fellow-parishioner came to our aid as interpreter/catechist and the group was taught in both languages. Three infants belonging to the families attending instruction were also baptised at Easter, along with four other babies, making a total of twenty-eight baptisms on this occasion. Sixteen of the catechumens were considered ready to receive their First Holy Communion and the three adults were also confirmed and officially received into the Church.

Last year (2003-2004) it was more difficult as we had some immigrants from Pakistan who spoke Punjabi and some Africans who were learning English and we didn’t have an interpreter. Although they were learning English it was difficult teaching the faith in simple language because you can’t use any jargon.”

Justice and Peace

From John McLoughlin who moved into the parish in 1969:
“Following the call of the Second Vatican Council, to set up a Justice and Peace Commission in each diocese, Bishop Wheeler, in 1972/3, asked a young curate Fr. Michael Anthony Kelly at St Augustine’s to start one. Some very knowledgeable people were asked to join together with some of us ‘learners'. We met at St Augustine’s and members included John Battle (now an MP) and Julian Filokowski (until recently head of Cafod). Others were Chris Seneveratne and Margaret Cornforth. Eventually this Justice and Peace Commission moved its meetings to Burley Road Convent and went on to do great work in the Diocese, as it still does.

Memory really does fade but I think that after the Diocesan J&P moved its meeting from St Augustine’s, a parish group was set up. One of its activities was to learn about the other faiths in the area and members of other faiths were invited to a meeting in the church hall. This idea was something new and not welcomed favourably by every parishioner. A few were misguided into thinking it had associations with Communism.

It is difficult to appreciate now with how much suspicion some in the church viewed the Justice and Peace movement in its earlier stages, as nowadays we take it for granted that our faith impels us to social and political action on behalf of the poor and marginalized.

In recent years, because of the increase of repression and war abroad, I have become involved with helping destitute asylum seekers in Leeds. LASSN, on Roundhay Road, runs a scheme called Shortstop, which provides overnight accommodation for those asylum seekers with nowhere to sleep and I help to administer the scheme. Hosting strangers really is following Christ and about 30 people or couples, of faith or no faith, are presently hosts. The Saint Vincent de Paul Society helps and a few of our parishioners are hosts, although many more are needed.

A group of us also in the parish are trying to work, along with many others in the country, to put the church’s social teaching into practice by promoting Trade Justice, encouraging people to purchase ‘Fair Trade’ products and sign petitions. We aim to promote a greater awareness of third world issues and try to enable poor people in poor countries to work their way out of poverty.”

Left: Easter Vigil 2005 The eleven people who were baptised with some of their family members.

Right: Easter Sunday morning 2005 there were seventeen baptisms.