Sunday 18th June 1905 marked an epoch in the history of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic congregation, Blantyre, for on that day the magnificent new church, erected at a cost of £9,000 was formally opened with all the solemn grandeur and impressiveness known to be associated with the Church of Rome.
The fact that Archbishop Maguire, the highest ecclesiastical authority of the Glasgow Diocese to which St Joseph’s was attached, was announced to be present to perform the owning ceremony was, in itself, sufficient inducement to the parishioners to turn out in large numbers.
The weather conditions during the opening morning were of the most unfavourable description. Rain fell heavily at frequent intervals. While this doubtless had the effect of preventing many people from Glasgow and distant parts of the county from being present, the spacious building was fairly well filled by the time the service commenced.
The congregation, whilst mainly comprised of the parishioners, included many visitors from Hamilton, Motherwell, Burnbank, Cambuslang and Rutherglen and also a large number of influential local families who were attached to other churches in the district. The service consisted of Solemn High Maas (Canon Archie-piscopo), and a brief but impressive sermon by His Grace the Archbishop.
Inside, the altar was tastefully decorated with flowers, and on the Gospel side, a throne had been erected for the Archbishop, in whose presence Mass was celebrated. The celebrant was the Rev. Dr. Hackett. Parish priest who was assisted by Father O’Neil, Bothwell, as sub deacon. Fathers Hackett. Whifflet and Corley, Blantyre, were masters of ceremonies and in attendance at the Archbishop’s throne were Rev. Provost Chisholm of Paisley; Canon Ritchie. Diocesan secretary and Canon Toner, Rutherglen. In the sanctuary were Dean M’Avoy, Hamilton; Father Arsenius, 0.E.M.. St. Francis of Glasgow and Father Brown, Burnbank.
The Mass was celebrated in Latin, the prayers being recited by the priests and the church choir making the responses. Besides the clergyman, a number of smartly attired acolytes were in attendance, and the scene on the altar with its Archbishop’s throne, its light candles and flowers was most inspiring.
The service was followed with rapt attention throughout, especially by those who were in a Catholic Church for the first time in their lives and to them the entire function, with all its splendour and formality was as mysterious as it was solemn and impressive.
The choir had an arduous and trying task to perform and under the leadership of Mr A. McManus, they succeeded remarkably well. During the course of the service, his Grace Archbishop Maguire ascended the pulpit, and preached an eloquent sermon taking for his text the words—”ln the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
At the outset, he said his first duty that day – it was a very pleasant one and thank God, one he was often called upon to fulfil in this diocese—was to congratulate them on the completion of this beautiful new church. Their mission had been in existence, independently since 1878. and they had witnessed years of steady and continued progress. They had attended first to the things of foundation: they had taken care that their children should be well educated and that their schools were well looked to. This was the true foundation of all congregations for there would be little use of building churches unless they built schools.
Now, at last, when they felt that the congregation had struck deep roots into the ground, they were justified in doing what he knew they wished to do long ago, i.e. build a church worthy of God and his Holy Name. They had done an unselfish thing. This was no mere place to meet in, but above all things, it was the House of God. God would be pleased if he saw they had done their best. They could say they had done their best. They had imitated their Catholic forefathers and, like them had done what they could.
In conclusion, his Grace prayed that God would give them and their zealous pastor health, happiness, and prosperity in their new church. There was again a large congregation at the service in the evening when an eloquent and appropriate sermon was preached by Father Arsenius.
The photo is of poor quality, but importantly, it was one which was taken on that very day of opening.