History of the Catholic Community in Flackwell Heath
The Temperance Hall on Heath End Road was the permanent home of the Catholic community of St Francis in Flackwell Heath from 1970 until the end of 2004. The Hall was bought from the Temperance Society for use as a Mass Centre by Father William Oddy, the then parish priest of Bourne End. It was named in honour of St. Francis because after Fr. Oddy had offered up a prayer to the saint, his dog had suddenly recovered from a serious illness!
In 1975 Fr. Oddy was succeeded by Fr. Stephen Reith, who organised a complete renovation of the building in the early 1980s. During this time everyone had to get up earlier to hear Mass at 8:30am round the corner at Christ Church. Once a fortnight Fr. Tom Feighan from High Wycombe used to say Mass and often did a star turn at the annual Cheese and Wine party - usually singing 'The Mountains of Mourne'. St. Francis' was also used for a couple of weddings and funerals, and a few Baptisms.
In 1983 Fr. Vincent McRory took over as parish priest, followed by Canon Patrick Carey in 1991 and then Fr. Michael Griffiths in 1996. In 1999, Fr Michael was succeeded by Fr. Reg Harrow, who was rather unusual in that he had been an Anglican clergyman many years previously and was married with children and a grandchild.
In 2001, the parish of Bourne End was 'clustered' with Beaconsfield and Fr. John Udris assumed responsibility for both parishes. When Fr. John was promoted to a role at Northampton Cathedral in 2003, Canon Denis McSweeney became parish priest for Beaconsfield and Bourne End. In 2005 Fr Francis Higgins succeeded Canon Denis as Parish Priest for Beaconsfield and Bourne End.
However, in early 2004 the Diocese of Northampton decided that they could no longer afford to maintain the St Francis' building and due to the diminishing number of priests, wanted to transfer all activities to St. Dunstan's in Bourne End. Not wanting to lose a Catholic Community in FH, the congregation of St. Francis decide to take matters in to their own hands, arranging to use the FH Methodist Church on a Sunday morning and securing the services of the Marian Fathers at Fawley Court to say Mass.
Unfortunately, the Marian Fathers were unable to extend their involvement beyond their original commitment of three years and, from September 2007, all activities were finally transferred to St Dunstan’s in Bourne End, where there is now one weekend Mass at 10am on Sunday. A mini-bus service to this Mass is available for anyone in the village without their own transport (enquiries to the contact phone no. above). The St Francis’ music group continues to support the workship at St Dunstan’s on the first and third Sundays of each month.
Over the period from 1970 to 2007, the St Francis’ congregation averaged about 70 people, from all over the parish of Bourne End and nearby parishes, and often included service families from Canada and the US. These families were quickly welcomed into the community and most still keep in touch after they returned home
30 September, 2007