The Gabalfa housing estate was built in the late 1940s and early 1950s in response to the demand for decent housing in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Families from old, but damaged parts of Cardiff, and the outlying areas were brought into the new housing. Many families displaced by the effects of bombings during the war were part of staunch Catholic communities, especially in the Docks and Newtown areas of the city. These families formed the nucleus of what became a thriving Catholic community.
At first, the only way to attend Mass was to embark on a long trek to either St. Teilo’s or to St. Joseph’s. Eventually, arrangements were made to have one Sunday morning Mass in the local area. This was held in the Territorial Army Barracks in the artillery room, between two immense anti-aircraft guns. This, of course, held untold fascination for the boys, but the space for running and sliding around after Mass was enjoyed by all the children.
A group of mothers soon got together and organised themselves into a branch of the Union of Catholic Mothers and began fundraising for a real church building. They met in an old boxing club attached to a local pub. There, all kinds of events were arranged, and in the mid-1950s the existing church was built, paid for mainly by a concerted effort and pennies scrupulously saved and collected. The building was originally meant to be a temporary church until a more permanent one could be built in the grounds.
The first Parish Priest was Fr. Fitzsimmons who worked hard to sustain this vibrant community. The altar of the church was cleverly screened off and the building became a parish hall. Here the great fundraising efforts continued, especially the very successful ‘bingo’, the proceeds of which paid for the present parish hall, with the church becoming the lovely sanctuary it is today.
After some time, Fr. Fitzsimmons moved on and Fr. (later Monsignor) Gerald Chidgey became Parish Priest. He was a Canon Lawyer with the Cardiff Metropolitan Marriage Tribunal, dealing with marriage annulment cases for the Archdiocese. Although Mass was celebrated most weekday mornings, he had to juggle his work in the parish with these other duties. He left after twenty years, leaving behind a church, hall and presbytery all paid for.
Mgr. Chidgey was followed by Fr. Mills. A lively young man, he had a very good relationship with the parish and its people. His stay, however, was short and he moved after only a year.
Fr. Torney followed, remaining as Parish Priest for eighteen years. During his tenure the grounds were renovated and the side chapel was soundproofed for mothers and babies. He also set up a Parish Advisory Council. A choir was set up and the new Liturgy was brought into use. Fr. Torney spent a lot of his time working with families and the sick, visiting them often. A very good housekeeper took great care of him.
Upon Fr. Torney’s retirement Canon Tom Keane arrived. He enhanced the Liturgy (also introducing a Children’s Liturgy), appointed additional Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, allowing them to visit the housebound, and extended the list of Readers. The church hall was also renovated and, with the help of his housekeeper and several parishioners, he redecorated the church. After eight years Canon Keane retired due to ill-health.
Following Canon Keane’s retirement the parish became subject to Archdiocesan pastoral reorganisation and so the parish of St. Teilo’s with Our Lady of Lourdes was formed, the two parishes once more becoming one. Canon Edward O’Connell, who was the Parish Priest of St. Teilo’s, became Parish Priest of the new enlarged parish. He was initially assisted by Fr. Richard Reardon until he was transferred to Newport.
Canon O’Connell retired in January 2014 and returned to his native Cork. He was succeeded by Fr. (now Canon) William Isaac who had grown up in the area. Canon Isaac had been Parish Priest at St. Mary’s in Bridgend for 19 years and oversaw the building of a new church, hall and presbytery in that parish.
Many from St. Teilo’s attend the Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday evening at Our Lady of Lourdes, with many from Gabalfa travelling to St. Teilo’s for Sunday Mass. The enlarged parish now enjoy a wider range of social activities together.
Fr. Peter Marden and his wife Carole were in residence at Our Lady of Lourdes from 2007 to 2011. Fr. Peter did much to enhance the Liturgy and celebrations on special occasions. He rekindled the social life of the community, becoming involved in greater ecumenical work with other local congregations and with other faiths, including a local Muslim community.
In the many years since the establishment of Our Lady of Lourdes, the children of the original families have grown up, many of them getting married and moving away. Despite dwindling numbers the spiritual life of the community has remained vibrant.
With thanks to Frank Lane, a parishioner at Our Lady of Lourdes, for providing most of the parish history of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Click here for the St. Teilo’s page of our parish history.
If you have any photographs or stories of parish events or interesting times that you would like to share with fellow parishioners and the world we would love to know! Please contact us.