Welcome to Saint Mary’s Church, Harborne, Birmingham, UK.

Order of St. Augustine.

Archdiocese of Birmingham

“Before all else, live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.”  St. Augustine.

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Fr. Bernard O’Connor’s  Homily to celebrate

     Fr. John’s Golden Jubilee of Ordination

              for Sunday 22nd March 2020

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Fr John’s Golden Jubilee of Ordination.


I had the honour of preaching at Fr John’s Ordination to priesthood fifty years ago and I now have the honour again of preaching at his Gold Jubilee Mass.


Today we are celebrating 50 years of Fr John’s priesthood:  50 years of Baptisms, 50 years of celebrating the Eucharist, of preaching the Word of God, of absolving sinners in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, 50 years of solemnising marriages, of conducting funerals.


Fr John’s ministry took him from chaplaincy at Birmingham University, in Newman House to being parish priest at St Augustine’s, Hammersmith, then parish priest in Great Yarmouth, given the sad task of saying farewell to the congregation as the Augustinians felt the need to reduce their commitments, then parish priest in Broomhouse, Edinburgh before finally returning to Birmingham, this time as parish priest here at St Mary’s, after a brief sabbatical at Hawkstone Hall.


Pope Francis is constantly insisting that a priest should be something more than a functionary, important though these functions are.


Pope Pius X wrote a letter to Catholic Priests on the 50th anniversary of his Ordination to Priesthood,  from which I quote.

He spoke of the priest as being ‘another Christ’, a man of God.  Christ himself the model of priests who first taught by deeds and then by words.

He describes the priest as preaching the Word of God, hearing confessions, visiting the sick and dying, instructing the people in the faith, comforting the afflicted, bringing back wandering sheep to the fold, in every way imitating Christ.

He tells too how Christ was wont to retire to the desert or to go alone to the mountains to pray.


Pope Francis addressed priests, for example,  at the Mass of Chrism in the year 2013.

He spoke of the priest as ‘being for others’.  When we put on the chasuble, it might well make us feel, upon our shoulders and in our hearts, the burdens of our faithful people.

A good priest can be recognised he says, by the way his people leave the Mass, looking as if they have heard good news.  They like it when the Gospel we preach touches their daily lives.

They are encouraged to entrust to us everything they want to bring before the Lord:  ‘Pray for me, Father, because I have this problem.’ ‘Bless me.’

He tells us to be shepherds living with the smell of sheep, shepherds in the midst of their flock.

He insists that we ‘go out’ – he uses that expression ‘to go out’ - among the people, giving ourselves and the Gospel to others.

He laments that a priest who never goes out of himself becomes a mere manager.  He bids us go out into the deep waters of the contemporary world, where the only thing that counts is ‘unction’ not function.


As Pope Pius X bids the priest be another Christ, we look at what Mark’s Gospel, for example, tells us about Christ.


‘There was a man with an unclean spirit .. Jesus rebuked him saying, Be silent and come out of him.  And the unclean spirit came out of him.’

Later he tells us ‘in the morning he (Jesus) rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.’


He tells how Jesus called the tax collector Matthew to follow him, which Matthew did immediately,and later in the day celebrated with his friends, including Jesus, ‘..many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and he was eating with them.  The scribes and Pharisees asked ‘why’.  He replied ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick.’

There was his instructions to the twelve as he sent them out for the first time to preach his Gospel:

‘’Take no bread, no bag, no money and wear sandals ... do not put on two tunics .... and they cast out  many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick.’


Jesus fed 5000 not because he had any obligation to do so, but because they were hungry. He hurried to the house of Jairus because his daughter was seriously ill.  On the way, in spite of his urgency, he found time for the woman suffering from the haemorrhage, and ensured not only that she was cured but that she had overcome the shame that was attached to her condition.

He healed regardless of Sabbath regulations.


One could multiply the examples, but I am sure you have seen the parallel between the priest as another Christ and Fr John.


He has a special gift of being able to engage in intimate conversation  someone he had never met before, where they feel relaxed, for example in a pub over a pint. On occasions he discovers a desire for something more in life and the person ends up attending the ABC course.

This is Fr John’s own version of the process for possible admission to the Church, it is About Being Catholic, open to anybody who wishes to know more about the Catholic Church, Catholic or otherwise.  Those who are not Catholic are eventually invited to make a decision whether or not they wish to enter the Church at the Easter Vigil.

Over the years, Fr John has been instrumental in bringing hundreds of people into the Church.


We thank God today for his fifty years as a priest, as another Christ in a secular world, and pray that the Lord will grant him many more years of health and energy to reap the harvest of souls.

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(For Fr. John Reid’s Homilies please click this link HERE.)http://www.saintmarysharborne.org.uk/homily2.html

Fr Bernard O'Connor, so much a part of St Mary's Parish community and the Augustinian Friars in Britain and Ireland - and a much loved and respected senior member of the O'Connor family (98 members) - finally passed away peacefully, surrounded by nurses, on Ward 407, QE, today (Thursday 16th April) after 3 weeks struggling with COVID 19 and initially pneumonia.

He had been regularly visited - at times twice daily - by Fr Charles Miller,(Catholic Chaplain at QE) and the medical and nursing staff communicated daily with Fr Bernard's nephew, Simon O'Connor, a GP in Sheffield, who together with Fr Charles and Dr Vlad, spoke daily with one of the Friars at St Mary's. Those in closest contact with Fr Bernard in the QE have been amazed by his tenacity, none of us expecting him to hold on for so long.

Our conviction: Bernard will be his full active self, healed of all infirmities, in the presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Father Bernard, - known to his extensive family as Dermot(Der) and to the NHS as Philip, - was the first Provincial Superior of the English-Scottish Province from 1977 to 1981. He served for years in Carlisle, both in Austin Friars School and St Augustine's Parish, then at St Peter and Paul's Parish, Dundee, then in St Augustine's, Hammersmith and latterly in St Mary's, Harborne.

Fr Bernard's Requiem Mass:

The Augustinian Friars' community at St Mary's, Harborne, will celebrate Father Bernard O'Connor's  Requiem Mass at 11.00am, Friday 24th March in St Mary's Church, followed by burial alongside fellow friars in our adjacent private Cemetery.

At a later date, once Churches are allowed to re-open, there will be a Thanksgiving Memorial Mass here, open to his extensive family, to Friars and to former and current parishioners.

Fr. Bernard O’Connor. RIP.

(This was Fr. Bernard’s last Homily:)

Please click here for Fr. John’s Eulogy  
       at Fr. Bernard’s Requiem Mass.http://www.saintmarysharborne.org.uk/eulogy.html