Friday, 6 May 2016

The History of the Parish of Our Lady and St. Martin – Part 1

From "The Catholic Herald" in 1972, comes this interest chronicle of the Catholic Church in St Martin. It doesn't answer some questions, and I have been trying without difficulty to find solutions, and I wonder if any of my readers can help. These are:

1) Why are three walls of the Church built in granite, and one in rendered cement? Did the funding run out, and shortcuts taken to ensure the Church was built?

2) The stained glass around the walls has depictions of faces of what are presumably Catholic saints, but no one seems to know or have recorded whom they are. Does anyone have any idea?

I'll be posting more on this history next week, but I'd also like to recomment 'A Community in Transition', by Alasdair Crosby, which is an excellent book, with both interviews (with members of the Catholic community and priests past and present) and a history of the Irish / English speaking Church in Jersey. The books cost £12 and are available from the back of all the Catholic churches in Jersey, Catholic Pastoral Services, the Catholic Gift Shop and Waterstones

The History of the Parish of Our Lady and St. Martin – Part 1
Catholic Herald, 1972

Early Evangelization by Father Hallum (1847-55)

In 1847, a French priest, Father F. Hallum from Bordeaux settled in the Island. He had come for health reasons, but soon felt that he should do something to help the spiritual needs of the local residents. At that time, he was living with a Mr. Philip Falle at Carteret View House (Grande Route de Faldouet) in St. Martin's parish.

First Chapel at Faldouet (1847)

He set to work, and next door he built a small school and chapel which he called 'Notre Dame de St. Martin'. Although in an unofficial capacity, he worked there for about eight years. In those days, in and around St. Martin, there lived about 350 French people and 200 Irish. The Irish had come to Jersey on account of the famine in Ireland, and were working on the construction of St. Catherine's Harbour, the foundation stone of which bears the date 1847.

A Petition from French Catholics for an Official Mission to be set up in St. Martin, sent to Mgr. Grant, Bishop of Southwark (1851)

We the undersigned French Catholics, living in the country in the east of Jersey, humbly ask Mgr. Grant, our Bishop, to look with favour on the sorry state of affairs that we have had to suffer for nearly 50 years in what regards the good of our souls, those of our sick, our children, and our old people.

At the beginning of the century Mgr. de Grimouville, titular Bishop of St. Malo, and other churchmen, ministered to our needs and have left behind happy memories of their stay. When they left, however, everything was done for the town area, and nothing for the country.

`We ask you to consider how most of us live some 5, 6, or even 7 miles from the town chapel, and this is too small to house us all. It takes some 1 ½ - to two hours to go there, and the same to return, then 1 – 1 ½ hours for the service, which can add up to 5 ½ hours just to attend Mass. There is no question of going to Vespers. When we eventually return home between 2.30 and 3 p.m., Vespers has already begun in town.

You will be able to see therefore what difficulties are encountered by wives and mothers trying to see to the care and running of their house and going to Mass.

What shall be said of the domestic servants who make up most of the Catholic population in the country? Their plight is even more painful. Their non-Catholic masters, full of misguided good will, would say to them ; 'There is a chapel not far from here, go there if you wish, but we cannot really allow you to have any more time off.'

There is also a great difficulty for confessions, Communions, fetching a priest to visit the sick. All this brings harmful results for the life of the Church in this area, and the loss of many souls.

'The sick die without the sacraments, and are assisted on their deathbed by Protestant ministers.

'As there are no churches the workers frequent public houses where they lose health, money, their souls, and bring misery to their families.

'Herewith, my Lord, is a short sketch of the evil caused by the absence of the Church. A Catholic chapel has been built here uniting all the Catholics. Everything needed to form a considerable congregation already exists, all that we ask you to do is send us a priest who will remedy all our ills.'

There followed a number of signatures representing 336 persons.

A similar letter, written by 200 Irish Catholics living in the St. Catherine area accompanied this demand.

Factors Showing the Advisability of a Chapel-

A report written by Father Hallam to Bishop Grant, and sent with the petition.

'Three were necessary in the Island, and I offered you my services, completely freely, have never asked for a salary, only the permission to celebrate Mass. Not wishing to be completely useless in the Father's House 'Non recuso laborem' (I never refuse work).

'The Archbishop of Bordeaux has already written to you on my behalf.

'Enclosed with this letter are two petitions signed by 550 Catholics, 350 French and 200 Irish, as well as a petition from the town joined to that of the country, showing the unanimity of Catholics, and the need and usefulness of a chapel in the country.

'The priests in town object to this happening as it would make large inroads into their attendance.

'To that we would reply that most of the Catholics living in the country are daily helps, small time farmers, all of them poor, so not having much money to give to the town churches. The other consideration is that Catholics in the country areas hardly go to Mass at all. Some have not been for f five and even ten years. Everyone in the Island, whether they be Catholics or Protestant agree when they say that the real problem we are faced with is one of selfish interest opposed to the interest of the people as a whole. Why should a considerable number of people be forced to suffer and be sacrificed for the sake of two individuals (i.e. the town clergy)? So it is that Protestants rejoice and mock at the way the Church tries to preserve and protect her Faith!'

On 15 April 1855, Father Hallum wrote to Bishop Grant to tell him he was leaving the Island, and mentioned that he had received a letter full of praise from the Constable of St. Martin, in which he was thanked for the work he had done.

As no priest arrived, on 16 October 1856, another petition was prepared, and signed 'Benoit'. It was addressed to the French Emperor, Napoleon III, stating how French Catholics were abandoned to their own devices in the east of the Island. This petition was transmitted to the Archbishop of Paris, who forwarded it to the Bishop of Southwark.

Most probably this 'Benoit' had drawn up and signed the petition in ignorance of what had already been done by Bishop Grant. On 17 September 1856 he had named Father Joseph Guiramand a priest from the Avignon diocese and a former chaplain to the French Army, and a Knight of the Legion of Honour, as priest-in-charge of the Catholic mission of Our Lady of St. Martin

Despite his years, he was 65, he accepted the post of missionary.

Father Guiramand Comes to Jersey as First Priest of Our Lady's Parish (1856-82)

Father Guiramand arrived the same year in Jersey. We know this as Father Morlais, the Rector of St. Thomas's, mentions the fact in a letter to the Bishop of Southwark, dated 30 October 1856. He also observed:-

'There is absolutely nothing at St. Martin's. Everything is needed, even an altar stone. The building that Father Hallum used as a chapel could be rented and transformed once more into a chapel. He (Father Guiramand) seems well disposed towards this hard task. God will help him, and we will do all that we can to lighten his burden.'

On his arrival in Jersey, he lodged at 10, Duhamel Place, St. Helier. From there he wrote to Bishop

Grant on Christmas Day, 1856, to say that he would follow the counsel given him. He would rent a room at St. Martin and erect an altar in it.

It was impossible for the poor priest to travel constantly back and forwards between town and St. Martin.

Soon he was able to write (2 May 1857)

'Tomorrow we start the necessary work to enable us to celebrate our Sacred Rites, in Father Hallum's old chapel.'

And later, (24 September 1857):

`We were able to bless our chapel at St. Martin's on 6 September at 3 p.m. All who have seen it have greatly admired it.'

Nevertheless, an article dated 7 October 1857,published in the local newspaper, signed by the Editor, Le Moine, did not seem to be in favour of the chapel.

Need for a Proper Church

Soon the chapel had become too small, and something had to be done. It was necessary to build a church, but with what? Where was the money to come from? His parishioners were poor working men and a few retired people. He would have to beg. He wrote to all the Bishops of France.

We know that the Bishop of Besancon sent his offering through Bishop Grant, (letter dated 31May 1859). The Bishop of Coutances (whose diocese used to include the Channel Islands) allowed a collection to be taken throughout his diocese, (letter dated 4 June 1859), while Queen Amelia of Portugal sent him £20.

A collection was also taken in most of the big churches of Paris, by permission of the Archbishop.

The French Emperor, Napoleon III, sent a beautiful monstrance with the imperial arms engraved on its foot, and at the same time sent a set of Stations of the Cross. The good Father Guiramand even went begging in France, and was generally well received.

Building Started

By 3 September 1862, he was able to inform the Bishop that the foundations of the new church had been laid, and that by Christmas, the roof would be on.

On hearing this the Bishop sent two Latin inscriptions to be placed in the church. In February 1863, the church was opened and blessed by Bishop and given the name of Our Lady of the Annunciation and Martyrs of Japan.' Mgr. Bracart, Bishop of Coutances preached the sermon.

The mission became prosperous, but soon his years caught up with him, his strength ebbed, and eventually the mission fell into a sorry state. The fact that he had no schools helped this decline.

Children were sent to Protestant schools and became the prey of heresy. The parents became dissatisfied with their mission and saw nothing there to attract them.

Father Guiramand worked there for 26 years until his death at the great age of 89 in September 1882.

Father Tardivon Replaces Him (1882-84)

He was replaced, in 1882, by Father Tardivon, from the diocese of Nevers, France, but he died within two years of his arrival, and was buried, as he wished, by the sacristy wall.

On his death, the Jesuit Fathers undertook the parish work with their well-known zeal and devotion, until the arrival of the Oblate Fathers in September 1884.

The Oblates are called to the Parish

Bishop Virtue of the newly formed Portsmouth diocese approached the Oblates' Provincial with the view of obtaining a priest for St. Martin's. The Provincial's decision was approved by the Superior General on 16 September 1884:

It is a labour of zeal, which completes the work already undertaken in Jersey, i.e. the evangelization of the French population.'

Father Bourde, the Superior from St. Thomas's, always ready to fill the breach when there was a job to be done, repeated in St. Martin's parish the laborious work he had already completed at St. Matthew's. His stay was not very long, however, as Father Larose arrived in Jersey to replace him on 23 November 1884.

Father Larose (1884-88)

The new priest knew what the parish was like. Under obedience to his superiors he accepted a posting that was not exactly to his taste, in a rural backwater, but the parishioners welcomed him and saw his fine qualities.

When he was installed, the Oblates' Superior gave a warm hearted speech announcing a great service of improvements that were to be carried out on the mission.

- more next week!

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