Father John Rafferty
Father John Rafferty is the parish priest of St Vincent's church. He was only appointed to the post last year, after completing a position at St Patrick's in Telford. In this interview, Father John discusses both his past and his aspirations for the future.
Father Rafferty is from Northwich in Cheshire, a town famous for its position on the Cheshire plain and salt deposits. When John was a child his family took an interest in the countryside, taking frequent walks across the Cheshire landscape. These were formative experiences, imbuing into him a love of nature. John enjoyed the contrast between the ugliness of a very ordinary town and the beauty of the surrounding environment.
John was born into a family of practicing Catholics, and was educated at the local grammar school in Northwich. In the 1960's, John trained for the priesthood at The English College in Rome. He actually returned to the same college in the 1990's, to assume the role of Spiritual Director. These experiences have awarded John with a knowledge of Rome, Italian people and The Vatican. He feels Italian people have a natural and strong faith, with religion being “in their bones.” Father John also admires their sense of family, which is one more of their qualities. The time he has spent in Rome has also helped him understand The Vatican. While that organisation is controversial, John holds the view that “the church needs its bureaucracy.” The Vatican is not perfect, and “all of human life is present there.”
Father John has observed the contrast between his previous parish and St Vincent's. St Patrick's in Telford was very much a reflection of that New Town. The parish and community were diverse, with Telford's population derived from the big cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Italian, Polish and Ukranian communities, which formed after war, also contributed to this disparate population. A recent wave of immigrants from Africa is also noticeable. In contrast, John found the parish of St Vincent's to be one of tradition and uniformity.
John's second impression of St Vincent's was how efficiently it was managed. The parish benefits from the many skilled professionals and specialists who volunteer their time. He also finds the level of participation to be positive, particularly the number of young families that attend mass on a Sunday morning. This year the church confirmed over 70 young people, and over 80 children made their First Holy Communion. John feels this is an indication that the parish is “healthy and alive.”
Despite this optimism, John comments that the Roman Catholic Church must embrace modernity and change. It's ability to communicate with young people is crucial. St Vincent's web site will ideally help the church do this, using a media that is relatively new and relevant.
John recognises that society is changing, and that materialism and celebrity culture are increasingly influential. The spiritual dimension to our lives is “being knocked out of us,” so the Church must try and redress the imbalance. John points out that we are “of this world,” so we may enjoy material possessions. However, more people should be free to enjoy their benefits, not just the few.
St Vincent's presbytery, overlooking