Wednesday, 28 October 2009

'The Tide is Turning'

Exclusive picture of Ramsgate TLM courtesy of PA

Andrew M Brown pens piece for The Telegraph on the astonishing return of the TLM to St Augustine's Catholic Church in Ramsgate. Exciting stuff!

For Catholics in Ramsgate, Kent, Fr Steven Fisher is the man of the hour. Parishioners of the Pugin-designed St Augustine’s in the town had feared their church might be about to close but now Fr Fisher, who serves a neighbouring parish, says he will celebrate a Tridentine Mass there every Sunday.

Augustus Welby Pugin, who was something of a social theorist as well as an architect, designed St Augustine’s as part of his vision of an ideal Catholic community in the area, though as he died at 40 (of syphilis, probably) he didn’t live to see the church completed.

It is profusely decorated and Pevsner called it a “marvel”. But earlier this month the Benedictines, who had looked after the church for more than a century, announced they were leaving their abbey and seeking a new home, so the congregation of St Augustine’s, understandably in this age of padlocked churches, feared the diocese would close it.

Then Fr Fisher, the parish priest of St Ethelbert’s, Ramsgate, stepped in, proposing to parishioners that he could transfer the Tridentine Mass that’s currently offered at St Ethelbert’s to St Augustine’s.

“I gave the people a democratic vote,” he says, as if that was the most natural thing to do in the Catholic Church. They voted by 75 to zero in favour of the plan. From January, a Tridentine Mass will be celebrated in the Lady Chapel of St Augustine’s on Sundays at 8.30 in the morning.

“The people seem happy about it,” Fr Fisher says. He has also engaged a caretaker to open up the church to visitors on Sunday afternoons.

Fr Fisher, who sounds very friendly and sensible on the phone, is keen on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, as it’s also known, although “it was Bishop John Hine [an auxiliary bishop in Southwark] who mooted this possibility to me”. The Extraordinary Form particularly suits St Augustine’s, according to Fr Fisher, since it’s the Mass as Pugin would have known it and besides, he says, breezily: “I’ve been saying it weekly since before Summorum Pontificum.”

Deo Gratias!


Richard Collins said...

Wonderful news....a church totally dedicated to the TLM if I understand it correctly.
Perhaps a sign of things to come a la the USA?

Anonymous said...

I suspect this really is a temporary measure as Fr fisher will not be able to afford the costs of keeping the place in good order, let alone embarking on any sort of restoration. The church & monastery offer an exciting oppurtunity but I suspect that the Diocese will be too scared & plead poverty as usual. The complex could be used as a Pugin Centre (this would not preclude offering the Mass), they could be a base for the Anglican Rite folks (again the Mass would still be offered). Thay don't have to be lost to us - unless the Diocese insists.
And we might even get the Pugin collection of vestments back in their proper home - they were 'acquired' by the V&A in dubious circumstances about 15 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Rumour has it(!) that Fr Fisher is moving in to the Abbey to 'superintend' it as a centre for the Old Rite. I heard it from a Southwark Diocesan priest yesterday.

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