Catholic Llandeilo - Part 4
Llandeilo Catholic Church after 1987
With the opening of the new Church of St David, Fr Conleth O'Hara CP, the Parish Priest, had the grotto built which is dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. The terraced garden and statues of our Lady and St Bernadette enhance the front of the Church grounds and are a prominent landmark in the town, being on the main road to Carmarthen.
Not long after building the Church of St David Fr Conleth was asked to take on board the responsibility for the Catholic Community in Pontyberem. The church in that village was in a very run down state and this set the challenge for Fr Conleth to build another church, Holy Cross Church. This split responsibility was a direct result in the shortage of ordained clergy.
In the early 1990s the Passionist Community left St Mary's Retreat and the parish in Carmarthen, handing responsibility to the Diocese and secular clergy. With the exception of one elderly priest of his order left at St Non's Retreat in the extreme west of Pembrokeshire. Fr Conleth was, after many years, the last Passionist working in Wales. He gave over 25 years of his ministry to the Llandeilo people where he was popular with both the Catholic and non-Catholic Community alike. He retired in November 2000 and moved to his Passionist Community in Highgate, London. The acute shortage of priests placed the Catholic people in a situation without a resident priest.
Fr Jason Jones had not long been appointed Parish priest at the Llandovery Parish of Our Lady and he was instructed by the Bishop to look after Llandeilo as well. Fr Jason has a great devotion to our Lady and he was responsible for the installation of the Lady Altar at St David's. Fr Jason was only responsible for the parish for just over a year and, in December 2001, he moved to the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Lampeter and then on again to be the Rector of the National Shrine of Wales at Our Lady of the Taper, Cardigan. His successor was unable to look after the Llandeilo Parish so there was another change in the priestly order.
Responsibility for Llandeilo now moved to Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Ammanford. The Church was now the responsibility of Fr W F (Frank) Maher SJ. Fr Frank was a Jesuit and an ex Provincial of the Society of Jesus. He was a young-at-heart octogenarian who had come out of retirement to help with the shortage of clergy. He had already rebuilt a parish church on the south coast of England and fund-raised for, and rebuilt, the church in Ammanford. He was resident in Ammanford but used to travel to Llandeilo every day for daily Mass and to look after the community. In 2004 Fr Frank had a long period of declining health and he had to give up his parish duties early in January 2005 to become the chaplain to the Tyburn Convent at Marble Arch where he died on the 11 November 2005.
From late 2004, while Fr Frank was unwell, until August 2005, various supply clergy looked after the two parishes. The main responsibility however rested with the Carmelite priests at Our Lady Queen of Peace, Llanelli. One of these, Fr John Fitzgerald, O. Carm., had in fact, been responsible for the Catholic folk of the Llandeilo area in the 1960s, when the Carmelites were at Tregib and before the Passionists arrived from Carmarthen.
Some stability returned in August 2005 when we welcomed Fr Neil Evans. He was newly ordained in the Catholic Church but had many years experience as a minister in the Church of England. As with Fr Frank, he looked after both Ammanford and Llandeilo. He lived in Swansea and travelled daily on alternate days to the two parishes. Llandeilo now had three weekday masses and a Sunday mass every week.
Fr Neil's stay was also short-lived and in January 2006 he was moved to become the Parish Priest at St Benedict's in Sketty, Swansea and also the Chaplain to Swansea University. The shortage of priests was now becoming an acute problem.
In January 2006, Fr Jacinta Rey Padua (Fr Jack) arrived to look after the two parishes. He resides in the Ammanford Presbytery. Fr Jack is a Filipino from the Diocese of Manila and has an additional responsibility for the Filipino community in the whole of the Diocese of Menevia. He has continued with the service pattern developed by Fr Neil, three weekday masses and a Sunday mass.
(Information on Llandeilo Catholic Church after 1987 has been kindly supplied by parishioner David Brancaleone.)Top