50 years ago, on 17 March 1973, a small group of priests and people came together to celebrate the feast. Little did they know the tradition they were establishing! Every year, barring one year forced online, people have gathered at St Michael’s to celebrate the feast of St Patrick and to bring together, in pride and in joy, the great Irish community of the North East of England.

The church is highly decorated with lots of green adorning the aisle and indeed the community present. Pews are full. The sound of the choir and musicians, loud and joyful, resounds around the church. Offertory procession of gifts is a little unusual on St Patrick’s Day. Trays of shamrock plants are carried forward and blessed as part of the service.

People never forgotten, the names of those lost over the year were read out aloud during this year’s mass. Those lost over the 50 years are also remembered. They celebrate here too, their names carried on the branches at the back of church.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rains fall soft upon your fields
And till we meet again
May god hold you in the hollow of His hand.

An Irish blessing

As you can imagine, there is no quiet ending to this mass! Applause and singing takes over while friendships are reunited, handshakes shared and stories no doubt recalled.

Principal Celebrant for the Mass was Bishop Emeritus Séamus Cunningham.

St Patrick's Day Mass 2023

With gratitude to Mike March for this story and allowing us to re-produce his images from the service. You can find out more about Mike through his Flickr account (Pilgrim Photography).