Lancashire Treasure Trove
Two Jesuit parishes came together last week as a group from SFX Church in Liverpool braved the torrential Preston rain to visit the community at St Wilfrid's Church. All received a great welcome at mass, a magnificent three-course lunch and then an informative guided tour of the Harris Museum. This is a little known gem of Preston, currently hosting paintings from the Belgian surrealist Rene Magritte, as well as the Cuerdale Hoarde, the second largest discovery of Viking silver just outside of Preston. The Harris Museum also has a beautiful presentation of the history of Preston including a section dedicated to the famous Jesuit Fr Dunne.
Rev Joseph ‘Daddy’ Dunne SJ (1746-1827) was a Jesuit priest and an entrepreneur who made his mark on history as the man who brought public lighting to Preston, the first such city outside London. This obviously made the streets safer and helped begin the process of ‘taming the night’. As a Jesuit, he had access to a variety of houses in the UK and Europe enabled him to create a network of businessmen who would help him import gas to Preston. When the worldwide Society of Jesus was suppressed by the pope in1773, Fr Dunne continued working as a priest but was not allowed to be a Jesuit and therefore was no longer bound by the vow of poverty. He worked in his lab to improve coal gas lighting so it would burn brighter and longer, and he established the Preston Gaslight Company. When the Society of Jesus was restored worldwide in 1814, Fr Dunne remained a diocesan priest, allowing him to continue his business dealings unimpeded. However, on his death, he left much of the property and wealth he had accumulated to the newly restored Society of Jesus
Enlightened by their trip to Preston, the Liverpudlian pilgrims returned home in good spirits, Monica from SFX said, 'It was wonderful to receive such generosity and friendship and also great to now know where the saying 'One in every Preston Guild' comes from!' The group from SFX especially thanked Geoff, Patrick, Herma, Hilary & Fr Stephen Patterson SJ from St Wilfrid's.