A CHURCH was packed to the rafters as worshipers came out in force to bid a fond farewell to a High Wycombe stalwart.

Father Willie Strain led his final mass before retirement on Friday after 36 years at St Augustine’s Church in Amersham Road.

The Dubliner was presented with photos of the town he has called home since 1978 before he moved back to Ireland to live with his sister.

He told the BFP two of his proudest achievements were overseeing the construction of a meeting room at the church and the expansion of the May Fayre – which is now part of the Wycombe Community Festival.

The 74-year-old said: “It’s been a lovely congregation and it has changed over the years as we’re now welcoming people from all over the world.

“Keeping and building the congregation, adding the meeting room and developing the May Fayre are the things I’m most proud of.

"The Pope once said we can take ourselves too seriously, so it has been good to see the fayre develop over the years.”

The keen golfer was presented with a plaque by Wycombe District Council Chairman Cllr Lesley Clarke in recognition of his hard work and dedication to the town a week earlier.

Sheila Mawhood, a member of the congregation and part of the May Fayre organising team, said: “It was a wonderful final mass, there were hundreds of people there – I have honestly never seen it so full.

“Father Willie will be terribly missed. I was a wonderful man who had time for everyone and we wish him all the best on his return to Ireland.”

Monsignor Paul Donovan takes over from Father Willie later this month.