St Bernadette’s Parish History

1958 – The Church of St Bernadette’s, with a capacity of 330 people, was opened by the Right Reverend James Cunningham on the 16th July, 1958, to serve the Catholics of the expanding High Farm area in the north of the borough of Wallsend. Fr Tim O’Brien, the parish priest of St Columba’s initiated the building work.  

The date of opening coincided with the passing of 100 years after St Bernadette saw her last vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

1959 – Monsignor Charles Philip Cronin, the Bishop’s Secretary was appointed as the first permanent Priest in Charge of the new parish on March 7th, 1959.



1975 – St Bernadette’s First School was built on the site near Rising Sun Country Park and was opened on the 2nd September 1975

1988 – Monsignor Philip Cronin died on the 30th December 1988

1988/89 – Fr Richard Harriott and Fr Ian Jackson from St Teresa’s Heaton are given pastoral responsibility for the parish

1989 – Fr Gerard Lee appointed as parish priest on 18th April 1989

1992 – Parish Centre built. Following a parish meeting held on 29th January 1992, parishioners join forces under the leadership of Fr Lee to build the parish centre. The centre was opened by Bishop Ambrose in December of the same year.1994 – An extensive re-ordering of the Church was carried out

1995 – On the 16th October 1995, Bishop Ambrose re consecrated the altar in the re-ordered and re-decorated church

2001 – Fr Gerard Lee moved to St Edmund’s, Backworth and was replaced on the 14th August by Fr Simon Lerche


2006 – Fr Simon Lerche moved to St Paul’s, Cramlington and was replaced on the 3rd September 2006 by Fr Anthony Donaghue who also had pastoral responsibility for St Columba’s in Wallsend. Fr Pat O’Connell, a retired parish priest took up residency in the presbytery of St Bernadette’s.

2008 – 150 years after the vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St Bernadette and 50 years after the church opened, the people gathered to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at which Canon Seamus Cunningham, the Vicar General presided. 

2011 – Fr Anthony Donaghue relinquished pastoral responsibility for St Bernadette’s but continued to be parish priest of St Columba’s. He was replaced on March 15th by Fr John McElhone who also had pastoral responsibility for St Aidan’s in Wallsend

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