Friday, 13 May 2016

The History of the Parish of Our Lady and St. Martin – Part 2

Here is part 2 of the history of the Parish. I'm still looking to find out who the stained glass windows portray.

Since posting Part 1, I've had some correspondence with Simon who told me the following:

"I am writing to you from London but I grew up in Jersey and remember with great fondness growing up in St Martins and serving as an alter server at St Martins in the days of Fr Sorohan and then Fr Feolin. Not sure if I have spelt their names right! I remember being taught by the Nuns of FCJ at Saturday school. 2 nuns still alive who taught for many years are Sr Beatrix and Sr Juliett then known as Sr Chantel. You mentioned the monstrance presented by Napoleon III. I also remember A Chalice that was also given by him and his wife. There was also a chalice the was older which was more valuable which had an Irish background. You might have more information on this to put in your next musing but if I can give you any more I can remember I will help. I know in the early 70's my father electrified the organ as he was tired of spending every Sunday hand pumping it!"

"I remember you mentioning the old Catholic Church at Gorey and asked my grandmother about it and she remembers going to church there. She is 95 this year and remembers many old events and was telling me she was the first woman to show a bull at the agricultural show and was also the first to wear a white coat to show it due to the farmer giving his brother incomplete instructions!. She was also working at the farm next to St Ouens Manor during the war and remembers the execution of Francois Scornet."

The History of the the Parish of Our Lady and St. Martin – Part 2
Catholic Herald, 1972

The Parish School

There was neither money nor building for a school, but Father Larose was not to be beaten. He used his small sacristy (which measured only 6 by 4 yards!!) An excellent teacher was found in St. Thomas's Children of Mary group. She was keen on teaching and able to speak both French and English.

The opening date was fixed for the first Monday of December, 1884. Ten, fifteen, then twenty children came forward. Not only infants arrived, but big country boys, ranging in age from 8-12 years.

Very soon there were some forty children altogether. One teacher was obviously not enough, and the premises, too small and cramped.

The Dames de St. Andre immediately sent in one of their best assistant mistresses to help out, and Father Larose offered the use of the biggest room in the presbytery for a school room. The teachers gave their best attention to the school, and soon gained their children's affection, the parents' esteem, and the priests' confidence. The school children gave them honour, and the people were extremely pleased to see all the children in church, singing French hymns during the services. This was something completely new for them, and they spoke highly of their joy and admiration.

These happy impressions were not without foundation. Even children who until then had gone to the Protestant school came to swell their ranks, and soon the number rose to 80. The room in the presbytery then grew too small, and every room in the house was turned over for school use.

Father Larose Has to Move Out of the Presbytery

In the meantime, where was the priest going to live? His unselfishness was not to go unrewarded. Near the church there was a big house. The Dames de St. Andre were interested in acquiring it as they wanted to set up the same sort of organization in St. Martin's as they had just done in St. Matthew's.

They encountered many difficulties in their at-tempts to have it as the tenants were not sure when they would be moving out, and, as its owner was a Protestant, would he agree to rent it to nuns?

Their fears were soon cast away. The house became vacant much earlier than expected, and the owner was willing to rent it. The Dames de St. Andre took it and kindly offered it to the priests as a presbytery until such time as they themselves should move in to St. Martin's.

Difficulties Arise with the School

For four years everything went well, there were then some eighty pupils, but difficulties arose, the lay teachers had to leave. An Oblate Father took on the boys, and the girls went to Protestant schools. This state of things could not continue, so the Rev. Mother of St. Helier promised Father Fick in 1891 that she would replace the lay teachers who had left.

The priests discovered a small cottage just big enough to lodge three people, quite near the church, so the nuns decided to go a year sooner than anticipated. Their school was to become so prosperous that the Dames de St. Andre built a large school for girls, one of the last joys of Mother Lucie's Generalate.

The Mission's Progress (1888-90)

In 1888, Father Larose was replaced by Father Feat. The progress in the mission was evident. In the following year there was an increase of fifteen baptisms and sixty Easter Communions. Father Feat set up the Confraternity of the Rosary, and the Apostleship of Prayer as aids to devotion, and many people joined them. He had been there for hardly a year when he was sent to the Canadian missions.

His successor, Father Collin, started his ministry by building a small school for boys. While this work was going on the church was completely restored and the surrounding land bought for a Catholic cemetery thanks to the generosity of the Oblate Provincial, Father Rey.

When the school was finished, Father Collin had just time to move back into the now vacated presbytery before being appointed to France.

Father Caux (1890-79)

The new Rector found his church scarcely big enough to house the congregation, so in 1892 he had a gallery built for the school children. The following year, he enlarged the presbytery, which allowed him to have another priest living with him who would he able to look after the needs of the newly opened centre of St. Joseph at Grouville.

After seven years, Father Caux was recalled to France (1897), and was succeeded by his assistant, Father Raffier.

St. Joseph's Grouville (1893)

A small school was opened by a Miss Corbin on 14 August, 1893, with the wholehearted support of Father Caux, the Rector of St. Martin's. This new Catholic school was opened in a house called 'Les Champs', Grouville, and was destined to be used at the same time as a chapel to enable the Catholics of Grouville and St. Clement's to assist at Mass on Sundays.

The first Mass was celebrated on 15 August 1893, and Father Raffier became the first priest-in-charge.

Soon the premises became too small, so it was decided to build a new and spacious school-chapel.

On 18 February 1985, the General Council of the Oblates gave their approval and on 29 June 1895 the contract of purchase of a field called 'Le Close de l'Ormel' was passed in the Royal Court of Jersey between Philippe Le Feuvre and the Rev. Charles Cox, procurator, under the seal of the Bailiff of Jersey. This field was situated near GrouvilleArsenal, and through the generosity of St. Thomas's, a school-chapel was soon built.

The building had to be enlarged twice, in 1902 and 1909. This time, the chapel was completely separated from the school, and permission was granted for the celebration of marriages. When the States closed the schools, the classrooms were put to use as a club and patronage, and the chapel enlarged. The plain glass windows were replaced with stained glass, and when the Jesuits left Jersey after the War they generously offered St. Joseph's their old high altar from the Maison St. Louis.

St. Joseph's Bell

In 1954 Mr. D. Berezai presented a large bell to the church. This was consecrated on 1 October 1954 by Archbishop King, and was baptized 'Jeanne-Marie', to commemorate the centenary of the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception, and the Archbishop's golden jubilee of the ordination to the priesthood.

In 1971 Beaulieu Convent were renovating their chapel and offered their pipe organ to St. Joseph's. This was gratefully accepted and installed in the September.

Father Trevien (1899-1906)

Two years later, in 1899, Father Trevien was nominated to St. Martin's. It was during his rectorship that a bigger school for boys was built (1902), as the old one had become too small. The school was staffed by the Brothers of Christian Instruction from Highlands.


In the following year (in November 1903) he was responsible for opening a new Mass centre at Gorey Village.

Father Gullient (1906-1911)

In 1906, Father Gullient became Rector. He it was who enlarged the new cemetery and erected its magnificent cross, and built the Lourdes Grotto near the entrance of the church.

Father Pierrat (1911-1937)

Father Pierrat, his assistant, succeeded him in 1911. During his term of office the States closed down the two Catholic schools in St. Martin and Grouville. The buildings were empty of children, but were soon full of life. Helped by the Jesuits from Maison St. Louis, he formed a club and patronage.

After spending 26 years in the parish he retired to St. Mary's House, and spent his last years as chaplain to the Orphanage of the Sacred Heart. He died at the age of 77 in the year 1949, and was buried in the church cemetery.

Father Meline (1937-1953)

Father Meline then came as parish priest-not that he was unknown in the parish-he had worked in it for a good number of years beforehand. During the War years he was involved in encouraging his parishioners, especially those who had been put in prison by the Germans.

The Stone Altar

After the Occupation, the church's wooden altar was replaced through the kindness of the Sister Superior of the Orphanage. The stone altar came from St. Mary's House, former Juniorate of the Oblates. It had been made in Angers (France) and originally consecrated by Mgr. Dontewill, Superior General of the Oblates, in 1923. It was reconstructed in St. Martin's, and consecrated by Bishop King of Portsmouth on 22 March 1949.

The Church Bell

Having been rung ever since it was suspended in the belfry in 1856, the bell had to be melted down and remade. It was blessed and rehung on Palm Sunday, 1949 by Father Jort, the Superior of St. Thomas's, and rung for the first time on the Holy Thursday.

New Building at Gorey

50 years after the opening of the original chapel in Gorey, Father Meline bought a hall, called 'Badmington Hall', previously a non-conformist chapel, and then a cinema, and converted it for use as a church, and opened its doors for worship on 20 December 1953. Nine months later, on September 1954, Bishop King solemnly blessed the new church with the title of Our Lady of the Assumption.

Last French Oblates in St. Martin's

Fathers Quinton (1953-1957) and Helouet (1957-1960) were the last Oblates of the French Province to be rectors at St. Martin's. More English speaking people were moving into the area, and it was felt that the work of the Church should be handed over to Oblates of the Anglo-Irish Province. Thus, after a period of seventy-six years, (1884-1960) the French Oblates, witnesses of such progress in the St. Martin area, left to concentrate their manpower resources at St. Thomas's.

The Anglo-Irish Province of the Oblates Takes Over (1960)

In the early years of the take-over they were helped by a French priest, Pere Chuffard, now superior of St. Thomas's, who rendered invaluable assistance during the transition period.

Father John Crean (1960-1963)

Father Crean was the first rector of the new era in the life of St. Martin's. He was followed by Father Connolly (1963-1967) who in turn made way for the present Parish Priest. Father Donal Sorohan (1967-)

Father Sorohan's exploits at St. Martin's have made a great visual impact on the property. His major work has been the rebuilding of the old presbytery, (during which time he tells us he converted, and slept in the old billiard room, even installing a phone there, so as to be always at the service of his people), then moved into the new presbytery on 5 April 1969. The area roundabout was laid out as a car park for the use of parishioners in these days of motor transport.

He also turned his attention to the church. The fine old organ from St. Matthew's was acquired, renovated, and placed in the church in December 1969, and the following year the interior of the church was unpicked and modified in accordance with the requirements of the new liturgy.

So the work, started so long ago by a lone priest in the Faldouet area, continues, priests and people working together for the increase of God's Kingdom on earth.

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