St Johns The Evangelist, Roman Catholic Church
Saturday: 6.30pm, Sunday 9.00am and 11.00am;
St John the Evangelist, Bridgnorth, Shropshire. 1855 to 2012
Diocese of Shrewsbury.
In 1829, the year of the Catholic Emancipation Act, Mass was said in Bridgnorth for the first time since the Reformation by Fr Moreton. This was organised by James Jackson from Eardington whose family were strong Catholics. At that time Catholic activity in the area was confined to the Canning family at Middleton Priors who possessed a recusant chapel at Middleton Lodge and also the Acton family at Aldenham Hall, near Morville, Bridgnorth. Several efforts were made to establish a mission at Bridgnorth with the generous financial support of Thomas Jackson and in 1848 the local Catholics gathered at the Cross Keys in Bridgnorth where they established a school later to become St John`s School.
The restoration of the Catholic Hierarchy was established in 1850 and in 1851 the Diocese of Shrewsbury was officially established on 27th July with the consecration of Dr James Brown as the first Bishop of Shrewsbury. Aldenham Hall was the centre of Catholic activity in the Bridgnorth area at this time and Fr Francis O`Neill was priest there until his transfer to Bridgnorth in 1855 to become the first resident priest. The parish of St John the Evangelist daters from this time. As education was the first priority of Bishop Brown, schools were to be built before churches. In order to benefit from any education grants, St John`s School was established in 1853 as recorded by Fr O`Neill (Shropshire Record Offices).
In 1856 a school/chapel was opened on 5th October, Rosary Sunday. The present church was opened on 24th June 1896 when the school/chapel was just used for educational purposes. The new St John`s RC School was completed on the Innage Gardens site in 1973. It had been transferred there in stages. The centenary of St John`s Church was celebrated with concelebrated Mass by Bishop Brian Noble in 1996. The 150th Anniversary of the establishment of St John`s RC School was celebrated in 2003 with Mass in the school grounds concelebrated by Bishop Brian Noble. 2005 was the 150th Anniversary of the parish of St John the Evangelist, Bridgnorth and Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Noble and several priests from the Deanery including Parish Priest Fr Iain Griffiths. .
Mention must be made of the service of Fr Cronin (1911 to 1953) and Fr (later Canon) Rudolph Luczka (1953 to 1991), eighty years between them, the like of which in the Diocese of Shrewsbury was totally unique.
Sources: Diocese of Shrewsbury Centenary Record 1851 to 1951 by Fr (later Canon) Maurice Abbott