Fr Anthony Franey - 60 Years of Service
It was the year John F Kennedy became US president and Yuri Gagarin was the first human in space. Elvis Presley was top of the charts Spurs won the double and on the 8th of June, the Duke of Kent married Katherine Worsley. Just three days later, at St Joseph’s and St Teresa’s Catholic Church in the Yorkshire village of Woodlands near Doncaster, a young man was ordained a priest.
Born in Woodlands, Anthony Franey was the sixth of the seven children of Edward and Mary Franey, His father Edward had come to Woodlands to work as a miner in the huge Brodsworth Colliery. It was at St Joseph’s and St Teresa’s Church where he married Mary (the very first wedding at the church). The couple qualified for a miner’s house where they raised their family. Anthony attended the local parish school and was a regular altar server at St Joseph’s and St Teresa’s.
Although the parish priest had asked him if he had thought of becoming a priest, it seemed to him that the road to the priesthood would be closed to him as he had not had a grammar school education. So, on leaving school at fifteen, he trained as an electrician. The life of a ‘sparky’ didn’t really appeal to him and then, a chance conversation with one of his old teachers, gave Anthony fresh hope. With his parish priest’s support, he and another prospective priest went to see Bishop (later Cardinal) Heenan, the Bishop of Leeds. It was arranged that the two young men should be tutored in Latin and Anthony surprised himself by taking to it like a duck to aqua!
Back in Woodlands, the family received the news with mixed emotions. Edward was delighted at the thought of a priest in the family. Mary, Anthony’s mother, like any mother was upset at the thought of her son leaving home and his sister Kathleen declared, “Huh, if you are going to a priest, I’m going to be a nun!”She never did! Overall, there was great pride that one of the family had been called to the priestly life
Next came another visit to Bishop Heenan. Disappointingly, hopes were dashed as the Bishop had decided that his Diocese wasn’t in need of any more priests. Undaunted, they turned to the Diocese of Nottingham where they were interviewed by a steely eyed Vicar General and accepted as candidates for the Diocese.
To start his training, Anthony was despatched to St Mary’s College for late vocations in Aberystwyth, North Wales. He recalls the train journey, “It was a great new adventure as I had never left Doncaster!” After a couple of years he then moved to Allen Hall, the seminary for the Archdiocese of Westminster. Here he faced six years of study during which the miner’s son from Doncaster achieved his dream of answering God’s calling.
And so, we come to June the 11th 1961; a great day for the parish of St Joseph and St Teresa, for the Franey family and for the twenty -four year old Anthony.
The parish church was bursting at the seams, everyone eager to catch sight of the local lad. Edward and Mary and the family took pride of place during the moving ceremony of ordination. After prostrating during the Litany of the Saints, Anthony knelt before Bishop Ellis of Nottingham, who laid hands on him and pronounced the formula of Ordination. Other ritual gestures followed, and the new priest then concelebrated the Mass with the Bishop. Finally, he gave his first blessing to his parents, brothers and sisters, a moment never to be forgotten.
After the ceremony, the parish gathered for a celebration in the local hostelry near the church. Father Anthony then had the privilege of celebrating his first Mass the next day in the church where he had been baptised, confirmed and ordained.
As the Franey family had many relatives across the Irish Sea in County Mayo and in County Leitrim, Edward, Mary and Fr Anthony spent the next week or so catching up with them all. We can only imagine the great welcome they received and the joy of all the families at meeting the new priest.
Home again and Fr Anthony was packing his cassock and biretta and moving to St Mary’s Worksop, his first parish, where the young curate was welcomed by Canon Gryce the parish priest. A new priest for Nottingham Diocese and sixty years later, another celebration here in Radcliffe-on-Trent for our parish priest.
We give thanks for Fr Anthony’s life of service to God, to the church and the diocese and to us his flock. Bishop Heenan’s loss was our gain!
Article by John Boland-Lee