The Holy Family R.C. Church Mossend  

The statistical account of 1836 for the parish of Bothwell tells us that the total population was 6,581,and of these only 118 were Catholics. The chief occupation was weaving and Mossend is not even mentioned. Within a decade or so all that was to begin to change dramatically. In that same year, 1836, the first Catholic mission in Lanarkshire was established, at St.Margaret's, Airdrie. Rapid growth in the coal mining and iron and steel industries and the expansion of the railway network brought a great demand for labour. At the same time the Great Famine of the mid-1840’s led to the exodus of thousands of Irish families from their own land. Many of these settled in the West of Scotland, especially in Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

In 1859 a Catholic mission was set up in Chapelhall, the priest in charge being Father James Milne, from the Enzie, Banffshire; in his care were included the Catholics of the Holytown, Mossend, Bellshill area. Nine years later, in 1868, Father Milne opened a new chapel-school in Mossend, dedicated to the Holy Family. It is from that event that we date the beginnings of Mossend as a parish, though in fact Father Milne continued to be in charge of both Chapelhall and Mossend and indeed resided in Chapelhall for another two years or so after which he took up residence in the new presbytery built at Mossend. Eventually, in 1873, Chapelhall and Mossend became independent missions, Father Milne remaining in charge here until 1881.

During these years the population of the district was increasing rapidly. Evidence of this is to be seen in the fact that Father Michael Fox, who succeeded Father Milne in 1881, immediately set about the building of a large extension to the school, giving it an accommodation for 460 pupils. It had begun in 1868 with a roll of 140. Accommodation for church services, too, was no longer adequate and in 1883 work began on the erection of a new place of worship. The Scottish Catholic Directory for 1885 reports: "On 16th November (1884) there was opened at Mossend a very beautiful church designed by Messrs Pugin and Pugin of Westminster... one of the neatest, most chaste and elegant in this part of the country."

The concluding years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th saw a steady growth in the size of the parish. Immigrants continued to come from Ireland and, especially from the early 1900s, large numbers from Lithuania. From 1895, with the arrival of Father Charles Daly, the parish priest had the assistance of first one and then two curates (in the 30s and 40s there were three) and in 1904 Father John Czuberkis became the first of five priests to live here with special responsibility for the pastoral care of Lithuanian immigrants in our community and throughout the West of Scotland. The last of these Father Joseph Gutauskas lived here from 1934 till 1941 when be moved to St Columba’s Glasgow. He died in 1983 at the age of eighty six. Much loved and esteemed not only by his compatriots but by all who knew him, priests and lay people alike, a legend in his own lifetime.

As Early as 1904 parish priest Father John Scannell saw that the increasing growth in population would soon necessitate new school premises. Thanks to his efforts and those of a committee of parishioners he set up, a new school was finally opened in 1907. From that day till now parishioners of Holy Family have begun their formal education in that fine building, under the care of a succession of dedicated headteachers and staff to whom the parish owes an incalculable debt. The school roll continued to increase (in 1926 it was over 1800) until the opening of St Patrick’s New Stevenson in 1929.

The depression of the 20s and 30s brought hardship and hunger to most families and as pits and steelworks closed down, many moved to Fife or Corby and Scunthorpe in search of work. At the same time parish life was vigorous as Catholics found strength and support in their faith.

Associations like The Sacred Heart Confraternity the C.Y.M.S the K.S.C and not least the Boys Guild flourished and contributed much to the life of the community.This remained true during and after the Second World War. These years too, saw the fruits of the faith,courage and sheer hard work of the Irish and Lithuanian navvies, miners steel men and railmen whose hard-earned coppers had built Holy Family church and school, as their children and grandchildren began to play a more prominent part in the professions and the life of the local community. Teaching, law medicine, music and politics local and national, not to mention football-at all levels, are only some of the fields where parishioners distinguished themselves. Well known, too, is the proud record of the parish in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

The post-war years saw a great increase in the building of new churches and the erection of new parishes. In 1946 St John Bosco's, New Stevenson was established and three years later Sacred Heart, Bellshill. This and the subsequent building of the Sacred Heart school in 1959 obviously led to a great reduction in the size of Holy Family parish and the school roll.

Today our numbers are further reduced. Our children still receive a sound preparation for adult life In recent years a fair number of young families have taken up residence in the parish, giving new hope of life in the future. We pray that we may face that future in the same spirit as our forefathers confident that, with God's continued help and our efforts, his work in Mossend may be accomplished for many years to come.












Lent 2009



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