If it’s early January it must be time again for Leamington Spa Circle’s special Dad’s, Lads and Daughters Evening. Once again the emphasis was on the family and the event was widened to include nephews and nieces and in-laws. With no worries this year about severe weather conditions there was a good turnout of Brothers and their relations. Everyone enjoyed a good meal and a lot of chat and laughter. The young ones certainly enlivened the evening and it was a pleasure to have so many present. It was a very successful and convivial evening to start the new year at the Chesford Grange Hotel.
What better to chase away the January blues after all the dull, damp and cold weather than to go out for a meal with your Catenian friends and their wives. Once again our thanks go to Brother Paul Mayman for organising our now annual ‘pilgrimage’ to the excellent Emperors Chinese Restaurant in south Leamington. Good company, tasty food, and lots of chat and laughter made sure it was an enjoyable evening.
Christmas started early as usual (6 December) for Leamington Spa Circle with their Ladies Formal dinner at Chesford Grange Hotel near Kenilworth, meeting as they do on the first Thursday of the month.
About one hundred Brothers, wives, widows and visiting gentlemen attended this lovely festive occasion. Brother President Alfonso Pacitti welcomed the assembly with his usual aplomb and humour and Brother Jack Byrne, President of Coventry Circle, replied on behalf of the guests.
There is quite a wealth of musical talent in Leamington Circle and this year, following the excellent meal, we were all entertained; firstly, by Margaret Burleigh, wife of Brother Chris, who gave us a medley of jazz tunes played on her saxophone, followed by The Leamington Clangers: handbell ringers Brothers Alfonso Pacitti, Jim Insley, Martin O’Reilly and Paul Mayman, who rang out several carols. Finally, Brother Brian Malone of The Reel Note Band fame, lead everybody in a carol sing-along and a very animated Twelve Days of Christmas, table by table, which gave everyone a lot of fun and quite a bit of exercise after a hearty meal, sending us all home smiling and some a little breathless, full of Christmas cheer, albeit a little early.
The excellent evening was rounded off with a raffle that raised a princely sum for Brother President Alfonso’s chosen charity, The Jesuit Refugee Service, a very worthwhile and much needed charity just now.
Thanks go to the hotel for the excellent service and the beautifully set-out rooms and tables, and to all those who worked to make this a memorable evening.
It was with the greatest of pleasure that Brother President Alfonso Pacitti re-enrolled Brother Chris Greaney for the second time into Leamington Spa Circle at their November meeting after a gap of 30 years. During the last 50 years Chris had gone from being “Sir” to “Brother” to “Father” to now “Rev.Brother”, for Chris is a teacher who became a Catenian who became a priest and is now retired and has returned to the Catenian fold where he started.
Chris hails from the Wirral area originally and studied at both Durham and Exeter Universities before beginning a 25 year teaching career as an English teacher starting first in Cornwall then in Hampshire and finally at Leamington Spa in Warwickshire. It was whilst teaching in Salisbury in 1975 that Chris first joined the Catenian Association. “As a young single man I was very grateful for the friendship and support I received from the Brothers there”, he recalls. But the private school he was teaching at closed and he was forced to seek employment elsewhere.
That career move brought him to Leamington Spa to take up the position of Deputy Head and Head of English as well as teaching some Religious Studies — a move that ultimately pushed him towards the priesthood, at Arnold Lodge School.
He recalls, “I did not know the area at all or anyone living there but my transfer to Leamington Spa Circle (160) was smooth and seamless and I was once again pleased to receive the immediate friendship and support and to join in the social life of the Circle which greatly facilitated my settlement in the town.”
It was while living in Leamington that Chris discerned the call to become a priest, which sadly in those far off days meant he had to leave the Association. “But I still like to think of myself as having a Catenian vocation too”, says Chris. When he left for the Beda College in Rome, the Leamington Brothers presented him with a book, “The Collegeville Commentaries on the Bible”, which he still uses and cherishes to this day.
After completing his studies in Rome, Chris returned to Leamington for his ordination at St Peter’s Church, and he recently celebrated his Silver Jubilee there in the same church. “It was really wonderful to have so many Catenians present in the congregation on both occasions from Salisbury and Leamington Circles.”
Subsequently, Fr Chris served in many parishes in the Birmingham Archdiocese, from Stoke to Oxford, to St Chad’s Cathedral and Stourport. “In the latter post I was very close to Kidderminster Circle and I was very pleased to meet up again with my old friend Brother Mike Sherrard with whom I used to serve Mass all those years ago, back in the ’60s.”
On retirement, Chris returned to settle in Leamington where he helps out in the parish and the local Deanery. “It also meant I could meet up with some old Catenian friends from my previous ‘incarnation’. Invitations to social events and meetings and a deal of encouragement have brought me back to the Circle and once again I can enjoy the friendship that goes with being a Catenian.”
A great gathering of Brothers and their wives, distinguished guests and visiting Brothers from 14 other Circles took place on Thursday 7 June at Chesford Grange Hotel near Kenilworth to celebrate Leamington Spa Circle’s 800th meeting and 67 years of existence since their inauguration in 1951 as a daughter Circle of Coventry Circle.. Guests of honour were GB National President John Hogan and wife Pauline and Province 6 President Danny McAree and his wife Marie. Also in attendance were 5 Provincial Councillors and Presidents from Coventry, Solihull, Birmingham, Kidderminster, North Warwickshire and Stratford-upon-Avon Circles.
This splendid evening commenced with a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Fr Christopher Greaney who has a long standing connection with the Catenian Association. Indeed he was once a member of Leamington Circle which he joined when he became the Deputy Head of Arnold Lodge School before going to Rome to train for the priesthood. He was eventually ordained at St Peter’s Church in Leamington Spa. Fr Chris praised the work of the Catenian Association and Leamington Circle in particular and used Jesus’ command from St John’s Gospel, “Love one another as I have loved you.” as the theme of his sermon, referring to our ethos of faith, friendship, family and outreach to the poor and needy.
After Mass the ladies withdrew to the bar for some liquid refreshment and conversation whilst the Brothers held a shortish formal meeting. Then the Leamington Brothers posed for their formal commemorative photograph (above) with twice-President Alfonso Pacitti seated centre, flanked by GB National President John Hogan (L) and Provincial President Danny McAree (R) Thanks are due to Brother Harold Hands, Provincial Press & Publicity Officer. for taking most of the photographs during the evening and all our Circle Brothers who worked so hard behind the scenes to make this evening run so smoothly..Then close on 140 people sat down to enjoy an excellent meal and a very convivial evening. On this occasion the hotel is to be commended on its food, organisation and service too.
The speeches then followed, being mostly light hearted and funny, as typified the relaxed atmosphere of the night. Brother President Alfonso warmly welcomed all the guests,”You are all our distinguished visitors tonight” he said, but special mention was made of widow Barbara Cox whose father Bob Monk was the Circle’s first President back in 1951. A special thank you was also given to Fr Chris for celebrating the Mass, congratulating him on his Jubilee Year as a priest, having been ordained in 1993.
Brother Provincial President Danny McAree and Brother GB National President John Hogan then stepped up to the microphone in turn. Both had everyone laughing at various times and both praised the Leamington Circle for its continued strength and activities, it being probably the largest Circle in one of the largest Provinces in the country. Danny rather liked the continuity links between today’s membership and that of 1951, citing the late Brother Bernard Mayman who was a founder member and twice President and his son Paul today who has also been President twice. He reminded everyone that the circle had provided 2 Grand Presidents for the Association in the late John Bowen and Patrick Stevens.
GB National President John reiterated Danny’s points and, as in his speech at the Telford Conference, he urged Brothers not to be complacent but to be ever watchful for ways to move the Association and individual Circles forward in today’s world, not always in big sweeping gestures but in many small but significant ways. He then had the pleasure of presenting Brother Dermot Hurley with his scroll celebrating 40 years membership of the Association (below). Brother Dermot was twice President of Leamington Circle in 1979/80 and again in 2001/2. When I asked him for any of the interesting memories he had, he laughed, saying that would be a bit like writing his own obituary!
This very enjoyable evening was rounded off with a raffle with “luxury” prizes that raised the princely sum of £670 for President Alfonso’s chosen charity, The Jesuit Refugee Services.
Ted Trillo, Press and Publicity Officer Leamington Spa Circle
January is the traditional time for holding the 5 Circles Quiz which involves teams from Coventry, Kenilworth, Leamington Spa, North Warwickshire and Rugby Circles.
This year it was Kenilworth Circle’s turn to host the annual quiz at Chesford Grange but it was Leamington Spa Circle who ran out winners on their home soil! Leamington Circle now also meet at Chesford.
The quiz was contested closely, with Leamington Spa and Rugby Circles in joint second place after 5 rounds, leaving just the anagram round to separate the two teams. It was Leamington Spa that had the upper hand in the final round and pipped Rugby Circle by 2 points! Kenilworth finished in 3rd place.
City of Coventry Circle led by President Tony Cawley were the wooden spoonists!