CLOSING MASS AT ST. JOSEPH’S, BRYNAMMAN
And so it was, on a warm, sunny evening on the 1st of May, the church of St. Joseph was filled by present and past members of the parish, together with visitors from other churches in Brynamman. Several people also came from Ystradgynlais, which has always had a close relationship with Brynamman; the parish priest of Ystradgynlais has always been responsible for Brynamman as well.
The closing Mass was celebrated by Bishop Mark together with Fr, Peter Preston SDS, the Provincial of the Salvatorians; Fr, Alex McCaskill SDS, the Vicar Provincial, who is based in Thornbury, Gloucestershire; and the present parish priest, Fr. Thomas Kochalumchuvattil Msfs. Bishop Mark, introducing the Mass, told us that on reading the booklet produced for the service, he had realised that he had a special link with Brynamman. The parish of St. Joseph was set up in 1959, when Fr. Gregory Brightling SDS was parish priest; Fr. Gregory had a twin brother, Fr. Hilary, who a monk at Belmont Abbey, and who was Bishop Mark’s novice master. Very strict, as Bishop Mark remembered!
The homily was preached by Fr, Peter Preston, who spoke of the great things that had been achieved in St. Joseph’s over the forty-eight years of its existence. He assured us that all the Salvatorians had been thinking of and praying for the Brynamman parish, just as the people of St. Joseph’s had prayed for them over the years.
Fr, Peter acknowledged the sadness that is felt by so many over the closure, but said that we should also look back in thanksgiving for the witness given over forty-eight years in this area. Little acorns produce big oaks; the church owed its existence to the efforts and commitment of so many people. The building was purchased from the British Legion, maintained and blessed, through the work of the people of the district and the Salvatorians in Ystradgynlais. When it opened as a parish church in April 1959, it was debt-tree from the start; people in the parish have cared for it over the years. Some have moved away; some have died; the altar was dedicated in memory of Dr. Warner, one of the founder members.
The oak tree that has grown so well for forty-eight years now dies in order to give new life, though it may be hard for us to see how. The local church is not just the building; it is the community, the priests and people who have made this parish what it is. The lives of its people have given continual witness in the area, and for that we thank God.
Speaking at the end of Mass, Bishop Mark said that on such an occasion it was always hard to know what to say. He thanked the parish for the letter, which had been sent to him when news of the closure was given out, agreeing that it was a natural reaction to ask ‘why here?’ The question of closing parishes had been discussed at the recent meeting of the Bishops’ Conference, and many had said how much it hurts a bishop to have to do something like this. As Bishop, he had to look at the whole diocese, not just one area; we are short of priests in the diocese, and he always fears that the religious orders will say they can no longer spare men to help him. Many parish priests are suffering from stress because of over-work, and it is likely that any future priest in Ystradgynlais will have to help to look after other parishes. We need to pray for vocations, to pray that there will always be priests to serve in this area. Finally he reminded the congregation that we are the building of the Church, and that this is more important than any parish building. We must trust in Almighty God’s goodness, and He will not let us down.
Fr. Pester Preston then thanked Fr. Thomas for his work in the parish; although not a Salvatarian, Fr. Thomas had come in to help when the Salvatorians were themselves; short-handed; he is a Salvatorian by adoption! We all know how much Fr. Thomas has done, and Fr. Peter’s words were greeted with loud applause.
After Mass, the priests and the congregation went down to Brynamman Rugby Club, where a buffet had been laid on through the hard work of many people in the parish. Most people had honoured the request to ‘bring a plate of food’; by the look of the tables, some has brought two! The rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough, and the parishioners of Ystradgynlais look forward to welcoming the parishioners of St. Joseph’s into Sacred Heart, Ystradgynlais, where we hope they will soon feel at home.
A Short History of its Beginning and Existence
The village of Brynamman is situated on the foothills of the Black Mountains. The district comprises some hundreds of acres of common land. The scenery from Ystradgynlais to Brynamman is typical of many Welsh mining villages, with shops, houses and winding roads. The nearest Catholic churches are in Ammanford, Clydach and Ystradgynlais, which in the 50’s made Mass attendance difficult for people living in Brynamman.
At this time Dr. Warner used to attend Mass in Ystradgynlais picking up parishioners on his way, Mrs. Maureen Rees, Mrs. Joe Doyle and Mr. Joe Walsh. Mr. Walsh had been walking from Cwmtwrch to Mass in Ystradgynlais every Sunday. After a time he noticed that there may be enough Catholics living in the vicinity of Brynamman to warrant a church. A meeting was arranged to which 80 Catholics attended where they agreed to approach Fr. Gregory Brightling SDS, the Parish Priest at Ystradgynlais at that time. He had only been there for a few months but he decided to come to the meeting to see what could be arranged about starting a church. He arranged for Mass to be celebrated every Sunday at 5pm in a hall at Brynamman. Dr. Warner paid for a hired car to call and collect Fr. Gregory every Sunday.
Land to build a church could not be found in the area but after a great amount of fund raising enough money was raised to purchase a hall, which had been used by the British Legion.
Letters were sent to different parishes to get help raise the money because there was a lot of work needed to be done before it could be used as a church. It needed a new roof and the furniture had to be completely renewed. Quite a lot of money came in from the appeal and when the church was opened in April 1959 it was free of debt.
Our special thanks go to
Jackie Wykes and Arthur Meredith, Editor of the Menevia News for the