A PRIEST is set to mark 50 years of service to the church.

Canon Christopher Cunningham, parish priest at St Alban’s Church in Bewsey and Sacred Heart Church in Whitecross, will celebrate his golden jubilee on Saturday, May 20.

He follows in the footsteps of his great, great uncle Father John Placid Whittle, who was parish priest at St Alban’s and celebrated his own golden jubilee 100 years ago in 1917.

Originally from Wigan, Father Chris was in the first batch of priest to be ordained at Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral on May 20 1967.

He said: “When I was a teenager God was calling me to be a priest, so I finished my education and then went to seminary.

“My ordination took place the week that the cathedral was opened - I served as a deacon at the first service on the Sunday, and then the following Saturday 19 of us were ordained as priests.

“I said my first mass the following day in my home parish in Wigan.”

After ordination, Father Chris taught chemistry and physics at St Joseph’s College in Upholland, where he studied to be a priest, for 20 years before coming to Warrington in 1992.

He has now been at the parish, which also covers Warrington Hospital and previously included the now-demolished St Anselm’s Church in Dallam, for 25 years.

Around 400 members of the congregation will join bishops and the archbishop in a mass celebrating Father Chris’ service to the priesthood at St Alban’s on Bewsey Street on Friday, May 19.

Father Chris, who has also been chaplain to five of the town’s mayors, added: “It will be a special occasion “In 1992, I came here and I’ve been here 25 years – it’s my first and only parish.

“Being thrown into parish work was a bit of a change from what I’d done as a teacher and we had three churches, three schools and the hospital in those days.

“I’ve enjoyed being here with great people who are very supportive – they’re just lovely people who have always made me very welcome.

“When I first came here I said I was from Wigan, but that that was the last time I’d mention it and after 25 years I consider myself to be a Warringtonian.

“Being a priest has changed in some ways but the calling is the same.”