History

The Parish of St Francis de Sales was inaugurated in November 1967 when Bishop Worlock invited the Servites to take charge of the newly formed parish of Wash Common. The Servite Fathers had been established in the Wash Common area of Newbury since 1948, but were in the process of closing their Priory at Enborne Lodge. The invitation was warmly accepted and two priests were assigned to the parish - Fr. Damian Kilbride (parish priest) and Fr. Thomas Robinson (assistant priest and chaplain to the American bases at Greenham and Welford).

With no church, no site and almost no funds, apart from a legacy of £928, left by Miss Gunter for such a purpose, priests and people set about building a community. For the first three months services were held in the chapel at Enborne Lodge. Then, due to the kindness of Fr Birt, Anglican Vicar of St. Georges, Wash Common, more spacious accommodation was found at Battery End Hall. The priests lived in a small house in Essex Street, using the box-room as an oratory for daily Mass, until the garage was converted into a slightly larger chapel. From the outset the aim was to develop a parish on the lines laid down by the Second Vatican Council. This meant the involvement wherever possible of lay people in the running of the parish.

At the second general parish meeting in 1968, it was announced that the Bishop had put the parish under the patronage of St. Francis de Sales - so we had been given an identity with a saint whose writings reflected the spirit of Vatican II. Shortly after this the parish formed joint Bible Study groups with St. George's and so began a relationship with the Anglican community which lasts to this day.

Meanwhile prayers and entreaties were going up for a permanent church site. These were answered when Warren Lodge and the adjoining property and barn came on the market.

By this time Fr. Thomas had left Newbury for Kidlington and Fr. King, also a Servite, who had stayed to oversee the closure of the Priory at Enborne, had taken his place. He was a priest of many skills, carpentry being just one, but the one soon to be in great demand. Much to the delight of all, the first stage of the conversion of the barn into a church was ready in time for Midnight Mass, Christmas 1970. Many memories remain of that first mass with snow falling outside.

On Sunday May 16th 1971, Bishop Worlock blessed the barn church in the presence of local clergy, Servite priests, local dignitaries and parishioners. He reminded all present that they were the living stones forming the Body of Christ - His Church on earth, and exhorted all to cherish this new Church, drawing closer to Christ. Bearing this in mind Fr. Damian and parishioners set out to build a living Christian Community.

Since then the Transept has been converted and was completed by 1973 and following a Diocesan Fund Raising, ‘Living Your Faith’, funds became available to build a new porch which was completed in 2012, an initiative of Fr. Eamon.

Priests

  • Fr Bruce Barnes | 2015 - present
  • Fr. Paul Lyons | 2013 – 2015
  • Fr. Vincent Convery | 2012 - 2013
  • Fr. Eamon Walsh | 2006 – 2012
  • Fr. James Carling | 2005 - 2006
  • Fr. Paul Townsend | 2002 – 2005
  • Fr. Godric Timney OSB | 1999 – 2002
  • Fr. John Nelson | 1994 – 1999
  • Fr. Austin Gurr OSB | 1990 – 1994
  • Fr. Patrick Lyons | 1986 – 1990
  • Fr. Andrew Laverty | 1983 – 1986
  • Fr. Gabriel Cave | 1979 – 1985
  • Fr. Jeremiah O’Kane | 1979 – 1979
  • Fr. Bernard Medd | 1975 – 1979
  • Fr. Philip Walsh OSM | 1974 – 1975
  • Fr. Joachim King OSM | 1972 – 1974
  • Fr. Thomas Robinson OSM | 1967 – 1969
  • Fr. Damien Kilbride OSM | 1967 - 1972