The Parish of Our Lady of Peace started from a very small beginning on Feb. 23rd. 1930 when Fr. Kay from Slough said Mass at 9.30 a.m. in the Council Room in Burnham, there were about 68 men, woman and children present. The people of Burnham were delighted to have Mass in their village, and were willing to help in any way. By 1933, however, more accommodation was needed for the growing congregation, so Mr Harold McKenna gave permission for Mass to be celebrated in “Fairfield.”
In September 1935 a wooden structure with the capacity of about 80 was erected on the Haymill Estate, at a cost of just over £500. The new Church of St. Lawrence was blessed and consecrated by Mgr. Smith of Beaconsfield, assisted by Father Brennan. For this first Mass in a Catholic Church in Burnham there was a large congregation, and there were regular services held at the church from that time onwards. It was served from Beaconsfield. The Blessed Sacrament was reserved for the first time in October, and Benediction was given on the first Sunday of the month in a ciborium, as there was not enough money available to buy a monstrance.
On Ash Wednesday in 1936, the Stations of the Cross were erected by Fr. Brennan, delegated by the Bishop, and from the first Sunday of Lent Benediction was given every Sunday at 3PM preceded by Catechism for the children. The congregation at that time numbered about 60, and there were some convens under instruction. A priest came on Friday evenings to meet anyone who wished to see him. The first Jumble Sale took place in October, and this realised £22-0-10. The congregation continued to work hard for the Parish, and some of the men painted the Church in preparation for Easter 1937. During this year the debt was reduced by £100, the people were enthusiastic to see their little Church clear of debt.
The Parish continued to increase and by 1940 one Mass was not sufficient, so there were three Masses from March 3rd. Fr. Brennan took up residence during this year, but as there was no house available, he took rooms in the house of Mr & Mrs Rix in Burnham High Street. He stayed there for 14 months. By this time the population had grown considerably due to war work. It was during this year that the priest and congregation received a shock when a letter arrived from the Diocese, informing them that they owed £780-15-0 for the 13.25 acres of land on which the Church stood. The sum had been borrowed previously from the Diocese.
By 1943 the Church was becoming too small, and after the necessary permission was given, the work began on the extension to the existing building, a sanctuary and sacristy in brick was added. In February of this year a Convent School, (Holy Child Convent, St. Leonards) took up residence locally. As they were without a chaplain, they were served from Burnham. During this time the nuns were a considerable help in the Parish, including providing a choir each Sunday for the eleven o’clock Mass. The following year the extension was blessed by Bishop Parker of Northampton and Mass was celebrated. The Bishop also confirmed 3 Italian prisoners of war. An altar of marble from the battlefields of Sienna was given to the Parish. During this year a workers’ hostel was opened in Burnham, and was inhabited by mostly by Irish boys and girls, who provided a lot of help in the Parish, both socially and practically.
Work was started on building a presbytery, and by May 1946 it was completed, and the priest took up residence in it. The parishioners now felt the need of a Parish Hall, so men from the Parish dug the foundations. They worked Saturday and Sunday nights throughout the winter, spring and early Summer. The opening was fixed for June 26th 1948, although the Hall was not completed. Fr. Denis Brennan left the Parish for Corby on August 10th 1948, and Father Noel Burditt came to succeed him.
In 1950 the presbytery was enlarged to accommodate another priest, since the number of parishioners had increased, and it was necessary to accommodate a second priest. At about this time the district of Bourne End (part of the parish of Marlow) was temporarily placed under the care of the Burnham clergy.
In 1954 Fr. Burditt started the first serious endeavours to build a permanent and adequate church. Once again the men of the Parish set to work, they cleared the site, dug all the foundations, and finally mixed over 180 tons of concrete and laid it with steel reinforcements. The foundation-stone was laid by the Bishop on March 30th 1957, the Church was blessed and Pontifical High Mass was celebrated on February 11th 1958. In 1958 the wooden Church of St. Lawrence, which had served the Parish for 23 years was demolished, and the site was given to the Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, and the Convent of St. Joseph was built there. Some of the nuns taught in Our Lady of Peace Middle School, and St. Joseph’s Secondary School.
By July 1962, the debt for the new Church had been paid four years since the church was opened. On September 12 of this year it was consecrated under the protection of Our Lady of Peace, by Bishop Parker, assisted by Bishop Grant. Also during 1962 the first ordination took place when Father Stephen Reith was ordained to the priesthood on March 18th. Father Burditt left Burnham to go to St. Ethelberts, Slough. Father David Woodard replaced him.
Assistant priests during Fr. Burditt’s term as Parish priest were as follows: Fr. Francis Macon, 1948-1953, Fr. George McCann, 1953-1958. Fr. Neville McClement, 1959 – 1963.
In 1963 the first annual progress of St Edmund Campion’s relic from Lydford Grange to Tyburn took place. Father Nicholas Lash joined the parish, and he started a series of talks on the progress of the Vatican Council (‘Vatican II’). In December 1963, after looking for some time for a separate Mass centre in Cippenham, Fr. Woodard started to say Mass in the Scout Hut in Mallard Drive on Sunday mornings. A great amount was done by the priests in the ecumenical field, and their relationship with the non Catholic clergy in the Burnham area led to the formation of the “Fraternal of Slough Clergy.” From this came the start of the Slough and District Christian Council.
During the Vatican Council, not only did Nicholas Lash give his weekly talks on its progress, but there were also periodic meetings to discuss the implementing of the decrees. In 1966 the Polish priests started to say a Mass in the Scout Hut. At this time progress was being made towards the building of a Shared Church in Washington Drive in Cippenham. The meetings continued for four years, but eventually in November 1970 St. Andrews Shared Church was opened.
Because the numbers of children in the school had been increasing, two extra classrooms had to be built. The overcrowding continued to be a problem, so in 1968 it was decided to use the side-aisle of the Church as an annexe for the school. The Hall was used as a canteen for their lunches. At first there was one class, but then two classes of children did their schooling for five years in the church. Also in 1968 Bishop Parker gave permission for the priests to say mass in the chapel in Taplow Hospital instead of the Social Hall, thereafter Mass was said there on Sunday evenings and Holy Days.
After considerable anxiety about the purchase of the land, the Middle School eventually was constructed, and was opened and blessed on October 21st 1975. This meant that the inside of the church could be decorated, and the construction of the new organ could begin. This instrument had been purchased, when the Carmelites of Gerrards Cross no longer wanted it. To enable the parish to be able to buy the organ, Fr. Woodard cycled to Rome as an observance of Holy Year, and to raise money by being sponsored. He raised £2,000 in this way.
Since 1971 the priests had been running a course for prospective Deacons, this ran for three years. Bishop Grant the instituted some of the men as Lectors in 1973, Bishop Clark some as Acolytes and Lectors in 1974, and in 1976 four men were made Deacons. During the years there had been several ordinations to the priesthood. The convent next to the church now belonged to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, and was used as a retirement home for the elderly sisters. For several years Laud and Mass on weekday mornings were held in the convent chapel, frequently followed by coffee and a friendly chat with the sisters. During these years we had visiting priests to stay from France, Italy or Spain. There were some who proved to be extremely loyal, and returned year after year, notably among them is Fr. Luciano Albanese.
After a great deal of discussion, the piece of land behind the church was put on the market and sold for housing in 1980. This led to the demolition of the Hall and the building of eleven houses, called St. Michael’s Court. By 1984 Fr. Woodard was left to manage Burnham and Cippenham on his own. Since May 1974 he had also been responsible for saying Mass for the Catholic boys at Eton College, but by Christmas of this year he was relieved of this, and in March 1985 the Canadian Memorial Hospital in Taplow finally closed down. In July 1985 Fr. Woodard was asked to move to Oundle, and Fr. Tim Russ took his place.
Assistant priests during Fr. Woodard’s time in Burnham; Fr. Nicholas Lash, 1963-1968 Fr Patrick McDermott, 1966-1971, Fr. Charles Crawford, 1968-1977. Fr. Liam Brady, 1974-1983. Fr. Patrick Mc.Aleenan 1977-1978. Fr. John Fleming, 1978-1980. Fr. Roger Edmunds, 1983 – 1984.
Fr. Russ saw the schools in the parish as the future of the Church, and did a great deal to expand the numbers in the two schools. He also allocated parish money for the schools buildings, and obtained many grants from the Education Authorities for this purpose. Fr. Russ also encouraged further study, and a group of parishioners attended regular lectures at St. Bernard’s for two years for the Diploma in Theology. He also initiated regular discussions after evening Mass on Friday evening. These were originally intended for the training of deacons, but became a source of spiritual food those who attended them, and he encouraged people to read the Catholic philosophers, including Bernard Lonergan.
During this time the Sacred Heart Sisters decided that they could no longer maintain the Convent, so they their house was put on the market and sold as a private dwelling. They were greatly missed as they had become so much a part of the parish, and they had contributed so much. The Convent building is now used as a Montessori day nursery.
In 1990 St. Gilbert’s Church in Eton Wick, came under the auspices of secular clergy, it was no longer served by St. Augustine’s in Datchet, but by the priests of Burnham. St. Gilbert’s had been built at the expense of the parishioners, and had been blessed by Bishop Parker in 1964. Fr. Richard Barrett joined Fr. Russ as his assistant, he organised a very successful series of talks on the New Catechism and these included many interesting speakers.
Fr. Russ brought back the Guild of St. Stephen, and altar girls later joined the boys on the sanctuary. When Fr. Tony Brennan joined the Parish immediately after his Ordination at St. Anthony’s he organised inter-parochial football matches for the altar servers. The Catholic Women’s League was started by Fr. D’Sonza while he was an assistant priest in the Parish. The forming of the Justice and Peace Link was also instigated by Fr. Russ.
Another very important venture which was started in the parish soon after Fr. Russ’ arrival, and greatly encouraged by him was “The London Run“. Every Monday evening a group of people from the local area took food and clothes up to London for the homeless living under the arches of Waterloo Bridge. This has now grown to great proportions, and is a fully ecumenical venture involving forty parishes, and is a Charitable Trust, with ecumenical trustees.
» During his time at Great Missenden, Canon Timothy Russ created a blog about the philosophical writings of Bernard Lonergan, use this link to read it.
In December 1995 Father Russ was asked by the Bishop to go to Great Missenden, he was replaced by Father Sean Healy. Fr. Healy arrived in Burnham in January 1996, he had previously been in Milton Keynes where he had been involved in building a new ecumenical Church. The most pressing problem on his arrival was to do with fabric. It had already been agreed to re-felt the flat roofs of the Church. The presbytery was already in need of renovation, and after extensive discussion with the Diocese and the Parish Council the work was carried out in May 1996.
Also in that year the Department of Education refused permission to enlarge the Middle School, and over the next two years work was carried out to enable it to receive three forms of entry. The schools take up considerable time, and both Infant and Middle Schools had new head-teachers and deputy heads in the mid-1990s.
In January 1999 the Parish started to work hard to prepare a Mission which was held in November. It was led by the Catholic Mission Society, and it was a means of preparing for the Millennium. It was a great success and did much to enliven and enrich the Parish community. Christian Unity has been very much a live issue in the parish, and working with the Anglican community at St Andrews has been rewarding.
Fr. Tony Brennan was moved from the parish in February 2000 to become Parish Priest of St. John Ogilvie’ in Corby. His departure led to an increase of lay participation, and regular Services of the Word and Communion were held. Two of the Deacons, Rev. Ted Connelly and Rev. Ernest Mills are now semi-retired, and the Rev. George Brooker has pastoral care at St. Gilbert’s and the Chair of the Shared Church Board at St. Andrew’s. The Rev. Douglas Denny moved into the parish. In 1995, The Rev. Catherine Dyer became Anglican Vicar of St. Andrew’s.
In 2001, Fr. Sean Healy left the Parish and was appointed as Vicar General of the Diocese of Northampton. Fr. Edmund Worthy replaced Fr. Sean, staying until 2003. Fr. Joseph Williams was assistant priest in the early 2000’s, before moving to Kettering.
Fr. Michael Turner became Parish Priest in 2003. Fr. Michael was assisted by Deacon Rev. George Brooker. Deacons Rev. Ted Connelly and Rev. Ernest Mills retired during this period. Fr. Brian Godden, former Parish Priest at St Ethelbert’s Slough, (in ‘retirement’) assisted Fr. Michael. Fr. Michael oversaw a refurbishment of the interior of Our Lady of Peace Church, this required Sunday Mass to be held in the Junior School hall for the duration of the refurbishment.
The Diocese ‘Walking Humbly with our God’ programme was initiated in 2007, in part to tackle the issue of a chronic shortage of Priests and exploring ways the parish could reduce the workload of Parish Priests, creating a ‘Thriving Catholic Community’. The Slough Pastoral Area replaced the Slough Deanery, an outcome of the ‘Walking Humbly’ programme. Fr. Brian Godden would later leave Burnham to be cared for by the congregation of the Sisters of Nazareth in Northampton.
In 2010, parishioners attended the Papal Visit of Pope Benedict XVI. A Prayer Vigil was held in Hyde Park, and Mass at Westminster Cathedral.
Fr. Michael departed the Parish in 2010 for St. Peter’s in Marlow, with his replacement Fr. David Barrett returning from studies in Rome. Fr. Michael remained at the Presbytery for a while longer whilst the Presbytery at Marlow was rebuilt.
Fr. David led a very successful ‘Helping Hands’ recruitment drive for volunteers amongst the congregations, this included the creation of the Our Lady of Peace Choir. Deacon Rev. Marek Gajdus also joined the Parish in 2012, assisting with Masses at St. Andrew’s and Our Lady of Peace. Several long-serving members of the Catholic congregation were awarded the Benemerenti Medal. The Presbytery was extensively refurbished, leaving the Parish once again with a significant debt.
The ‘Together in Faith’ Diocese fundraising programme was held in 2011-2012, to cover a shortfall in funding for the care of elderly priests, training for new priests, and development of lay ministry.
Sadly, suddenly in the summer of 2012, Fr. David had to take sickness absence. Fr. Andy Richardson was appointed as priest-in-charge. By early autumn, it had become clear that Fr. David would not be able to return, Fr. Andy was then appointed as Parish Priest. He was previously assistant priest at St. Edward’s in Kettering. Fr. Andy was also the first Priest ordained by Bishop Peter Doyle.
Fr. Simon Penhalagan, a Missionary Priest with the SION Community for Evangelism in Brentwood, Essex moved into the Presbytery. In 2014 he became the Chair of the Bishop’s Youth Ministry Liaison Group (the managing body of the Northampton Youth Ministry Office).
Fr. Andy had the difficult task of dealing with the substantial parish debt, cost cutting and holding fund raising events. The enforced reduction of Sunday Masses in the Slough Pastoral Area meant St. Gilbert’s was left with two Masses per month, and Sunday evening Mass is no longer held at Our Lady of Peace.
In 2014, St. Andrew’s Curate, the Rev. Janet Minkkinen was appointed as the Anglican Vicar, replacing the Rev. Sue Smith.
St. Gilbert’s celebrated their 50th Anniversary in 2014 with a celebratory Mass with Bishop Peter, with many of our former Parish Priests in attendance. Canon Bosco Clarke (retired) is assisting with Masses at Eton Wick.
Members of the SION Community organised a Parish Mission in Autumn 2014, a memorable week of special events with the theme: ‘Fan into a flame the gift of God’. The key aspects were: The gift we are in the Father; The gift of Jesus; The gift of Forgiveness; The gift of the Holy Spirit; Being a gift to others is our Mission.
Parish Mission Prayer
Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to reveal your unconditional love for us, and for pouring out your Holy Spirit upon the Church. May that gift of the Spirit that dwells within each one of us be fanned into a flame so that we may have a burning love for you and for our neighbour.
Help each of us to play our part in making our parish a place of welcome, where people may experience your healing grace and be empowered to bear witness to your love for all.
We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Our lady of Peace: Pray for us!
St Andrew: Pray for us!
St Gilbert: Pray for us!
The London and Slough Run organised their first Winter Night Shelter for the homeless in Slough in 2014. Our Lady of Peace Church was one of several venues to welcome the homeless.
In 2016, following a consultation process, Our Lady of Peace Nursery and Infant School (formerly the First School) and the Our Lady of Peace Junior School (formerly the Middle School) were combined to form Our Lady of Peace Catholic Primary and Nursery School.