Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Wartime Ordination

(1) Harry O. Fitzsimons as a Senior Seminarian for the priesthood
(early in WW2)

(2) Newly-ordained Father Harry O. Fitzsimons with his parents and sister
(Photograph taken in May 1940)
[Use of Photographs courtesy of the Talbot Library, UCLAN, Preston]
For additional information about the wartime ordination of Reverend Henry Oswald Fitzsimons on Sunday 19 May 1940 please click on ‘Comments’ below’


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information (1)

During the war many people, at least in civilian life, attempted to carry on with their lives as normal as possible. While researching the Second World War period over a number of years I have come across photographs and accounts of special events in family life that tend to happen in times of peace and war: events such as births, baptisms, weddings and funerals, for example.

Recently, while visiting the Talbot Library (part of UCLAN), Preston, Lancashire to research another story, as my hometown is Whitehaven, Cumbria I was asked if I wanted to look at some photographs and information they held about the wartime ordination of a Whitehaven Catholic priest, the late Father Henry O. Fitzsimons. The photographs and article used in this article are therefore mainly based on this information.

A couple of the local neighbourhood libraries in my home area of West Cumbria had also asked about providing some wartime stories and photographs to coincide with the 70th anniversary of 1940 - the year of Dunkirk evacuation and the Battle of Britain. This ordination took place during this year of significant wartime events elsewhere.

Additional information (2)

After eight years of studying to be a Roman Catholic priest, Father Henry Oswald Fitzsimons (usually known as 'Father Harry') was ordained at his home parish of St Begh's R.C. Church, Whitehaven during the Second World War on Sunday 19 May 1940. In the wider world this late spring day was in the midst of one of the darkest periods of world history.

Sunday 19 May 1940 was just a few days after the disastrous Allied campaign to Norway. This had led to the resignation Neville Chamberlain as British Prime Minister and Winston Churchill being appointed in his place. On the European mainland the Allies were fighting yet another losing battle in Belgium and France. A large part of the B.E.F. would shortly be evacuated from the Dunkirk beaches.

The local weekly newspaper, ‘The Whitehaven News’ covered the ordination story in some detail in the edition of Thursday 23 May 1940. While there are also a large number of stories about the war situation most of this deals with the recent unsuccessful Allied campaign to Norway rather than events in France and Belgium.

Tuesday, 20 April, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information (3)

The following is a transcript of the account of the ordination from ‘The Whitehaven News’.


One of the most impressive ceremonies witnessed by the laity of the Roman Catholic Church took place at St Begh’s Church, Whitehaven on Sunday morning when the Rev. Henry Oswald Fitzsimons was ordained a priest by the Rt. Rev. Dr. T.E. Flynn, Bishop of Lancaster.

The significant portions of the service were the laying of the Bishop’s hands on the Ordinand, the anointment of his hands, the binding of the hands together with a white cloth.

A large congregation, which included the Mayor (Ald. J.B. Smith) and the Town Clerk (Mr. T.C. Bone), was representative of the whole of West Cumberland Catholicism.

In the whole history of the Catholic Mission at Whitehaven, extending over 200 years, only two ordination services have been held. The first was two years ago when the Rev. V. Fallona was ordained. He is a nephew of Mr H. Fitzsimons, Whitehaven, who has had a long service with St. Begh’s Church, having served at the Mass for upwards of 30 years. He is the father of the new ordinand, whose cousin, ordained two years ago, acted as sponsor at Sunday’s ceremony. Another member of the family, Miss Patricia Fitzsimons, took part in the service, presiding at the organ to accompany the Mass, sung in plain chant. She is a teacher at St Mary’s School, Kells.

The Rev. H.O. Fitzsimons was educated at St Begh’s and the Whitehaven Secondary School, and has trained for the Catholic ministry at St. Joseph’s, Upholland, Lancashire, for eight years. He will remain at the disposal of the Bishop of Lancaster and will serve as a priest in the Lancaster diocese.


Vested for High Mass, a procession of priests made its way through the body of the church to the chancel, where the Mass was celebrated by the Bishop. He was assisted by the Rev. A.A. Lightbound as archdeacon, the Rev. F.K. McCann as deacon, the Rev. T.A. Kervin as sub-deacon, Dr Toothill (Bishop’s Secretary) as M.C., assisted by the Rev. B.P. Jackson. The deacons at the Throne were the Rev. R.C. Hesketh, Workington, the Rev. C. Bloomfield, Harrington and the Rev. V. Fallona, Ordinand’s sponsor.

The order of the ordination is incorporated in the Mass, which follows the customary form to the epistle and gradual. Then the candidate is presented and the Bishop conducts an inquiry into his worthiness. The Bishop then gives a charge to the clergy and congregation, and to the ordinand. The laying on of hands, a most significant and impressive part of the service, follows the recital of the Litany, and afterwards the Bishop blesses the priest.

Then, symbolic of the mystic power of the priesthood, the Bishop adjusts the priest’s stole to signify that he has taken upon him the yoke of the Lord, and invests him with the chasuble, which however, remains folded at the back until a later part of the service.

A hymn familiar throughout Christendom, although sung in its original form, “Veni, Creator Spiritus”, precedes the anointing of the new priest’s hands. The Bishop takes off his gloves and replaces the Episcopal ring. An apron is spread over his knees and the Bishop, dipping his right thumb in the Holy Oil of Catechumens, anoints the hands of the priest in the form of a cross, and utters a prayer of consecration. The hands are then bound together with a white cloth and the Bishop invests the priest with the power to offer sacrifice.

Tuesday, 20 April, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


The Mass is resumed at the Gospel, and after the creed and offertory the newly-ordained priest celebrates the Mass with the Bishop. The priest takes Communion, and after the Bishop has conferred on him the right to forgive sins, the chasuble, with the words, “Stola innocentiae induat te Dominus” (“The Lord clothe you with the robe of innocence”). Finally, the priest gives a promise of obedience, is given the Benediction, and the service ends with the post-communion.

Miss Fitzsimons played the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (Bach), and the Allegro Vivace and Suite Boutique (Boellman) before the ceremony, which lasted about two hours, and at the conclusion, the Royal March by Charles Vincent.

Following the service luncheon was served by Batty’s in the Parish Hall when about 50 guests were entertained. Among the guests were Dr Flynn and the clergy who assisted at the ordination, and the Mayor and Town Clerk. The Bishop proposed the health of the newly-ordained priest, and complimented the Benedictines on the way in which the ceremonies had been conducted.

In the afternoon Dr Flynn conducted the sacrament of confirmation when 300 children and 20 adults were presented.

At night the Rev. H.O. Fitzsimons conducted the sacrament of Benediction, and afterwards a presentation of a chalice was made to him on behalf of the congregation by the Rev. A. Lightbound. This was followed by the kissing of the new priest’s hands by members of the congregation.

This ceremony was repeated after Father Fitzsimons’ first Mass, which was said on Monday morning. He was assisted at the Mass by the Rev. Lightbound, and his father, Mr. H. Fitzsimons, acted as server.



The Talbot Library, UCLAN, Preston, Lancashire

‘The Whitehaven News’

Cumbria County Archives service (Whitehaven Records Office)

Tuesday, 20 April, 2010  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

An ordination would not be a frequent event compared to a baptism, wedding or funeral for example. As the newspaper article I have transcribed refers to, this was only the second ordination at this particular church, the first one having been only a few years earlier, and the cousin of Father Fitzsimons.

It is still intersting to see these events still went ahead where possible, despite the war situation.

Saturday, 24 April, 2010  
Blogger Margaret Fitzsimons said...

I was interested to read the comments about Fr. H. O. Fitzsimons. It would appear that the 'Fitzsimonses', in England, are still flying the flag for the Catholic Church. Recently, in Liverpool, yet another Fr. Fitzsimons (Michael) was ordained recently. It is also about 10 years since the eminent local scholar, Fr. John Fitzsimons died. His eulogy, written by the late Archbishop Warlock of Liverpool, is well worth reading. Fr. John was greatly respected for his guidance during a serious dock strike in Liverpool He addressed the striking crowd and preached peace for still had sympathy for the strikers. He was a cordon-bleu cook and his best friend was a French bishop. My own paternal links are also in Whitehaven. My great great grandfather, Captain George Fitzsimons was born in Kilmegan, Co. Down (1825) but lived in Whitehaven for a while where my Great Grandfather, also named George, was born in 1849. Together with my great uncles: Henry and John. Their mother was Sarah Margaret Fitzsimons (nee Wise(man?) Captain George Fitzsimons was lost at sea prior to 1868 but given the enormous number of shipwrecks at that time, it is difficult to trace where his ship was lost. There are no surviving records. There is a record of a ship mastered by a 'Fitzsimons' which was lost in the Bay of Bengal but the time line does not quite fit my own ancestor. His wife was declared his 'relict' in 1869. He appears to have taken convicts to Australia at some stage: and sailed also to the West Indies and North America.
Also living in Liverpool, as his contemporary, was Captain William Fitzsimons (born 1823 in Castletown in the Isle Of Man) who had a steam-extra certificate and thus was able to command the new steamships out of Liverpool. Both men received their Board of Trade certificates around 1854. Captain William's son, George Fitzsimons, born in Liverpool ca.1850, was a respected businessman: a Shipping Freight Manager and a fair amateur artist who started the prestigious Liver Sketching Club which is still based in the Bluecoat Chambers in Liverpool. I have one of his watercolours although I have not yet discovered any direct link to my own family.
Margaret FITZSIMONS (Wirral, Merseyside: April 2010.

Tuesday, 27 April, 2010  

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