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New light on our parish history

To celebrate our Jubilee, we were provided with two new viewpoints for our history:

(1) The Jubilee Exhibition

(2) the Jubilee History Book

Gillian and Francis Casey produced a memorable display of photographs and art reproductions to chart our progress during the last fifty years at St Richard's. They were on show in the lower parish room and some in the church porch: the narrative stylishly laid out on panels with striking images and photographs, some unseen for many years.

From the old church to the new, Fr André Lecoeur, our welcome visitor since 1968, saw his early photographs alongside historic images of social gatherings, services - the Consecration of the church, ordination of priests and deacons, including David Boyd, sadly no longer with us.

There were Mementoes of the successful football pool - including a Miss Silver paying her weekly sub before becoming Mrs. Ware.

The long serving treasurer, Trevor Tupper, was a speaker here , surrounded by exhibits which refreshed his memories of the 24 year campaign which helped build four churches.

Prints of The Loire glass windows, in vivid colour, decorated the flats, with enlargements of panels usually glimpsed distantly in the church. There were albums to browse, full of interest. Scores of visitors and parishioners visited and praised the displays.

As well as great occasions, there were characters from the past - the housekeeper, relaxing after work in the presbytery

The exhibition was open until St Richard's feast day on 16th June, then, later, some panels were on show in the secular location of the public library.

Readers who perhaps have never visited St Richards could catch up with the story of our modern building, now given the caché of listing. David O'Connell gazed out alongside his magnificent altar painting.

The old church was shown alongside panels celebrating the heroes of the Football Pool ,which, with the support of citizens and catholics alike, replaced the Victorian church with St Richard's at Cawley road, and three more in the district.

The Loire glass panels from Chartres, the city linked to Chichester, faced the road and the figures inside caught the eyes of young and old as they arrived and left the library. A short season, but Gillian and Francis could feel that this demonstration underlined the growing strength of the Catholic community in West Sussex. We are grateful to Chichester District Public Library which provided space for our Jubilee display.

Gillian and Francis will later archive all the material, for future displays on special occasions, and for ease of reference.

St Richard's Parish History Book

Tthe new Parish History book spans an even longer timescale, beginning with the coming of St Wilfrid to Selsey, and taking us through to the present day.

The History was commissioned by Father Kieron for our Jubilee, and has already had a good reception. It has its own story: last year Sean Ahern drew up a plan for the book, identifying the need for a historical background and memories of parish life.

When the team celebrated publication with a small party given by Father Kieron, members recalled several months of progress and the anxiety of a major setback.


The history came at once from Alison McCann, who had written a thrilling account of Catholic life during persecution years from the thirteenth century to 1950, This was updated by research done by members of our team in the Record Office (where Alison is Assistant County Archivist). With the historic foundation ready, there came a halt.

While our former priests had written their recollections. not many had come from our Parishioners! Few had put finger to word processor - until team member Marysia Dembrinski went into action, contacting parishioners connected with parish organisations, and stimulating the flow of contributions which have added greatly to the appeal of our vivid Parish history. In the end there were more than 30 articles, including some from the former Vineyard magazine .

Marysia notes that "she was grateful, firstly, for Julia Janiec's and Kay Harwood's speed of reponse in providing fascinating articles. Julia, of course, drew on her years of front line activity in parish matters - especially music, recalling the development of the choir and musicians who impressed everyone at the Jubilee Mass with their joyous crescendo of achievement. Marysia recalls the meticulous checking of facts - and Francis Casey's scholarly reviews of style. (Francis weighed in at proof stage.)

There are revealing anecdotes from the memories of our veterans: on page 53, read the astonishing account, by Joe Holmes, of Fr Tak 'throwing copper coins back to the congregation to step up the donations'! This new, thrusting, spirit is noted in Trevor Tupper's narrative (Page 10) of the success of the the 24 year campaign for the Football pool [("why did we give it up", he was asked at the Event lunch? " well - we'd all done 24 years without a break, we'd had it!")

Fr Andre Lecoeur, with the longest span of summer service to St Richard's - was a welcome guest! (see pps 63/64)

Rarely seen photographs, too, came from their hiding places. Photos of David O'Connell, never shown to us before,were provided by his daughter,Mrs. Jean Elliot. The advance of ecumenism is shown on Page 39; the Mass at Chichester Cathedral. Other pictures have now also found a place in the much admired exhibition in the parish rooms by Gillian and Francis.

Marysia took the MS on to publication, and on May 20th copies were ready for guests to see next day.

Fr Kieron's foreword hopes that "this little book will instil in us a sense of gratitude for the sacrifices of those who have gone before us. It should also encourage us to build on the firm foundations already laid, as we seek to develop our Church and parish for the next fifty years".

The aim is to have a copy in every household. Price £ 2.50 – available at church porches, or from Lena at the Parish Office. since publication, additional material and amendments have been added - see history index