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St. Peter's church, serving the Witterings, opened in 1938, but was never consecrated. It won full parish status in 1985. A year ago parishioners decided to reorder the church to reflect post Vatican II changes in worship.
A new altar was needed: the old one, made of plywood, had been moved forward from the wall to allow the priest to stand facing the congregation – but this reduced space in the sanctuary.
Advice came from Barbara Hopper of the Diocesan committee and plans were submitted to the Art and Architecture committee which approved the scheme.
A member of the parochial council, Tony Mornement, coordinated the entire team operation. He is a retired Brigadier, later working as a diplomat mainly in Africa for The World Food Programme. He personally designed a new, smaller altar, with ceremonial chair and lectern. He visited a number of churches to see typical altars and produced a design believed to be unique to St Peter’s.
He travelled to Italy, meeting Arturo Vola, the director of the famous Italian firm of Aniene 88 SRL, in Tivoli. They selected a beautiful piece of travertine marble and undertook the construction. The finished items were brought by road from Rome for assembly on site and the church was cleared to receive them.
As a complementary exercise, St Peter’s changed their seats for benches, and had already received the gift of a processional cross. Sponsorship for the changes came from generous donors in the parish. The lighting in the church was improved and some essential maintenance, delayed for years, was completed.
The second idea for a new development at St Peter’s came from Fr Thomas Swaffer O.Praem., backed by the ladies who had been regular pilgrims to Medjugorje for sixteen years. They wished to provide a Marian shrine at St Peter’s – and the parochial council agreed, asking them to run the parish fete in 2005, which raised £2,500.
More funding was donated, and a garden was designed, needing a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. This proved difficult to locate – eventually Fr Thomas found a supplier in Dallas, Texas. A parishioner who is a BA captain brought the statue from the U.S.
Tony coordinated the three months' construction by contractors and a team of volunteers from the parish, making the garden ready for the consecration service. Our Lady's statue stands in an archway designed and constructed by Tony and his wife, Judy. It is a place for prayer and meditation.
On 13th June 2006 priests from the diocese gathered with Bishop Kieran for the Mass and consecration.
Readings were by Marie O'Grady and Veronica Bell. The Litany of Saints was read by Christine Bartkowiak, daughter of the soloist from the choir, Frances Bartkowiak.
Bishop Kieran congratulated everyone on their achievement, and reminded them of the mission to carry the evangelistic spirit of St Peter's parish outside to the community.
Bishop Kieran, Father Kieron and Fr Thomas blessed the wall sconces, performing the rite of consecration.
By good fortune, Fr Thomas discovered that Bishop Kieran was willing to provide the silver sconces which denote a consecrated church. These came from the chapel of Bishop Cashman's former house at Storrington, vacated for a smaller house. The bishop also provided the fine silver tabernacle and altar lamp. Two of the silver sconces serve as candleholders on the altar.
Father Kieron comments: "The occasion of the Consecration of St.Peter's Church and the Blessing of the Marian Garden was not only the culmination of much hard work by dedicated parishioners, but also a testimony to the vibrancy of the local Catholic Community. Even without a resident priest, the Parish is still able to flourish with an active Parish Council and regular input from the priests of Chichester".