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History of the church

1840's - 1900
Plans for a New Church
The new Church
Opening of the Church of Our Lady,
Help of Christians and St Aloysius,
17 July 1889
The Great War
The Building of Stella Maris School and the new church in Cheriton
Golden Jubilee and Consecration of the Church, 21 June 1939
The Second World War
War time difficulties and problems
Post-War reconstruction
The Re-ordering of the Church
after Vatican II
Visit of the Pope to Canterbury
End of the XX Century
Centenary Thanksgiving Mass,
16 July 1989
Present day
Priests who have served the Parish
The history of the parish is based on the extracts from:

Catholic Folkestone, A Post-Reformation History by Eammon D. Rooney and Dennis Creighton-Davies

Copyright: Roman Catholic Parish of Our Lady, Help of Christians & St. Aloysius, Folkestone

Copies of the booklet may be obtained from:

The Catholic Presbytery
41 Guildhall Street
Kent CT20 1EF



Post-War reconstruction
In July 1946 it was noted that Stella Maris School had 89 children on the books. Of these 20 were non Catholics and a sign of the disruption of the war 45 of the 69 Catholic children had not yet made their First Holy Communion and 24 of the children over 8 had not yet been confirmed When the Autumn term commenced on 9th September there were 95 children on the roll.

At the beginning of 1947 the very sad problem arose of finding a Polish priest who could hear the confessions of 60 Polish mental and nervous war invalids at Castle Glen Lower Sandgate Road. This was solved with diocesan assistance
At about this time it was decided that a mini bus was needed to bring pupils to Stella Maris School from outlying districts.

In September 1948 the Folkestone Foundation of the Union of Catholic Mothers was initiated at a meeting of twenty prospective members under the chairmanship of Fr Walmsley. Mrs. Allen the mother of fifteen children was the first president. The official inauguration took place on New Year's Night 1949


The Re-ordering of the Church after Vatican II
In 1970 one of the first matters to which the new parish priest had to address himself was the alteration of the church to conform to the revised order for the celebration of Holy Mass.

On the 5 June 1970 Fr Roskilly called a meeting preliminary to the setting up of Parish Council. The aims and objectives of the council were defined at a meeting on 11 June 1970 and the first business meeting took place on 22 June.
In the early months of 1971 the Parish Council considered the estimates for the renovation of the church. There was very little money. To meet this large expense, plans were made to hold two moneymaking events each year: one in June/July and the other in December. The covenant scheme had been launched and it was noted with satisfaction that fifty-five covenants had been made.
A matter causing anxiety was the announcement by the authorities that a new road to increase the flow of traffic would cut Guildhall Street in two in the vicinity of the church. It would be isolated from the town centre by a fast moving stream of traffic and access to the church would be made difficult for pedestrians and motorists alike.

The parish priest and parish council started the year 1972 with three matters demanding attention. The restoration of the church, the alterations for the new order of the Mass and a worthy memorial to Fr Walmsley, who died in July 1971.
In the summer of 1973 the decision was taken to dedicate the restoration of the High Altar and sanctuary to the memory of Fr Walmsley. Careful husbanding of resources had now made this financially possible. The work was placed in the hands of an Irishman, Mr. J.J. Frame, who had specialized in similar church restorations in Gibraltar and Malta. The wooden canopies were removed from their positions above the figures of Our Lady and Saint John. The painted panels of saints together with the elaborately carved woodwork into which these were set were also taken down. A simple altar enabling Mass to be celebrated facing the people was erected using some of the material from the original altar. The pulpit, which had stood on the left hand side of the church, was dismantled and re-erected in the form of two reading desks - one on each side of the sanctuary. Clusters of white opal glass lighting fittings were installed in the nave and the area above the oak paneling of the walls was repainted in a gray stone colour.
The floor and steps of the sanctuary were covered with durable gold coloured carpet, the magnificent ceiling of the church was cleaned and the two hundred and nine painted and gilded monogram bosses were refurbished. Our Lady's figure above the Lady altar was gilded - as was the figure of St Aloysius. In this way the church was transformed to accord with the requirements of the new liturgy but the excesses of change that took place in some parishes were avoided.
All the work in connection with the restoration and decoration of the church was completed early in 1975 and the new free standing altar ready for consecration. On the eve of the feast of St Eanswythe, Thursday 11th September, the new altar was formally consecrated by Bishop Charles Henderson, Auxiliary in Southwark.
In the summer of 1978 Mr. Bye retired from the headmastership of Stella Maris School. At a presentation on 30th June a gift of Waterford crystal glass was made to him by the two Folkestone parishes. He was much moved by a Papal Blessing that had been obtained in recognition of his service to the school. Mr. Nicholas Crangle took over as head teacher when the autumn term began.
All in the parish were very happy when Kevin Fitzgerald, an old Stella Mans pupil, went to St John's Seminary, Wonersh, to study for the priesthood. He had worked in the parish as MC at Mass, as scoutmaster, as secretary of the parish council and in other capacities. He was the first young man from the parish for many years to seek ordination.


Visit of the Pope to Canterbury
At the beginning of August Pope Paul VI died and he was succeeded by Pope John Paul I, who also died suddenly at the end of September. On 16th October the election took place of the first non-Italian Pope for 450 years. Karol Wojtyla, the Polish Cardinal Archbishop of Cracow, became supreme pontiff under the title of Pope John Paul II.

The year 1980 opened with the consecration of a Bishop in Kent as the Archbishop had discussed with the parishes and deaneries two years before. Fr John Jukes OFM Conv. was consecrated Bishop on 30 January. Bishop Jukes was given special responsibility for Kent within the Archdiocese of Southwark.

Membership of the Catholic Women's League had been shrinking for several years and now ceased to be a separate entity. Some of the members joined the Young Wives Club, formed the year before, others were already associated with the Union of Catholic Mothers.

The main event of 1982 was the visit of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Britain. After months of preparation the great event took place in the month of May. Fr Hogg led a party from the parish to the great open air Mass at Wembley Stadium. Another party were able to see His Holiness in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral. Some young members even made the journey to Cardiff and participated in the Youth Rally at Ninian Park stadium.


End of the XX Century
In 1984 Fr Roskilly asked the Archbishop if he could relinquish his responsibilities as parish priest. His incumbency of fifteen years was the third longest in the parish's history. Fr Roger Nesbitt was appointed to the parish and arrived on 3 September. This was his first appointment as parish priest. He came to Folkestone from the parish of St. Saviour's, Lewisham in SE. London. He had previously taught Religion and Science at John Fisher School in Purley, Surrey.
The decision was now taken to introduce a 9.3Oam Mass in the church on Sundays to take the place of the 10 am service at the Railway Hall. With some regret and nostalgia, the hall ceased to serve as a Mass Centre after 25 November 1984. A regular coffee morning was established after this new Mass, which proved to be very convenient and popular for those with young families. None of the friendly and family atmosphere that prevailed at the Railway Hall was lost in the change. On one Sunday each month this is primarily the Stella Maris School Mass. Attended by pupils and staff, the schoolchildren read the lessons, sing, prepare and read the bidding prayers and take up the offertory gifts.
At the end of June 1985 an act of sacrilege took place when the Seventh Station of the Cross was stolen. Some weeks later a man was charged with the theft and destruction of this sacred treasure. Over the years the church, in common with other places of worship, has attracted the attention of sneak thieves. Candlesticks, a sanctuary bell, an antique table and other objects have been stolen. Being always open for private prayer and meditation the church is very vulnerable. Sadly, the lurking petty robber has to be accepted as a fact of church life.

On 29 July 1985 the first 'Faith Summer Break' was instituted. Twenty five young people came to stay in the parish accompanied by two young priests. The aim was a deepening of faith and definite instruction was given in a relaxed atmosphere. The event was a great success and now takes place every summer.
A Parish Hall Committee was formed early in 1986 by some dozen members of the congregation in the twenty to thirty plus age group. They planned the work to be done to bring the hall up to date and provided the labour themselves. For months the area was a scene of continuous activity. In addition they raised most of the cost of materials used by mounting events such as sales, parties, barbecues and a boot fair. The committee also contacted various businesses and corporations for help. The UCM made and presented new curtains. The hall has emerged as the most modern and best appointed of all church premises in the town.

Since the theft of the Station of the Cross a search was made for a set of identical pictures. The quest ended at Storrington Church in Sussex. By a sophisticated photographic process a copy was made - hardly distinguishable from the original.
The statue of St John Baptist together with the original stone font were removed from the second church porch to the area under the organ loft. The church heating was overhauled. Two large cabinets with flat tops to accommodate newspapers, missalettes and so on were installed at the back of the church. A new sound system was put in together with a 'loop' system for the benefit of the hard of hearing.

In the spring of 1988 the statue of Our Lady holding the broken body of Christ, the Pieta, was removed from what had now become the baptistry to the original position of the font in the second church porch. The whole area was renovated and a curtain placed across the exit door creating a chapel in honour of Our Lady of Sorrows.

On the afternoon of 28 July the oak paneling near the Fourth Station of the Cross was found to be ablaze. The fire was quickly extinguished but it could have engulfed the whole building. It was most probably started by malice and it represents one of the problems of our church in the "Inner City" of Folkestone of the 1980's.