This area was originally part of the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Seacroft.
In 1954 Fr. Moriarty, the parish priest, bought land for a separate parish to serve the new Swarcliffe estate. Fr. Maudsley, the first parish priest, came to a parish without church or presbytery. He lived in a council house at 59 Swarcliffe Drive, and weekday Masses were first celebrated there. Confessions were heard through the dining hatch in the kitchen. Meetings for the newly founded Society of St. Vincent de Paul were held at the house, and the SVP has given uninterrupted service to the people of Swarcliffe ever since.
The house was not spacious enough for Sunday Mass so arrangements were
made to celebrate the Sacrament in Seacroft Village Hall. Fund raising began so that a church and presbytery could be built.
The building began on 12th March 1956 and the new church, which doubled as a hall, was opened by Bishop John Carmel Heenan, on 11th October. The perimeter wall and car park were built by voluntary labour from the parish. The first Confirmation at St. Gregory‘s took place in December 1958 when 96 young people received the sacrament.
Fr. Maudsley moved into the new presbytery in 1960.
The St. Gregory‘s Union of Catholic Mothers was founded shortly after the opening of the church and offered help and support for the young families attracted by the new housing development.
In September 1964 St. Gregory‘s School was opened.
In 1967 Fr. Donal McKay, parish priest, decided that a Mass Centre was needed to serve the village communities of Scholes and Barwick-in-Elmet. Arrangements were made to use the Miners‘ Institute for Mass on Sunday and Holy Days. This was the setting for Catholic worship for 27 years until the Rev. Roger Wild, rector of All Saints, Barwick, offered the use of the Anglican parish church in 1994. Regular Sunday celebrations of Mass for the Catholic community began at All Saints on Sunday 6th November. We are grateful to the Rectors and the Parochial Church Council of All Saints for the use of the church for Mass and for the excellent ecumenical relations with them and the Methodist Church.
In April 1969 work on the new St. Gregory‘s church began and a second school building was opened in September.
The new church was opened and blessed by Bishop Wheeler on 12th March
1970. The following Christmas the parish Mass was broadcast on Yorkshire
Television. The original Church Hall was converted into a Social Club which
opened on St. Patrick‘s Day 1971.
The Social Club is now run by a committee who have refurbished the property
and provided much needed additional income for the church.
At Easter 1974 the parish boundary changed to include the new housing development at Whinmoor – formerly part of the parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Mass was celebrated in "The Local" at 11 a.m. each Sunday. In 1976 Fr. Edward McSweeney, parish priest, took Bishop Wheeler around the Whinmoor development and permission was given to approach Leeds City Council to fulfil their promise of a site for a Catholic Church to serve this area. A half acre plot was made available in 1978, the expense being personally borne by the bishop who was pleased that a chapel would be built close to the site at which the Pagan King Penda was defeated by the Christian King Oswy, assisted by prayers of St. Hilda of Whitby. The bishop was asked to choose a patron for the proposed chapel of ease and he suggested St. Margaret Clitherow, who was martyred at York on 25th March 1586.
The chapel, which was to serve the area for some 25 years, was opened and
blessed by Bishop Wheeler on 11th December 1981.
On September 5th 1985 St. Gregory‘s Primary School celebrated its 21st birthday.
In 1986 meetings began for the second reorganisation of Catholic Schools in
The Middle School, created after the first reorganisation in 1978, closed in July 1989, the Silver Jubilee year of St. Gregory‘s Primary School. A new St. Gregory‘s Primary School was created in the middle school building and the "little school" closed after a year‘s overlap in July 1990.
On 25th November 1994 the parish celebrated its Ruby Anniversary. To mark the occasion and to acknowledge the debt owed to all those who had contributed to the parish, the Parish Council asked Bishop David Konstant to formally consecrate the church. In preparation for this the grotto statues were restored to their original glory, the sanctuary carpeted and the altar rails removed.
At the Consecration the bishop offered the following prayer,
"Lord, fill this place with your presence,
and extend your hand to all those who call upon you.
May your word, here proclaimed and your sacraments here
celebrated, strengthen the hearts of the faithful."
In September 1998 the parish welcomed its first parish Sister, Nora Dowd. She has done great work preparing candidates for the sacraments of initiation, arranging funerals, weekday Eucharistic services, Penitential Services and pastoral care.
On the feast of St. Gregory the Great, September 3rd 2004, we celebrated fifty years of parish life. Bishop Arthur Roche wrote,
"The 50th anniversary of the founding of a parish is an important milestone in the life of a community. It is a moment for celebration and also reflection.
The gift of faith is very precious and how we nurture it is most important. What we have received in trust we must now hand on with courage.
For 50 years the people of St. Gregory‘s have kept the flame of faith, the light of Christ, burning brightly in this part of Leeds. This is a time for rejoicing and for praying that we too, may be as courageous as those who sacrificed to give us this inheritance."
In 2004 St. Gregory‘s Primary School received a very good OFSTED report. The head and the staff were pleased with the report and the letter of congratulations that followed. Sadly, due to falling roles, the school was closed by the Diocese in July 2008.
In common with much of the western world we have experienced falling numbers at Mass, but those who remain have shown a high level of commitment. A number of Eucharistic Ministers visit the sick each week. A group of people take pride in keeping our church clean and tidy and welcome people to the weekend Masses. Visitors often comment about the church and the warm welcome they receive. We have beautiful flower arrangements especially on the greater feasts of the liturgical year. All our lay ministers renew their considerable commitments once a year. It is great to see the number of people involved in the life of the parish.
The Parish of St. Gregory The Great, A History 1945 – 1994
St. Gregory The Great, Swarcliffe, Leeds, Golden Jubilee
Researched and written by Fr. Paul and Sylvia Williment