150th Anniversary of St. Wilfrid’s, Ventnor

Tuesday 12th October is the Feast of St. Wilfrid, Patron of our Island. It is a very significant day for the Catholics of South Wight.

Ventnor has the only church on the Island which is dedicated to St. Wilfrid. In 2021 we are marking the 150th anniversary of St. Wilfrid’s Church and the 125th anniversary of St. Wilfrid’s School.

There were celebrations on this feast day to mark the 150th anniversary of St. Wilfrid’s Church in Ventnor. The new parish priest, Fr. Marcin Drabik was keen for Catholics of the South Wight parish to celebrate this anniversary. In the morning, after Mass in Sacred Heart Church, Shanklin, a group of walkers accompanied Fr. Marcin on the short pilgrimage to St. Mary’s Church, Brading. They took the scenic route along the coast and Sandown beach, before going inland across Brading marshes. St. Wilfrid is reputed to have landed at Brading in A.D. 686, when he brought the Christian message to the inhabitants. His followers built the first wooden church. Ultimately, it was replaced by the present Medieval church. All other Island churches were founded from here. Thus, they were all daughter churches of St. Mary’s; and Brading became known (unofficially) as the “Canterbury of the Island”.

Above – Walkers en route to St. Mary’s Church, Brading on the Feast of St. Wilfrid

Fr. Marcin led prayers in St. Mary’s, before the walkers toured the church studying the beautiful Victorian stained glass windows depicting events in the life of Jesus.

In the evening, the focus moved to Ventnor, which has the only church dedicated to the Island’s patron saint. The first Catholic church, built in 1871, was destroyed by fire in 2006. Its replacement, on an adjacent site, was opened in 2014.

Before Mass Fr. Marcin led the rosary before Our Lord exposed in the in the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance on the altar.

Prayers were said the people of St. Wilfrid’s (past and present), who had contributed in any way to the life of the parish over the past 150 years. Concelebrated Mass followed with Fr. Joe McNerney and Fr. Brian Coogan joining Fr. Marcin.

In his homily Fr. Marcin reminded people that St. Wilfrid came to the Island in A.D. 686 to bring the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the inhabitants of the Island. In a similar way the love of Christ is with us today in our community at St. Wilfrid’s.

After Mass there was a talk (with slides) by Peter Clarke on the history of St. Wilfrid’s Church and a talk by Edmund Matyjaszek on the life of St. Wilfrid, his significance to the early English Church and his association with the Island.

Finally, there was a presentation of a painting of St. Wilfrid to Fr. Marcin and the parishioners by Edmund Matyjaszek. It was painted by the Catholic artist, Madeleine Beard to mark the church’s 150th anniversary.

During the reception, Father cut the anniversary cake which was shared with the people. Many expressed their pleasure at being present for this historic occasion, especially during (what is hopefully) the end of the Covid pandemic days.

Books on the history of St. Wilfrid’s, Ventnor are available from the back of the church and from the Island CHS. You can visit their website www.iow-chs.org