2001 - 2005
(retired). Born 1919, died 2005
Christopher Thornton was born on September 19, 1919 in Dudley and attended the church of Our Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury where he became an enthusiastic altar boy. His sister remembers him kneeling in front of the tabernacle in prayer after Mass. This devotion to the Blessed Sacrament developed into a vocation to the priesthood, encouraged by his mother. In due course, he went to Cotton College as a Church student. There he fourished and was in the First 15 rugby team, although it is said that he did not agree with compulsory sport, which was the situation at Cotton College. Tis gives some idea of his acceptance of authority, which was exemplified in his life as a seminarian and priest. He continued his studies as Oscott college where, again, he showed himself to be a good student. After ordination in 1945, he served as a curate in Balsall Heath, Kingstanding, Leek and Tamworth. In 1958, he was appointed parish priest at Lillington. In those days this meant a field and an instruction to build a school and a church.
He rented a house opposite the plot of land that he had bought, and Mass was first celebrated in the Presbytery, then in an ex-army hut and, for a time, in a community centre. The first priority was to build a school and this opened in 1961. Eventually, the new, and striking church of Our Lady and St Teresa was built. This was 963, the year of the opening of Vatican II, but the liturgical thinking that influenced the Council had been around for much longer, and the church was one of the first to be built according to the new thinking, with a central altar. It was only afterwards that a Presbytery was built, where he lived for only 8 months before being moved to St Mary’s, Coventry. There he built a hall with a cloister, linking to the Church. It was even his intention to open a restaurant, an idea that never materialised. In 1983, he moved to a quieter parish in Habberley, near Kidderminster. There the Church was too big and his building skills were challenged in a different way. He had the one building converted into a dual purpose building with a dividing screen between the Church part and the social area.
In 1988, after a health scare, he retired to Aston Hall. But his retirement was to be short, as after two years, the Archbishop asked him to take over the parish of Southam. Once again, he set about a building programme in the form of a parish hall. It was in 1997 that he finally retired to a house near the new church in Balsall Common. Here he lived happily until his death on March 11 2005. Fr Thorton was not just a builder of material buildings. He was a very pastoral priest and a builder of God’s Kingdom. His dedication to the priesthood was very clear to all whom he met. In a special way this showed itself in his enthusiasm for the annual meetings of his year group. He actually kept minutes of these meetings over the years. The curious, however, will be disappointed, as he gave instructions for these to be buried with him. As he himself pointed out at their Golden Jubilee, this close-knit year group even managed to die in alphabetical order and on this point he was, as ever, punctilious! May he enjoy the company of the Saints in heaven.By Canon Edward Stewart, taken from Archdiocese of Birmingham Directory 2006.