Celebrating 50 years since Wigan college became first Catholic sixth-form in the country

A mass of thanksgiving was held to mark 50 years since a Wigan school became the first Catholic sixth-form college in the country.

St John Rigby College, in Orrell, originally opened as a Christian Brothers boys’ grammar school, before becoming a sixth-form college in 1972.

Both current and former staff and students, along with invited guests, came together at a service to celebrate the milestone.

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A mass of thanksgiving was held at St John Rigby College to mark the 50th anniversary

The principal celebrant was the Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool, with other priests connected to the college concelebrating, including former students Canon Mark Madden and Father John Causey, and former governor Father John Hindley.

A message was shared from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who was the college’s chaplain when it first opened.

He said: “I remember my years as chaplain at St John Rigby Sixth Form College with great joy and I am glad to know that the college continues to grow from strength to strength.”

Principal Peter McGhee said: “In 1972, just two years after the canonisation of the martyr after whom the college is named, St John Rigby College opened as the first Catholic sixth-form college in the country. Many others followed in the subsequent years, but SJR led the way, as it continues to do in many ways to this day.

Several members of the Catholic church were involved in the service

"We have a proud tradition of recognising the dignity and uniqueness of every individual within our community and holding the needs of students at the centre of all that we do.

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"A few years ago when addressing a group of young people, Pope Francis said that, ‘The future belongs to young people with wings to fly and roots to stand on the ground. Wings to fly, to dream, to create; and roots to receive from the elders the wisdom they offer’. This resonates perfectly with our mission and with the words etched on the window of the chaplaincy at the front of college, ‘Give me roots to grow and wings to fly’.

"Thanks are due for the part that each and every person has played in the life of St John Rigby College, in our service to the community that we serve and in making this such a truly outstanding college.”

Music was performed during the celebration
Members of the college community came together to mark the milestone