Grantham Journal Big Interview: Catholic priest retires from ‘the best parish’

Father Antony Dolan in the gardens of his home at St Mary's.
Father Antony Dolan in the gardens of his home at St Mary's.
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After 12 years working and living at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Grantham, Father Anthony Dolan, 76, is retiring from what he describes as “the best parish”, and returning to where he was christened and ordained.

What led you into Catholic priesthood?

Both my parents were committed Catholics – my father was born in Dublin and my mother was from Lancashire. After marrying they moved to Nottingham, and I was born and christened in Bulwell. I knew what I wanted to do from quite an early age, and started theological college in 1957 before being sent to continue my studies at Innsbruck, Austria. I spent six years there, and it was incredible. I came back to Bulwell in July 1966, where I was ordained priest on the 10th anniversary of my father’s death. Then to my surprise I was asked to teach philosophy at a college in Sutton Coldfield for three years. Afterwards I was a curate at West Bridgford, and have served all over the East Midlands, including at Leicester, Ashbourne, Ilkeston, Melbourne and Castle Donington. In between this I spent two years at a monastry in the Isle of Wight, and have been archivist of the diocese. I came here in October 2003, and Grantham is the best parish I have been to.

What achievements are you particularly proud of?

I helped set up the East Midlands Airport chaplaincy. I used to go there regularly but in 1997 with the death of the Princess of Wales and the amount of people who wanted to pay their respects, I thought about how there should be somewhere for passengers and staff. Five of us – myself, an anglican, baptist, methodist and pentecostal – all worked together to set the airport chaplaincy up, and it continues today. I have also been very involved with Grantham Hospital and have enjoyed working with St Mary’s School. I’ve also been able to use the different languages I speak to reach out to the different communities here.

Any other memories that stick out?

We had a lot of support from the community when Pope John Paul II died. I met him once briefly, and also Pope Benedict XVI, who complimented my fluency in German!

What are your plans now?

I am going back to Bulwell. I will still be involved with the church, but not doing regular parish work. Father Christopher O’Conner is taking over here, who I know will continue our ongoing work in the parish. I have been very blessed with the people I have been able to work with during my time. I have leant a lot from them.

* Father Anthony’s final mass is on Sunday, coinciding with the church’s annual garden party at Belvoir Lodge, home of the Dowager Duchess of Rutland. Following a penitential procession at 10.45am, the mass will start at 11am and take place in the open air on the ruins of the Benedictine Priory. There will then be jazz in the courtyard at noon and a fun dog show at 2pm. All are welcome.