Man of humour, devout priest

A cheery wave from Father Anthony Grimshaw on his scooter 'Silver' in Chipping.
A cheery wave from Father Anthony Grimshaw on his scooter 'Silver' in Chipping.
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Chipping’s priest celebrates 50 years since his ordination with a reunion, special mass and village party – plus a trip to Rome to meet the Pope

HE is a self confessed “man of humour,” but also a dedicated and passionate priest.

As Father Anthony Grimshaw, 74, flew out to Rome on Monday, looking forward to a personal audience with Pope Benedict XVI to mark his golden jubilee in the priesthood, there was much on which to reflect.

Father Anthony, as he likes to be known, had just celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination in the village of Chipping where he has been parish priest at St Mary’s Church for the last three plus years.

On Monday he was also returning to the city where he was ordained by Archbishop Aloysius Traglia, Vicar General of the Holy Father in Rome and an important cardinal, on October 29, 1961.

This took place at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Piazza Navona, after seven years of philosophy and theology studies at the Gregorian University of the Venerable English College.

But prior to the trip to Rome, among a party of 62 priests marking 40th, 50th and 60th anniversaries in the priesthood, Father Anthony marked his half-century at a special reunion held annually with fellow priests with whom he studied and was ordained and which this year took place in Oxford.

This was followed by the celebrations in Chipping which included a special mass at St Mary’s followed by a party attended by more than 200 people including fellow priests, family, friends and parishioners. It was held at the village hall.

During the party Father Anthony was presented with two surprise gifts – a papal blessing from Pope Benedict applied for by the parish and presented by parishioner John Joyce plus a cheque.

He said: “It was wonderful. I am elated. The party was what I wanted, a real village celebration.

“The vicar and his wife and the minister from the congregational church and his wife came, as did my family, priest friends and friends from over the 50 years.

“I still love it in Chipping. It was a happy day and everyone said how wonderful the food was.”

Among the guests were also the Vicar General of the Salford Diocese, Father Anthony Kay, Canon Paul Mitcheson, Father Joe Wareing and a chum from schooldays, Father Richard Taylor.

But on a more serious note, as he looked back over the years – to a vocation which has not only seen him serving at parishes throughout the Salford Diocese, but much further afield – Father Anthony said it was being able to grant forgiveness through the sacrament of reconciliation that had given him the most fulfilment.

He said this was one of the aspects of a priest’s job that was perhaps the least spoken about and one of the most satisfying things, when someone “returned to God’s love.”

“I have been in Kenya, in London, in Longridge, in Italy, I have even heard confessions in Italian. People are just so happy to have forgiveness. Seeing the joy that comes to people who confess some misdeed is wonderful,” he said.

“They go away truly rejoicing. People go for years without confessing. It may be having hit their own mother or father. Penance is the sacrament of reconciliation.

“A priest in confession is a teacher, a doctor and then a judge. You could say a priest has to be a good psychologist. You have to have ears to listen, to teach, to advise and then at the last you judge.”

Throughout his priesthood, Father Anthony says he has always tried to have an optimistic outlook on life and tries to share this with others. In Kenya, because he was always so cheerful, he was given a Kenyan nickname meaning “smiling”.

“I have a disability in walking but I don’t let that stop me getting about meeting people,” says Father Anthony.

He has become a familiar figure in the village and further afield – even up Longridge Fell – on his beloved motorised scooter nicknamed “Silver” and which has recently been replaced by “Silver Mark 2”.

Wherever he “scoots along” with his usual great gusto – be it visiting the elderly and sick; to a village event or to say his prayers on a summer’s evening – there is nothing Father Anthony enjoys more than people stopping for a natter with him, with people’s curiosity in “Silver” usually instigating the opening line of conversation.

“I just say God knows me more than I know myself and he has made me slow down and I am usually finding a way around that,” he said..

“My 10 years in Italy (transforming the Villa Palazzola into a pilgrim centre) and my six years in Kenya (carrying out mission and development work) are obviously special in my memory, but I just say thanks be to God, that apart from normal ups and downs, I have had good health. A heart attack and bypass (which led to his posting to Chipping) I just take as part of the ageing process.”

Father Anthony says he is looking forward to “the next however many years” and starting the new sacramental programme with the children when he returns from Rome.

“The work of the parish goes on. We will be preparing the children for first communion and confirmation and I am also looking forward to a new warm house and church as we are in the throes of changing the boiler,” he added.

One of the things Father Anthony says he has learnt over the years is certainly patience and as he looks forward to the next chapter, believing the best piece of advice he can give people is to “love your neighbour as you love yourself.”