Celebrating 50 years in the priesthood just recently was Fr Francis Barnett, parish priest of St Mary’s, Nairn, and St Margaret’s, Forres
To mark the occasion, a social evening was held in the Nairn Dunbar Golf Club where he received numerous gifts from parishioners, including a travel and spending voucher, which was presented by 92-year-old Caroline Kelly, the oldest St Mary’s parishioner; a large framed photograph of himself, gifted by the younger members of St Mary’s; a memories’ book, compiled by the youth of St Mary’s who have made their First Communion and been Confirmed by Fr Barnett; and a painting of himself and two altar servers by Chloe Furze, of St Mary’s.
St Mary’s organist Hester du Plessis also came up with the idea of a specially-made anniversary card produced by two monks at Pluscarden Abbey – Br Cyprian and Br Finbar. The cover of this magnificent card depicts the mosaic of the Virgin and Child from the 13th century St Paul’s Benedictine Abbey in Rome – the same church in which St Ignatius of Loyola took his vows. There is also a depiction of the “fishes and bread” – copied from the mosaic on the floor of the Church of Tagba (Church of the Multiplication) in the Holy Land.
Among the clergy who attended the celebration were the Bishop of Aberdeen, the Rt Rev Hugh Gilbert; retired Bishop of Aberdeen, the Rt Rev Peter Moran, and Fr David Kaye, SJ, of St Lawrence’s Church, Dingwall. The Rev Steven Manders, of the United Reformed Church in Nairn, presented Fr Barnett with a gift on behalf of all the Nairn churches.
The social evening was organized by a committee of parishioners from both churches, while MC for the presentation of the gifts was the hugely entertaining Ray Atkinson, of St Mary’s.
Fr Barnett arrived in Nairn 15 years ago to replace Fr Gerard Hassay who took over from Fr Barnett at the Sacred Heart Church in Lauriston, Edinburgh.
Fr Barnet joined the Society of Jesus in London aged 17 where he studied for 13 years before being ordained at the age of 30 on August 6, 1963, at Holy Cross Church in Crosshill, Glasgow, where he grew up.
He then moved to Liverpool where he taught at St Francis Xavier’s College for four years before returning to Scotland to spend the next nine years at St Aloysius’ College in Glasgow during which time he gained a Diploma in Education, specialising in Comparative Education. He then spent some time in Norway, France and a little time in Spain.
In 1980, an invite from one of his contemporaries, Fr Patrick Cooper, to become his deputy head at Wimbledon College proved irresistible. The two men had been ordained in the same year.
However, just six weeks into the post tragedy struck when his friend died suddenly and he was appointed headmaster of the college.
Five years later he returned briefly to Glasgow before moving to Edinburgh in 1986 to become parish priest at the Sacred Heart Church before moving to Nairn in September 1998.
Fr Barnett’s Golden Jubilee wasn’t the first time the parishes of St Mary’s and St Margaret’s have come together in special celebration.
In July 2007, St Mary’s hosted the ordination of Damian Martell, from Forres – the first ordination ever to take place in the church, which celebrates 150 years in 2014.
Fr Barnett described his social evening as a great success. “All the work put in by everyone was excellent as was the card of the Madonna from Pluscarden.
“I’ve also now got a complete set of photographs of youngsters who made their First Communion and Confirmations going back to when I first came to Nairn so I can put up a picture gallery in our hall.”
On a light-hearted note he added: “I thought the photograph of the parish priest made the hideous look handsome!”
Fr Barnett (second left) with Bishop of Aberdeen Hugh Gilbert (left), retired Bishop of Aberdeen Peter Moran and Fr David Kaye. Looking on are some of the parishioners who attended the celebrations. In the back row is the Rev Steven Manders, URC
Article by John Dolan of the Nairnshire Telegraph