The news that St. Anthony of Padua, the beautiful Catholic Church in Rye’s Watchbell Street, was about to close came like a bolt out of the blue to Rye’s Catholic community.
Many other Ryers, who admired the colour and richness of it’s interior design and the friendly succession of resident priests that became an integral part of Rye community life, were also very sad to hear the news.
One Priest that had a great impact on both Catholics and Protestants alike was Father Richard, who on eventually leaving Rye, became the head of the Franciscan Order in England. Everyone who knew him has a story to tell. My C of E mother was very impressed that he would visit bereaved families, whatever their denomination, and offer his condolences.
I remember the amazing joint service he held with Rev. John Williams at St. Mary’s, when he become the first Catholic Priest to perform a sermon in a Protestant Church since the Reformation.
Complete Disbelief and Shock
Bernard Clark represented the feelings of all Rye Catholics when he wrote on Ryes Own News “It is in complete disbelief and shock that we have been informed that St Anthony of Padua church in Watchbell street is to close. We were informed on the 31st January that the last mass will celebrated here on Sunday 15th Feb. and there will no longer be a resident priest. As you can see all this is all taking place in a two week period, and has left the Catholic community in Rye with no longer a place to hear mass.
St Anthony’s has been in Watchbell St. Since the 1920s, and before that there was a Catholic Church on this site, it has been run by the Franciscan Order, and it is their decision to close the church. As you can imagine, we the Catholic community here in Rye, after the initial shock, are desperately hoping that this closure will not be permanent, but the future does not look good. I don’t know if it makes any difference as to what will happen to the church, but I believe it is a listed building”.
Other comments from the Newsfeed
Barbara Ross “I am not a Catholic but I remember this church as having been there throughout my entire adult life and it will be sadly missed.
John Tolhurst “So sad to see another piece of history go, sadly a town being marketed for second home owners. Will the last one to leave after a jolly weekend in this once vibrant town please turn out the lights.
Donna Lemon “My son was just christened here. I went to Sunday school with my sisters for 10 years and went on to be an alter girl so sad.
Shaun Rogers ” … I served as an alter boy here and the inside of this church is just one of the loveliest in England. So many lives have passed through those doors, happy and sad but above all everyone there gave each other respect …. which is sadly lacking in society now. It’s a real shame that an organisation such as this with all it’s material wealth cannot find a way to keep this church open. I feel this building will just stand empty, allowed to fall into ruin, and another part of our community will be scattered to the wind, another great building asset and group of people lost !
” Susan Arkley “I am not catholic but this is an outrageous decision. Yet another historic part of Rye will disappear into oblivion, not forgetting the worshippers who regularly attend to affirm their faith and enjoy the catholic community.
Latest on St. Anthony of Padua on Page 32
“Rye’s Own” March 2015
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