History of St Gerard's
As the need for new housing in Bellshill still remained, the available land was now on the north side of the town, and considerable building, both private and by the County Council, took place their in the 1960’s. This caused another hiving-off operation, and a new Parish was established to serve the growing Catholic community in the northern part of Bellshill.
The Parish of St Gerard was founded on 1st September 1967, under the charge of Father Patrick J. Moss, to serve the North Road & Hattonrigg area of Bellshill. Having within the boundary of the new Parish, one of the finest Maternity Hospitals in the country, naturally it was dedicated to St. Gerard Majella, Patron Saint of Expectant Mothers.
While awaiting construction of the present Church, the Parish was given the use of the former Noble Primary School, situated then to the right of the west end of Lynnburn Avenue, in the North Road, Bellshill. The Parish was given the use of the premises through the kind cop-operation of the Lanark County Council. The school was so named after a famous teacher, Alexander Noble, F.E.I.S. - Headmaster there for 51 years from 1873 until 1924 - who became a legend in his lifetime and who had the distinction of having a road in Bellshill named after him. In the building, three classrooms were converted into a pleasing little chapel. Other classrooms served as a centre for meetings and the usual parochial activities. All this was conducted by Father Moss and a faithful and hard-working Parish Council.
Construction of the new Church building began in December 1969 on the present site in the heart of the Shirrel housing estate and was completed in May 1971. The official opening ceremony took place on Sunday, 13th June 1971, celebrated by Bishop Francis Thomson, the then Bishop of Motherwell. Since the opening of the Church and Presbytery, a Parish Hall and large car park have been added and in 1973, St Gerard's Primary School was opened on the ground to the north of the Church.
Since the Parish's founding in 1967, the population has continued to grow as more families have moved to the Parish with the building of the Clay Crescent council estate, the Scottish Special housing estate, Westgate estate, Rosehall estate and more recently the Meadow Rise estate, just off the Hattonrigg Road, and The Oval estate which is built on the site of the old Bellshill Maternity Hospital.
Rev. Patrick J. Moss, the first Parish Priest of St Gerard's, initially lived in a council house in Mavisbank Gardens until the completion of the Presbytery. One of his first functions was to form a Parish Council whose primary aim was to help raise funds to clear the cost of the new Church and Presbytery, costing at that time in the region of £100,000. The Society of St Vincent de Paul was inaugurated to serve the new Parish, a Church Choir was established to lead the congregation in liturgical celebrations, a Women's Guild was formed and also a Youth Club. Many of the original groups are still active within the Parish today.
During Rev. Patrick O'Hare's time as Parish Priest, the Parish saw the introduction of Ministers of the Eucharist, at that time four in number, and also Lay Readers. He also introduced a Novena to St Gerard which took place every Thursday evening and drew huge crowds, not only from our own Parishioners but members of many local Parishes. The Parish Hall was also built and opened during his time.
Rev. Timothy Brosnan became Parish Priest on the 21st October 1984 and was to remain in our Parish for over 27 years, making him the longest serving and one of the most respected Priests to serve St Gerard's. Shortly after his arrival in the year 1986 extensive damage was done to the Church when, on the 16th May, the Sanctuary was completely destroyed by fire. The Church was closed for repair for several months and Mass was celebrated for Parishioners in St Gerard's Primary School on Sundays and in the Parish Hall on weekdays. The Church was reopened in time for Christmas 1986.
In reparation of the wanton destruction and profanation it was decided to expose the Blessed Sacrament for short periods during the week. This grew into daily exposition from 10.00am until 7.30pm each weekday in the Marian Chapel of St Gerard's, with Parishioners praying continually before the Blessed Sacrament. This devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament continued to grow in our Parish and was a most treasured focal point of our Parish community.
For nine years, September 1986 until September 1995, Father Brosnan was assisted by Sister Patrick Joseph from the order of the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy. He was then assisted by Sister Brigid of the same order from 1999 until August 2007 when the order sadly left the area. The Sisters played a large part in the life of our Parish and no history of St Gerard's would be complete without mentioning in more detail the Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy. Click here to find out more about the Order and their impact on our Parish and Community.
The Parish has also witnessed a deep renewal of the faith within the community with the Laity playing an ever greater role in the life of the Parish. The Laity are more involved than ever in the various ministries within the Parish as they take up the challenge presented to them by the Second Vatican Council of their important role within the life of the Church. St Gerard's has a thriving Society of St Vincent de Paul (SSVP), Union of Catholic Mothers (UCM), Care Group, Parish Choir, Music Group, Children's Liturgy and Youth Club. A large number of Parishioners are also involved in the life of the Parish in many other ways serving as Readers, Altar Servers, Ministers’ of the Eucharist, Sacristans, Pass Keepers and a number of younger parishioners have become more involved in recent years through the Pope Benedict Caritas Award. Our Parish saw the introduction of girl Altar Servers' in 2011 by Father Brown.
Over the years there have been a number of pilgrimages arranged from the Parish. Groups of Parishioners have travelled to many religious and holy places such as Rome, Lourdes, Fatima and Poland as well as the annual pilgrimage to Knock led by Canon Brosnan for many years.
In more recent years much work has been carried out in the Church to maintain the centre of our Parish and faith community. Despite being a more modern and simple Church building it has always been treasured and much loved by the Parishioners of St Gerard's as it lies at the heart of our community. Recent improvements have included the replacement of the roof cladding which was damaged by bad weather. This has helped to freshen up and improve the exterior of the building. There has also be a new organ and sound system installed, some changes have been carried out to the Sanctuary and more recently, a new heating system was installed in both the Church and Presbytery.
In September 2013, St Gerard's Parish was linked with its mother Parish of The Sacred Heart. Our Parish Priest, Rev. Michael Brown, who was our fourth Parish Priest and had arrived in St Gerard's in March 2011, was appointed Parish Priest of St Brendan's Motherwell by the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese, Bishop Joseph Toal. Rev. Kevin McGoldrick was appointed as his successor whilst remaining Parish Priest of The Sacred Heart Parish. This was initially met with some sadness and trepidation by Parishioners as they feared for the future of their Parish, however through the pastoral care and support offered by the Clergy, both Parishes, which had already held close links, have grown even closer and continue to support each other, whilst retaining their own individual identities.
Our Parish was honoured in June 2014 when the newly installed Bishop of Motherwell, Rt. Rev. Joseph A. Toal, chose the Presbytery of St Gerard's as his Bishops' Residence. He has since been very active in our Parish community and regularly joins us for the celebration of Holy Mass.
The Golden Jubilee of St Gerard's Parish was celebrated in 2017 with a special Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop Joseph Toal and clergy associated with the Parish.
In 2018, the two parishes serving the town of Bellshill, the Parish of Sacred Heart and the Parish of St Gerard's were officially amalgamated to become one new parish of Sacred Heart & St Gerard. After nine years in Bellshill, Father Kevin McGoldrick left our parish in 2020 and Father Stuart Parkes arrived to take up appointment as Parish Priest, joined by Deacon Jim Aitken.
Today, our community continues to grow and flourish in our faith and love of Christ. We give thanks to God for the blessings bestowed upon this Parish and pray for His continual protection of our Parish, Church, Clergy and Parishioners.
St Gerard Majella, pray for us.