Father Kavanagh – Denaby Catholics tribute to a Faithful Pastor

July 1920

Mexborough Times, July 10, 1920.

Father Kavanagh
Denaby Catholics tribute to a Faithful Pastor

On Tuesday evening, at the Denaby Main Hotel, the Roman Catholic of Denaby Main, Mexborough and Conisbrough paid eloquent and practical tribute to their lately retired pastor, the reverent T.B. Kavanagh, was returned from the active ministry of the Roman Catholic Church, after 50 years spent in the priesthood, including 26 years at Denaby Main.

About 80 members of the community assembled for tea, which was thoroughly enjoyed, and later a wallet containing £110 was presented to Father Kavanagh. Mr John Duran presided over an enthusiastic company, which included the reverent C. Leteux, formerly of Hemsworth, and more recently of Barnsley, who succeeded Father Kavanagh in the care of the Denaby Main community.

The wall it was presented to father Kavanagh by Mr Edward Feeney, spoke of the Rev gentleman´s pioneer work in the district, of his tireless devotion to the Catholic cause, of his unfailing sympathy and support for all in need of ale, and of the prodigious labour and patience with which he had raised in Denaby Main a church and a Catholic tradition, which was meant to endure while Denaby Main last.

He also spoke of the affection and esteem in which Father Kavanagh was held, and of the eagerness with which Father Kavanagh’s flock had availed themselves of the opportunity of testifying to it.

Mr M.T.Neary, secretary of the Testimonial Fund, then read the following illuminated address, which was also presented to Father Kavanagh:

The Rev Father Kavanagh, Parish Priest of the Catholic Church at Denaby Main.

We, on behalf of the members of the Catholic Church at Denaby Main, where you have laboured and ministered unto us for the past 25 years, deeply and sincerely regret you feel no longer able to act as shepherd over your little flock at Denaby amongst us, but we recognise that after 50 years devoted service in God´s vineyard the rains of your priestly office must necessarily be difficult to hold. We desire to place on record our high appreciation of the great interest you have evinced, not only in our personal welfare, but in the Catholic cause in Denaby. We are not forgetful of the many arduous duties that have devolved upon you during the many and arduous years you have had charge over us, but those duties you have always regarded as a labour of love, and we thank God that you have been spared to see the fruits of your labours in this parish.

The Church you have striven so hard to erect for us and for our children will stand as a lasting memorial to your name and memory, and serve to remind the Catholics of Denaby for generations to come of all you have done and tried to do, for their spiritual welfare.

We are glad to know that it is your intention to still reside in our midst, and we sincerely hope that you may long be spared in health and happiness to enjoy that we pause from your active duties which you have so well earned.

Signed on behalf of the parishioners
E.Feeny, J.Doran, M.T.Neary

Father Kavanagh, responding, said it was a great joy to be assembled with them that evening, not because of the money they had been generous enough to present to him, for he thanked God that he had never felt any great love of money, but because of the spirit in which they were gathered.

He was not now their parish priest – that privilege belonged to Father Leteux, whom they were also glad to have with them that night -but he was their first parish priest.

He served the “things which were unseen,” and it was because of that 26 years ago he declined the first-class parish of Barnsley to come to Denaby Main, where there was then, from the Catholic point of view, nothing. He had not been a talker.He hoped he had preached the truths of their holy religion, but he did not believe in talk or in what was called “push,”but he did believe in work.

He knew he had his faults; nor man was more conscious of them, but he had given the greater part of his life to their services, and to the service of the things which were unseen. He had served as a clergyman since 1868. He was in no sense, suffering from senile decay. He did not feel the weight of years, and was not incapacitated. There was no duty in the Church that he was not capable of fulfilling.

Yet Nature warned him at times that he must be careful, and he felt he had a right to a little rest. He should continue to say Mass, to pray for them, to visit them, and to be their friend to his life´s end. (Applause.)

Mr. Catterall said he would like to endorse the tribute that are being paid to Father Kavanagh. If long service and loyal devotion to duty count for anything, then Father Kavanagh had well earned his retirement. (Hear, hear).

This was a fitting opportunity to extend a cordial welcome to Father Leteux. Most of them hadheard of his activities in the Hemsworth district; indeed, his fame spread through the West Riding. They welcomed him as their parish priest, and assured him that they would endeavour to make his life among them as bright and happy as possible. (Applause.)

Father Leteux said he was very grateful for the opportunity of paying his tribute to Father Kavanagh, and he was indeed glad to see that the Denaby people were not unmindful of the long and faithful service Father Kavanagh had rendered them. He came there when there was not even a shelter in which the priest could say Mass. He came to an atmosphere which was hostile to the Catholic religion; he lived that down and won the hearts of the people. (Hear, hear). He (Father Leteux) had a similar experience when he went to Hemsworth.

Nobody took the slightest notice of him first and then, one man remarked that he “seem to have a fine pair of boots.” (Laughter.) “Yes,” he answered, “and I am going to wear them out on you.” (Laughter.) And he did; he wore many pairs out on them. (Laughter, and here, here.)

Father Kavanagh had left behind him a sufficient monument in the beautiful church and presbytery which had been erected in the parish, largely through his energy and courage. He was very glad indeed that Father Cavanagh had decided to settle among them, and would continue to be with them at Mass. He listened with emotion to the address, in which worthy sentiments were expressed. He trusted they would never forget a priest who had done so much for them. Father Kavanagh had lived in great harmony with the people of Denaby Main. Though it was sometimes necessary to fight sternly for a cause, and to present and unyielding front to opponents of it, Father Kavanagh had contrived always to keep the faith and to do his duty with the upmost gentleness, amiability, and charity, and enjoyed as a consequence the esteem of non-Catholics. They all hoped he would be spared for many years to enjoy his rest, and they would never cease to think of him with affectionate regard. (Applause.)

During the evening an excellent entertainment was provided by Miss Hunt, Mr A. Parker, Mr Barnes, Mr Dooley, and others

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