Centenary of St. David’s, East Cowes

The first Catholic Church in East Cowes was opened in Connaught Road on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes 1906. The tiny iron church somehow managed to accommodate 150 people for Pontifical High Mass sung by Bishop Cotter. This was followed by a brick-built church opened in 1923 which was destroyed when hit by incendiary bombs in May 1942. On Pentecost Sunday four years later Mass was said in the hall (below the present church) This allowed for a new church to be constructed above while the hall continued to be used as a temporary church. So the present church was built and opened on St. David’s Day, 1952. The church was packed on 11th February (Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes) for the Thanksgiving Mass led by Bishop Hollis together with Fr. Brian Coogan, parish priest, Fr. Bruce Barnes, (Newport), Fr. Michael Purbrick (Cowes), Canon John Morris (Springhill Convent), Fr. Ricky Davey (former Ventnor P.P.), Fr. Brian Croughan (former E. Cowes P.P.) and Deacons David Croucher and Vincent Jones. Among the congregation were the Mayor and Mayoress of East Cowes, Cllr. Peter and Mrs Margaret Lloyd, Rev. Jonathan Hall (Anglican vicar from St. James’s and St. Mildred’s) and Lawrence Jay and his wife (Minister of the E. Cowes Evangelical Church) as well as Sisters from the Holy Cross Convent, St. Anthony’s Convent, Shanklin and the Verbum Dei community at Carisbrooke. In his sermon the bishop gave thanks for the contribution that past priests and parishioners had made at East Cowes.

“Generations of people have given witness to the Faith and we thank Almighty God for the flourishing life of this parish”. His Lordship emphasised that the parish is a community, “it belongs to the people. Priests, even bishops, come and go, but the family of the parish remains. We are unsure of the future in terms of priests and the number of Masses but let us remember that the Faith lies in the community. It is not Diocesan policy to close churches. Even without a priest Christian nourishment is still received through prayer, living the gospel message and the reassuring presence of the Blessed Sacrament. It is appropriate that we celebrate the centenary on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Let us remember what she said, “Do whatever He (Christ) tells you”. This is sound advice from any mother to a son. Mary is in the midst of us today to give us strength and encouragement. Whatever the future holds for this community I feel confident that this community will be bearing the fruit of the gospel”

The organist on this occasion was Peter Bradley-Fulgoni (Professor of Piano at Shrewsbury School). At the end of the Mass the bishop blessed a wooden plaque commemorating the centenary and also presented a Diocesan medal to Geraldine Heath, Chair of Governors at the nearby Holy Cross Primary School, in recognition of many years service to Catholic education. Before the final procession clergy and parishioners watched a tableau of the story of Our Lady and Bernadette portrayed by children of the parish. A reception was held in the church hall, where an exhibition had been mounted illustrating the history of the parish.