THREE priests celebrated the 50th anniversary of their ordination at a special Mass led by a bishop who was an altar boy at the original event.

Bishop Tom Burns returned to St Mary's College, Shear Brow, Blackburn, to lead a Mass of Thanksgiving for fellow former pupils Father Myles Moriarty, 76, Father Norman Arkwright, 76, and Father Reginald Riley, 77.

The three Marist priests were ordained at the Shear Brow college in March 1958 by the late Bishop of Salford Rt Rev George Beck.

They had all been students at the college, and after training for seven years for the priesthood in Paignton and Dublin, they returned to be ordained there.

Bishop Burns, who is now bishop to the Armed Forces, was present as a young altar boy aged 13.

Theirs was the first and only ordination at the college's chapel which opened in 1956.

Three hundred family and friends travelled to be present for it, and a similar number filled the college chapel for the golden jubilee Mass today.

Fr Moriarty, who was head boy at St Mary's said: "We wanted to do something to mark the occasion, and we've been planning it for months, with help from the college's chaplain, Christine Macauley.

"It's been a wonderful event."

Rt Rev Burns, who is based in Aldershot, said: "It was wonderful to see so many old friends."

Having grown up in Blackburn, the three priests have all spent years living abroad.

The Marist Fathers is an international Catholic movement which does a lot of missionary work in developing countries.

Fr Moriarty worked for four years in Samoa, while Fr Riley spent time in the Senegal.

Fr Arkwright only returned from the Solomon Islands, where he has been living for the last 45 years, several months ago after he suffered a stroke.

He has now joined Frs Riley and Moriarty living in Columbia Way, Lammack.

The trio comprise Blackburn's Marist community which has seen numbers dwindle across the UK.

St Mary's College was founded in 1925 to provide secondary education to Catholic boys.

Although no longer its teachers, the Marist Fathers remain trustees of the college, which is open to students of all faiths.