Parishioners from across the St Edmund’s Deanery took part in a ‘Three Churches Crawl’ to visit new buildings in Diss, Clare and Haverhill which have replaced Catholic churches that were bursting at the seams.
After visiting Diss, the next stop was nearly 40 miles away, at Clare Priory. There, parishioners had for many years attended Mass in a scheduled ancient monument: the infirmary to the original priory, founded in 1248. As at Diss, they outgrew their home, but here a different sort of solution was called for.
After many years of discussions with English Heritage and the local planning authority, work began on a contemporary design alongside and linked to the infirmary.
“We had to maintain the footprint of the ancient building for all time,” said parishioner Tony Sheppard. “And the new building had to stand in its own right – it couldn’t be a pastiche, it had to be a modern building.
“We discovered that after the dissolution a barn door had been knocked through on one side of the infirmary and then filled in in Victorian times. So English Heritage said we could put arches in there.”
New parish priest, Father Paul Flynn, welcomed everyone to Mass, saying: “As we worship together, we find strength in the bond of unity.”
The third and final leg of the tour took the group to Haverhill. Here, following an all-night prayer vigil, the parish received a major boost to its fundraising when, along with other churches in the town, it received £100,000 from local Salvation Army member, the late Wally Plumb.
Like Diss, the parish had managed for 50 years in a ‘temporary’ building . In Haverhill the congregation continued to use the old building until the week before the new one was ready.
“We extinguished the sanctuary lamp, carried the Blessed Sacrament across the building site and lit the lamp again in the new church,” said parish priest, Father Michael Teader,