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Frequently Asked Questions about the New Parish

What is a Personal Parish?

Church law defines a parish as being “… a certain community of Christ’s faithful stably established within a particular Church [what in most cases we call a diocese], whose pastoral care, under the authority of the diocesan Bishop, is entrusted to a parish priest as its proper pastor” (canon 515). While most parishes are territorial, i.e. comprising particular geographical portions of their dioceses, nonetheless: “… where it is useful… personal parishes are to be established, determined by reason of the rite, language or nationality of the faithful of a certain territory, or on some other basis” (canon 518).

Many of us will have come across personal parishes for particular language groups. In Reading there is the Polish Parish, based at Sacred Heart Church in Watlington Street. It is a personal parish established for Polish speakers who choose to make it their spiritual home. Like other personal parishes, Sacred Heart Parish is not territorial – in other words it does not comprise a geographic portion of the town of Reading – but rather its parishioners come from far and wide. While its church building is located within the Parish of St James & St William of York, it is completely autonomous of that local territorial parish. In a similar way, the new Parish of St John Fisher has been established by the Diocese for those who are attached to the Church’s traditional liturgy and is likewise independent of the parish boundaries of local territorial parishes. There are a good number of other such ‘Latin parishes’ around the world, but this is the first to be established in the United Kingdom and the FSSP’s fourth in Europe after Rome, Amsterdam and Thalwil, Switzerland.

Where is the new Parish located?

For the time being, the new parish will be based at St William of York Church, until such time as the Diocese of Portsmouth can find it a permanent home. This church building, St William of York Church, remains the property of the territorial parish of St James and St William; and we thank its Parish Priest, Canon John O’Shea, and his parishioners for their ongoing hospitality.

St William of York Church was the home of the pre-existing Reading Latin Mass Community. Has anything now changed when it comes to the use of St William of York church building by the newly established parish?

Not essentially, but a Memorandum of Understanding has been established between the two current Parish Priests, Canon John O’Shea and Fr Matthew Goddard, regarding the use of St William’s by St John Fisher Parish. This has been accepted by the Diocese as an ongoing framework, until such time as the Parish of St John Fisher finds a permanent home of its own.

Who are the clergy of the Parish of St John Fisher?

All the clergy of the Parish are priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter. In the same way that religious orders run diocesan parishes elsewhere, so in this case the FSSP staffs this parish on behalf of the Diocese of Portsmouth.

Has anything changed in the relationship between the FSSP and the Diocese of Portsmouth?
Not substantially. In order to minister in Reading on an ongoing basis and to establish St John Fisher House as a permanent base, the FSSP and its priests always required permission from the Diocese. This still holds true now as it did before the establishment of the Parish.

Over recent years, relationships between Reading’s local clergy have grown and deepened. The FSSP’s Reading-based priests have become more active in the life of the local Church, particularly through attending clergy meetings, hearing confessions in other local parishes, sharing in the responsibility for chaplaincy cover at Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital, chaplaincy duties at Reading College and November grave blessings in the town’s cemeteries.

The only new development is a contract between the FSSP and the Diocese regarding the staffing of the new Parish.

Practically speaking, what has changed now that the Parish has been established?

Nothing has changed in terms of the liturgy (worship) and spiritual life of our Church community. This continues in the same manner as it did previously in the days of the Reading Latin Mass Community, following the liturgical books in force within the Church in 1962 and the particular charism of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter.

However, there are two small material changes: Firstly, following Church law, a finance council has been established to oversee the ‘temporal goods’ of the new parish, i.e. its money and other material assets. Secondly, there will be a number of second collections, following general norms.

Who decides what second collections will be taken?

As is the case with all English parishes, it is the local diocese and, in some cases, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) or the Holy See which direct when second collections should be taken and for what purposes.

What second collections will be taken?

This is the list of all second collections to be taken between now and this time next year. In the cases highlighted in green, with the agreement of the Diocese, the allocated diocesan collections have been replaced by collections for the benefit of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter. These replacements will continue in future years.

2nd Collection to be taken Date Taken Set by Holy See/ CBCEW/ Diocese Liturgical Calendar
Home Mission Sunday 16-Sep-18 CBCEW Home Mission Day – 17th Sunday after Pentecost
World Missions 21-Oct-18 Holy See World Mission Day – 22nd Sunday after Pentecost
FSSP foreign missions (Columbia and Nigeria) 04-Nov-18 Diocese 4th Sunday remaining after Epiphany
Cathedral 20-Jan-19 Diocese 2nd Sunday after Epiphany
The work of the FSSP in England & Wales 31-Mar-19 Diocese 4th Sunday of Lent
Holy Places 19-Apr-19 Holy See Good Friday
FSSP seminarian formation 12-May-19 Diocese 3rd Sunday after Easter – World Day of Prayer for Vocations (Good Shepherd Sunday)
World Communications 02-Jun-19 Holy See Sunday after Ascension
Day for Life 16-Jun-19 CBCEW Most Holy Trinity
Peters Pence 30-Jun-19 Holy See 3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Apostleship of the Sea 14-Jul-19 CBCEW Sea Sunday – 2nd Sunday in July/ 5th Sunday after Pent.

Have the financial arrangements now changed? As a parishioner, do I need to change my bank Standing Order or complete a new Gift Aid declaration?

No, everything remains exactly the same in terms of parishioners’ financial giving, be it Sunday collection money, Standing Orders or Gift Aid. All moneys received continue to be received into the FSSP’s Reading bank account.

Since St John Fisher is a parish of the Diocese, why are collections used to finance the FSSP?

In order to understand why, we have to make a distinction between the Diocese as an ecclesiastical entity and the diocesan trust which mirrors the Diocese as an entity recognised as a charitable trust in civil law. We can make a similar distinction when it comes to the FSSP: it is on the one hand an international priestly Society of Apostolic Life established by the Holy See; but in England and Wales its ‘secular face’ is FSSP England, a limited company with charitable status. The Parish of St John Fisher falls under the Diocese as an ecclesiastical entity when it comes to matters of Church governance. But, it comes under the ‘FSSP England’ charity for matters of finance, because it is the FSSP that funds and staffs it. Similar arrangements exist in other parishes run by other priestly societies or religious orders.

Why establish the Parish? Why did the Diocese not just maintain the previous status quo?

Up until the establishment of the Parish of St John Fisher, Reading’s Latin Mass Community had no formal identity in Church law. While its priests were given the faculties (permission) to minister to those faithful who looked to them for spiritual fatherhood and oversight, nonetheless the Community did not exist as a formal structure within the Diocese.

This was not ideal for 3 reasons: Firstly, it led to questions about the overall integrity and solidity of the Community – whether its lack of a formal status could leave it vulnerable in the long term. Secondly, while the priests and people of Reading’s Latin Mass Community loosely referred to their relationship as that of parish priests and parishioners, in reality they lacked that clarity of identity which comes with parochial status – a fact which may also have led to confusion among other Catholics. Thirdly, while the Diocese was kind enough to make practical provision for the Community over the past seventeen years, nonetheless the bonds of unity with the Bishop and Diocese were not so clear and it could erroneously have been construed that the Community was merely a tolerated aberration, rather removed from the daily life of the Diocese.

The establishment of the Parish of St John Fisher neatly addresses all these issues. Firstly, a parish is a permanent stable structure which cannot be suppressed without significant cause. Secondly, parochial status leaves the Parish of St John Fisher on the same common footing as other parishes and affirms that it is a fully integrated part of the Diocese. Thirdly, parochial status confirms that its life and worship are not just a matter of toleration, but rather are a fully legitimate option.

After seventeen years, parishioners can rest confident in the knowledge that their Parish is a solid, stable and fruitful vine in the Diocese of Portsmouth. Meanwhile, others who are considering relocating to join it can be secure in the knowledge that it is here to stay. Our grateful thanks to Bishop Egan and the other clergy who collaborated to bring about its establishment.

Timeline:

2001: Supported by the Latin Mass Society, local laity approached the Parish Priest of English Martyrs, Reading, about a regular Extraordinary Form (E.F.) Mass. The matter was discussed by the local clergy including the Parish Priest of St Anne’s, Caversham, Fr Tony Jones, who agreed to E.F. Masses commencing in the chapel of Mapledurham House, a local recusant manor house.

6 May 2001: The first E.F. Mass is celebrated at Mapledurham by Fr Andrew Southwell (then O.S.B. and an FSSP candidate based at St Bede’s Parish, Clapham Park, Southwark Archdiocese). Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham gave permission for monthly Masses. These were celebrated every 4th Sunday, with about 20 to 30 faithful assisting.

November 2003: Masses on Holy Days commenced at Christ the King Church in Whitley, Reading.

October 2004: At the invitation of the Parish Priest, Fr Gerard Flynn, monthly Sunday Masses commenced at Christ the King, Reading, on a separate Sunday to the monthly Mass at Mapledurham. Around 50 faithful assisted at those Masses.

Sunday 4 September 2005: the FSSP commenced a weekly Sunday Mass at Christ the King Church. Thereafter, Frs Nicholas du Chaxel, FSSP, Jacques Olivier, FSSP and Benjamin Durham, FSSP commuted from the FSSP’s base in London on Sundays, feast days and for catechism.

March 2006: The termination of the monthly Masses at Mapledurham, as most people had migrated to the Masses at Christ the King.

4 September 2007: All FSSP activities were moved from Christ the King Church to St William of York Church, Reading.

April to June 2008: The previous priests having been reassigned, Fr Andrzej Komorowski, FSSP, now the FSSP’s Superior General, covered the fledgling FSSP Reading apostolate.

June 2008: Bishop Crispian Hollis gives permission for FSSP priests to reside in a permanent base in Reading.

22 August 2008: Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP commenced public ministry in permanent residence at Reading. The FSSP house was a rented terraced house located at 179 Elgar Road. Daily Masses were offered at St William of York Church. Average attendance at the 11am Sunday Mass was about 75.

13 January 2009: Fr Simon Leworthy (an FSSP candidate from Australia) joined Fr de Malleray as Assistant Priest.

28 October 2009: The house at 17 Eastern Avenue is purchased, considerably extended and totally refurbished, thanks to the ‘Haven for Priests’ Campaign.

1 August 2010: following Bishop Hollis’ formal permission, the FSSPs Superior General, Fr John Berg, canonically established St John Fisher House as the FSSP’s base in Reading (and England).

May 2012: Fr Leworthy left Reading. Fr Matthew Goddard, FSSP, arrived in July as the new Assistant Priest.

August 2015: Completion of improvements designed and led by SS James & William of York Parish to the sanctuary of St William of York Church, significantly improved the liturgical arrangements for the Latin Mass Community: the church was re-painted and the sanctuary flooring and step extended and a tabernacle surround was introduced.

September 2015: Fr de Malleray left Reading to head the FSSP’s new apostolate in Warrington. Fr Goddard became the House Superior and newly ordained Fr Ian Verrier, FSSP, the new Assistant. Fr Patrick O’Donohue of the Diocese of Galway joined them in September 2017; and Fr Verrier was reassigned to Warrington in January 2018.

8 September 2018: Bishop Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth, formally established the Personal Parish of St John Fisher. Fr Goddard was appointed the first Parish Priest of the Parish, while Fr Seth Phipps, FSSP and Fr O’Donohue were appointed Assistant Priests.