Hundreds praise Stratford priest for 50 years of service

Father Francis Conway with his 50th anniversary cake.

Father Francis Conway with his 50th anniversary cake. - Credit: Archant

Hundreds of people came to St Francis of Assissi Roman Catholic Church in Stratford to celebrate a Golden Jubilee.

The church was marking Father Francis Conway’s 50th year of priesthood with a concelebrated mass.

“There were over 200 people who came to the mass and meal afterwards,” he said. “It was a happy occasion.”

The mass was led by the parish priest, Father Michael Copps, along with Father Kiaran Fitzsimons, Father Juniper Adams, Father Danny Convery and Father Jorge Ortiz.

After being presented with a photographic album documenting his life in London, Newcastle-born Father Francis said he was happy to have served Newham.

He was a Franciscan novice at Chilworth Friary in Surrey during the 1950s.

He then joined the Royal Air Force before being ordained as a dedicated follower of St Francis in 1965.

Most Read

“I came to the priesthood after four years in the RAF,” he said. “I first came to east London when my order sent me to Stratford in 1978.

“I have found peace, contentment and fulfilment being a priest here.

“I have been around the country a bit – I’ve worked as a social worker in both Surrey and Gateshead.

“But I came back to serve St Francis of Assissi 10 years ago as I’d been the parish guardian there previously.

“Since then, I have settled down here very well.”

Donnall O’Fearraig, a helper at St Francis of Assissi, said the service was packed with well-wishers and that Father Francis has always been an accessible and popular priest.

“It was a full house,” he said. “You couldn’t have fit any more people in.”

He believes that Father Francis is popular with his parishioners because his sense of humour has helped him to connect with them.

“He’s very down to earth,” he said. “He’s very normal and he likes to have a joke.”

During his 50 years of priesthood, Father Francis has also served parishes in Bristol, Dundee, Ascot, Chilworth, Nottingham and Craigmillar.