As the Diocese continues to celebrate its centenary year, we look back on our history and give thanks for the blessings bestowed upon the Church in our small part of the world. It was therefore fitting that on Sunday 10th July 2016 the present Archbishop of Cardiff, Archbishop George Stack, should offer an open-air Mass in the grounds of St. Joseph’s High School, Newport.
Newport and its surrounding areas have a long a significant history for the people of Wales. Close to the border with England, the Roman Empire established a significant presence in the small town of Caerleon, just outside the city, as a site of strategic value. Newport was also a major port destination within the Severn Estuary and still welcomes a few ships that dock to load and unload their cargo. The area has also served as one of the major UK sites for the Steel industry at Llanwern.
In the history of the local Church Newport has been home to some notable people. The early martyrs St Julius and St Aaron are know to have had an impact on the area. Llantarnam Abbey was once home to a great Cistercian monastery that once served the historic shrine of Our Lady of Penrhys. On the roads surrounding the area, the priest and martyr St. David Lewis was arrested and taken for trial and execution for the crime of being a Catholic Priest. But closer to modern time, Newport was the place chosen as the focal point for the new Catholic Diocese of Newport and Menevia, when following the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829), the Catholic Church in England and Wales was once more allowed to have formal structures with Dioceses headed by Bishops.
The Bishop of Newport was the Rt. Rev. John Cuthbert Hedley, affectionately known as “Deadly Hedley”. Under his guidance the local Church grew free from persecution. He laid down the foundations for the founding of the Province of Wales with the Archdiocese of Cardiff being the Mother See. An act he did not live to see, but whose centenary we celebrate in this year of 2016.
Archbishop Stack was joined by a gathering of local clergy and people in the grounds of the High School to give thanks for the role Newport has played in the life of the Diocese. The Miraculous Relic Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was brought to the celebration for public veneration. Mary, Mother of the Church, protectress of the unborn, watched over her children and her children approached her with their prayers for the future of the Church within our Diocese and for their own private intentions.
The weather held out for the occasion, even if the breeze was not as gentle as the breath of the Holy Spirit!