Centenary 1919-2019

Centenary and Parish Visitation

Preparations continue for the weekend of 18/19 May which will include the Celebration of the Centenary of the opening of the original Catholic Church in Selsey (which was on the site of the present Church), and a Pastoral Visitation to the Parish from Bishop Richard.

The usual Saturday evening Mass at 5.30pm will be replaced that weekend by a Special Mass at 4.00pm to which local dignitaries will be invited, the clergy from other Churches in Selsey, the priests from the Cathedral Deanery and other special guests.

There will be a reception after Mass and an opportunity to look at an exhibition showing a brief history of the Parish.  There are also plans to produce a Souvenir Booklet with photos and text telling our parish story.

Bishop Richard will also celebrate the Sunday morning Mass as usual at 10.00am.

Nearer the time we will be able to offer a simple programme that may include a meeting with those who serve the parish in different ways or home visits to sick or elderly parishioners, depending on his other commitments that weekend.

Various anniversaries, especially those associated with the First World War, have given us a better picture of life 100 years ago than we might otherwise have had. And we also have in the community two parishioners with memories that go back to that time!

During the years from 1916 to 1919 the Catholics in Selsey were busy working to ensure that they had Mass regularly on Sundays (hiring public Halls and Rooms) until they had saved enough funds to buy some land in Station Road (now Church Road!) and start planning to build (a very modest) Church.

The first Mass in the newly built Church was celebrated on 18th May 1919 with a congregation of 20 people: the formal opening and dedication was on 3rd July.  Those “pioneering” parishioners of 100 year ago struggled through the War and then the Spanish ‘Flu epidemic to achieve their objectives: what an inspiration and example to all of us!”

Our Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, Rt Rev Richard Moth

In our Christmas and New Year Message 2018, Fr John continues:

“When faced with crisis – either a personal crisis or a crisis we share with others – it often happens that we discover what’s important and what’s not: the trivial can be dispensed with and what matters can be cherished.  

One hundred years ago the small Catholic community in Selsey was celebrating their first Christmas after the War and enjoying their new freedom: it must have been a particularly joyful celebration after the long years of hardship.

As many of them made their way to “The Fisherman’s Joy” (Public House) for Christmas Mass, they may have stopped to see how far progress had got with the new Church being built in Station Road.

In the New Year the present generation of parishioners will be able to celebrate the centenary of the opening of the first Catholic Church in Selsey, and to honour the memory of the first parishioners of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Wilfrid.  Despite all the deprivations of the long years of the war, they appear to have been determined to build a Church in which to celebrate all future Christmases, all future feasts and festivals and Mass every Sunday, if not every day.

Ever since there have been parishioners at ‘St Wilfrid’s’ acting in the spirit those first parishioners (initially as part of the larger community of St Richard’s and then, since the early 1970s, as an independent parish).  So may I renew my thanks to all who serve the present parish in a multitude of ways: many in an obvious way, particularly in the liturgy, and many more who do so much throughout the year for the community, helping to keep the wheels turning smoothly for everyone.  

I hope that our celebrations in May will help to deepen and strengthen the already strong sense of community that exists in our parish.  Hopefully, we will be able to mount an exhibition of the first one hundred years of our parish and that we will be able to invite people from the local community to see and celebrate our achievements since our humble beginnings a hundred years ago.”