A Brief History
At the beginning of the 20th century there was a small number of Catholics living in Selsey and the nearest places where Mass was celebrated were at the Carmelite Convent at Hunston (now being converted into a Free School) or at St. Richard’s Church in Chichester.
The results of the first known “census” of Catholics in Selsey in 1916 were 16 permanent residents and 23 occasional visitors. By the end of May, parishioners were meeting at the home of one resident for a “service” every Sunday. Efforts were then made to establish a Mass centre for the now growing Catholic community. An Assistant Priest in the Chichester Parish appears to have been delegated to serve the Catholics of Selsey. He first celebrated Mass in the village in a “suitable room for Mass over the Fisherman’s Joy” public house.
Throughout 1917 money was collected from benefactors from the Duke of Norfolk, the Archbishop of Southwark and many good people throughout the Archdiocese and beyond. The growing community also sent out letters to Churches, Convents and others asking if they had any surplus Church furnishings to spare. By the end of the year they had raised over £300 to build a Church and had built up a store of liturgical equipment but as yet, had no where to build their Church!
In March 1918 the land on which stands the present Church, Hall and Presbytery was purchased and work immediately began on building a Church. By 15th May the work on the new Church – using “sheet asbestos” – was completed and on 18th May 1919, the first Mass was celebrated with a congregation of 20 people in the Church dedicated to Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Wilfrid. The formal opening and dedication with a Solemn High Mass occurred on 3rd July 1919.
The present Church was built in 1961 replacing on the same site the older Church that could no longer accommodate the increasing number of summer visitors to Selsey. Work on the new Church on the same site began during the year costing £23,090. On 30th May 1962 the new Church was officially blessed and opened by Archbishop Cyril Cowderoy.
In 1965 the new Diocese of Arundel and Brighton was formed, having been split from the large archdiocese of Southwark.
In 1970 Selsey as a parish in its own right was cut off from Chichester with Fr Vincent Maxwell becoming the first Parish Priest. In January 1972 Fr John Campbell-Price became the second Parish Priest and by the end of the year had organised the building of a new Presbytery for £10,000.
1986 saw the building of a new Parish Hall which had been organised by the then Parish Priest, Canon Paddy Cox.
The sculpture on the outside wall above the main entrance to the Church in Cotswold Stone, represents Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Wilfrid and is the work of Mr P. Lindsay Clark, FRBS.
The large abstract coloured glass window with the Christian Fish (Ichthus) symbol in the Church Porch is Loire Glass, by Gabriel Loire of Chartres.
The stained glass Stations of the Cross were the work of Mr Joseph Nuttgens, MGP.
Joseph Nuttgens also created the four Sanctuary windows representing the Four Evangelists. The seven small high windows on the rear wall of the Church, that represent the Seven Sacraments, are the work of a former Parish Priest, Canon Bernard Thom and are modelled on the windows of the Four Evangelists.
The triptych on the rear wall of the Sanctuary (see our Home Page and Gallery of photos) depicts the Crucifixion in the centre panel with Our Lady of Mount Carmel on the left-hand panel and St. Wilfrid on the right-hand panel. It is the work of Mr. David O’Connell.
The stone Baptismal Font was by John Skelton, ARBS, FRSH.
Our Parish Today
Our Lady of Mount Carmel & St Wilfrid’s in Selsey is a small parish in a coastal fishing village now growing into a small town.
There are approximately 130 people who attend Mass at weekends. But more Catholics in the area. Some are not practicing and some go to the Chichester Parish (especially those who have children at the School).
We have a variety of different nationality groups from Europe and particularly, a growing number of East Europeans.
In the main the Parish consists predominantly of senior citizens with a growing number of young parents and children.
There is always need to improve our liturgy! The areas most in need of development are recruiting and training for the various liturgical ministries; and for recruiting more “musicians” to lead the community in worship.
Following on from making improvements to the way we worship as a parish, we hope to increase greater participation in the life and growth of the community particularly by appealing to young people, those who are “middle-aged” and those who belong to migrant communities.
While the parish has an impressive record in recent years for fund-raising (arising out of the need to make urgent repairs to the Church and other parish property) and for organising social events for the community, it needs also to encourage more people to become involved in caring for those in the community who are sick, elderly, or in need – at home or in residential care.
The parish could make better use of the services from the Christian Education Centre and other organisations such as the Bible School in providing opportunities for adult formation, particularly by joining with neighbouring parishes whenever possible.
Within the boundaries of the parish there are a number of large caravan sites offering various facilities for holiday makers. Selsey also caters for a large non-resident population who own holiday homes, mobile chalets etc., throughout the year.
Summer visitors have always been an important part of the Parish, boosting our numbers considerably during the season. We hope they always enjoy the welcome we offer them. The parish seeks to do more to promote the presence of the Church, and be a witness to, the “visiting” population.