New priest for new community

On a warm autumn evening Fr Charles Howell was inducted as parish priest of Our Lady of England, Storrington, West Sussex by the Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, Rt Rev Kieran Conry on Tuesday 24th September 2013.

Bhp Kieran Conry and Fr Charles Howell
Bhp Kieran Conry and Fr Charles Howell

The evening marked a turning point for the parish, firstly as it moved from the care of a religious order to the diocese and secondly as it saw the welcome of a new religious community into the parish.

The packed church was filled not only with parishioners, but also with ministers and leaders of other Christian communities in Storrington and importantly with members of the new ecumenical community based in Storrington, Chemin Neuf.

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The Bishop and Fr Charles were also accompanied during the service by 17 Catholic clergy, both priests and deacons not only from the local area, but also from Fr Charles previous parish of Nativity of the Lord covering Merstham, Redhill and Reigate.

Fr Charles welcomed by Mr Terry Lane Chair of Parish Pastoral Team

The induction of a new parish priest is always a joyful occasion for any parish and its new priest, but the ceremony this evening was particularly poignant as it marked a big change in the life of the parish as it officially moved to the care of the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton from that of the religious community, the ancient religious order known as the Norbetines or Premonstratentions who had been there since 1881, a period of over 130 years.

The past couple of years had been difficult and challenging for the local Catholic community as the religious community decided to move out of the parish.

The diocese appointed another priest last year, Fr Con Foley as a temporary measure, and so the parish were delighted this September to welcome their own full-time parish priest, Fr Charles Howell.

Bishop Kieran Conry in his homily noted the sadness at the departure of the Norbetines which had left the parish he said “like a ruptured family.” Fr Charles’ arrival meant the rebuilding of “family relationships,” and that both parties, parish and priest, were to build a new relationship by “loving each other.”

The induction of Fr Charles was also significant because it also marked an official welcome to the ecumenical community of Chemin Neuf into the buildings, known as the Priory, left by the Norbertines. This community founded in Lyon, France in 1973 and made up of priests, deacons, married people and celibate brothers and sisters from among Catholics and other Christians. The community has been active in UK since 1993.

Bishop Kieran and Fr Charles both offered them an especial welcome to Storrington and looked forward to working with them in the coming years.

The induction was followed by a wonderful reception in the Priory Hall lent to the parish by the Chemin Neuf community.

Fr Charles was warmly received by family, friends, clergy and parishioners.