Text Box: St Marie’s, Southport
In the Pastoral Area of Southport and the Archdiocese of Liverpool

Contact:

Tel: 01704 531229

Email: stmaries.southport@rcaolp.co.uk

History of St Marie’s, Southport

 

*       22nd July 1840 – foundation stone laid

*       20th May 1841 – opening of Church        

*       Architect – Augustus Welby Pugin      

*       One of the first of the more important Catholic Churches erected in the Gothic style after the Reformation (the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 formally ended the Penal Days and so made the building of St Marie’s possible….several years before the restoration of the Hierarchy of England and Wales in 1850)

*       Originally often referred to as ‘St Mary’s’ (and still called that today by many of our brothers and sisters working in Southport from other countries) it became known as ‘St Marie’s on the Sands’ because it was actually built on the sand of Southport!

Whether called St Marie’s, St Mary’s or St Marie’s on the Sands, the Church is dedicated to Our Lady, the Mother of Jesus, the Queen of Peace…..under her guidance, year by year, the wonderful story of faith, hope and love has unfolded in this area

*       The 2 Schools and Presbytery were erected in 1842 (designed by Pugin)

*       In 1848 a house was built that later became the Convent (and is now the Parish House/Presbytery)

*       At this time many more people joined the parish (among them Catholics fleeing from the famine in Ireland) and so the Church was enlarged

*       In 1859 the Sisters of Charity of St Paul arrived to run the Schools

*       As the population of Southport increased it was judged that another Church needed to be built in the Birkdale area and so on 12th May 1867 St Joseph’s was opened

*       In 1875 numbers increased to such an extent that the Church had to be enlarged again, involving extensive work

*       The new school and convent were opened in 1876

*       As the population of Southport grew 3 new Churches were opened:- Sacred Heart, Ainsdale in 1878 (enlarged 1907); St Teresa’s, Birkdale in 1884; and Holy Family in 1892

*       In 1900 the Diamond Jubilee of the Church was celebrated

*       On 22nd October 1911 the Church was consecrated

*       In 1912 a chapel-of-ease, served from St Marie’s, was built in Marshside, known as the Church of St Patrick. It became a separate parish in 1934

*       In 1926 a Parochial Hall and Girls Club was built and opened by Archbishop Keating of Liverpool. It was well used for decades and was famous for many a Parish Dance

*       In 1931 a temporary Church was opened in the Hillside area, called Our Lady of Lourdes, bringing the number of parishes in Southport to 7. A new permanent Church was built in 1956

*       1941 was St Marie’s centenary year but owing to World War II no special celebrations were held

*       In the 1960’s liturgical reforms which followed Vatican II were implemented, making it possible for Mass to be celebrated facing the people

*       In 1967 St John Stone Church in Woodvale was opened, bringing the number of Catholic Churches in Southport to 8….and it remains that number to this day

*       The school built in 1876 served the parish for almost 100 years. Originally it catered for infants to seniors but in 1942 it became solely for the use of primary school children (as the senior children/young people were transferred to what is now Christ the King High School). St Marie’s school eventually closed in April 1968, when pupils and staff were transferred to the new St Patrick’s Primary school, which ever since has served the parishes of St Marie and St Patrick

*       In 1991 the 150th anniversary of St Marie’s was celebrated, with the highlight being the Mass led by Archbishop Worlock of Liverpool.

*       The role of Religious Sisters has been so important throughout the history of the church in Southport and we are still blessed today with the presence in our midst of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of Notre Dame

*       Central to our mission over the years has been caring for and educating our children and young people, supporting and cherishing the treasure of family life……and in this mission our schools have played a vital part, not least the 5 schools we still have in our area today

*        At the end of the 1990’s and at the beginning of the new millennium much pruning and reordering took place so that the parish could bear even more abundant fruit:-

>       Homes for retired priests created from the old presbytery and parish hall

>       As the sisters leave after years of magnificent service the old convent becomes the Parish House (and the place where the Parish priest lives)

>       Church reordered in a beautiful way, blending the old and the new in a powerful harmony

>       Church open each day 9a.m. – 4p.m. attracting 1,000’s of visitors from the North-West and beyond to Southport’s ‘little gem’ of peace and healing

>       Old school/parish centre/club becomes the ‘Marian Centre for Evangelisation’…..developing into a key place in the Archdiocese where people can be formed, grow and celebrate their faith

>       Space between the parish buildings opened up into a car park for the priest-residents

>       Cemetery developed into the ‘Garden of Hope’ with special space for the burial of the ashes of loved ones

>       Care for the needy, so wonderfully expressed through the SVP for so many decades, develops a new dimension through ‘Marian-Care’

>       Church restoration and redecoration work carried out (new roof, walls repaired, some windows renewed, the Cross on top of the building gold-gilded and becomes strikingly visible to many……and the old bell recast with the words of Our Lady inscribed ‘my soul glorifies the Lord’)

 

And so the story of the Catholic Church in the centre of Southport goes on and all who are connected to the parish are part of this journey of faith.

Through the simple historical facts above we can imagine the countless priests, sisters and lay members of the Church whose goodness and generosity has made St Marie’s what it is today. 

For 175 years the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven has been proclaimed here, with countless numbers of people worshipping the Lord in this place and helping others by their faith, hope and love to find the Way of Light, that is Jesus………..may you find Him, follow Him…..and be filled like us and Pope Francis with the Joy of the Gospel, the Joy of Love…..joining us in our eternal song ‘Laudato Si’……praise the Lord! Alleluia!

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