Message from Fr McShane
“St Mary’s Lanark has always been a classically beautiful church. Indeed, in the estimation of many, it is perhaps the brightest jewel in the crown of churches within the Diocese of Motherwell.” These very fitting words were written by the late Bishop Joseph Devine, then Bishop of Motherwell, to mark the 150th anniversary of St Mary’s Lanark.
Many people since 1859, but especially in recent years, have wondered why a small market town, like Lanark, came to have such a majestic, almost Cathedral-like church. The answer lies with the Monteith Family who played an important and significant part in Victorian Britain, and the proceeding years. Robert Joseph Ignatius Monteith was the only surviving male heir of his father, the late Henry Monteith, who had inherited the family cotton business and also established himself as a fine politician and MP for Lanarkshire Burghs in 1821.
Robert Joseph Ignatius Monteith, born in 1811, studied at Cambridge, and there he joined The Oxford Movement; a group of high Anglicans, led by John Henry Newman, seeking social, economic and cultural change. It was as part of this group that Robert Monteith converted to Catholicism, along with John Henry Newman, Thomas Bowie and many others. Robert Monteith was undoubtedly the most influential and significant Scottish Catholic layman of his time. In 1859 Robert built St Mary’s church, as a sign of faith for the people of Lanark, establishing The Monteith Trust, which for many years ensured the maintenance of the church buildings.
Robert Joseph Ignatius Monteith, after building our beautiful church, was responsible for bring the Vincentians to St Mary’s in 1859, and they were joined by the Daughters of Charity a year later. The Vincentian Fathers were responsible for the church and its mission until 2006 when St Mary’s was handed over to the care of the Diocese of Motherwell, and Fr Joseph Brannigan was appointed the first diocesan Parish Priest of St Mary’s Lanark. The Daughters of Charity are still resident, and active within the parish, even to this day.
Through the centuries the Monteith Family have played an active part in the life of St Mary’s, and even to this day, the current Robert Monteith still attends Sunday Mass and other Liturgies. The front right-hand pew in the church proudly displays the plaque, ‘Reserved for the Monteith Family’, and we are happy to say Robert uses it every Sunday.
In 2010 Fr Joseph Brannigan, along with the parishioners of St Mary’s, embarked on a Renovation/Restoration Project that would change St Mary’s forever. It was due to the hard work, and vision, of Fr Joseph and the parishioners of St Mary’s, that we now have such an opulent church. St Mary’s Lanark is very much the “brightest jewel in the crown of the Diocese of Motherwell”, and one that we, the people of Lanark feel very proud to call our parish church.
Our fervent hope and prayer is that St Mary’s, building on our proud history and legacy, may continue to serve the Catholic community of Lanark and be for those who visit our church, a beautiful and worthy dwelling place of the Lord for many more years to come.
Fr John-Paul McShane