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|2383: Our Lady
of Sorrows, Bognor Regis, England
Worshipper: Teutonic Knight.
Lady of Sorrows, Bognor Regis, England.
of Arundel & Brighton.
Our Lady of Sorrows is a typical Victorian contraption of yellow
brick and stone dressing, with giant proportions, although it
is plain compared to some. The foundation stone is dated 1881.
The church was opened in 1882 but not completed until 1957.
Its architect was Joseph Stanislaus Hansom, son and partner
of his better known father, Joseph Aloysius, inventor of the
the Hansom cab. It has a gabled frontage and dominates the surrounding
residential area. Inside, the focus of the sanctuary is the
high altar with reredos depicting two each of popes, bishops,
priests and deacons, including Bede the Venerable, Gregory the
Great, Thomas a Becket, and others. More recent renovation and
adaptations for the modern liturgy were carried out in 1985
by Messrs Ormsby of Scarisbrick, ecclesiastical design consultants.
Our Lady of Sorrows is the mother church of the Catholic parish
of Bognor, which is comprised of four worshipping communities
two in Bognor and one each in the nearby villages of
Slindon and Barnham. It is also the main centre for mission
to Eastern European migrants, with a Polish mass celebrated
every week. The church has all the usual prayer, study, support
and social groups, and regularly invites guest speakers to give
talks on such topics as "the prayer life of Jesus"
or "the future of the liturgy". St Mary’s Primary
School is just across the road in Lyon Street, named after the
Bowes-Lyon Family of the late Queen Mother, who famously spent
The church is situated in the town centre of the seaside resort
Bognor Regis, just off the high street in one direction and
a couple of hundred yards from the seafront in the other. The
town centre is not spectacular, and seems to consist predominantly
of charity shops and pound stores, alongside the usual shopping
precinct staples. Within walking distance are two convents,
one Benedictine and the other a Servite order.
The Revd Peter Fitch, assistant priest.
The date & time:
The Ascension of the Lord, 20 May 2012, 10.00am.
What was the name of the service?
How full was the building?
Well attended, with only a couple of empty pews. About 120 people.
There was a good ratio of male to female and a considerable
number of babies, toddlers, and young children. I did not, however,
see any older children or teenagers. Most of the children departed
at the beginning of the service for the children’s liturgy and
returned for communion.
Did anyone welcome you
Nothing to write home about. I was simply handed a weekly newsletter
that included a reference to the readings for the coming Sunday
(though not the day’s).
Was your pew comfortable?
Wooden pews with padded kneeling board at the customary height
and angle designed for discomfort, though the soft padding
on the board took away the pain.
How would you describe
the pre-service atmosphere?
Generally there was lively chatter, which was nonetheless lost
in the grandiose height of the building. There were a few people
unselfconsciously kneeling in prayer. One of the servers was
busying herself in the sanctuary, and a colourfully dressed
gentleman roamed up and down the nave chatting away to people.
What were the exact opening words of the
I completely missed those, as right at the moment when a lay
gentleman stepped up to the lectern for some announcements,
some children began to wail, drowning out any other sound. The
service proper opened with the Sign of the Cross, followed by
"Welcome on this solemnity of the Ascension."
What books did the congregation use during the
Celebration Hymnal for Everyone, mass setting supplement,
the Order of Mass (People’s Text), a sheet with music
score for a couple of psalms.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ and choir, who sang from the loft at the west end. Initially
I thought it was a recording, as the pre-service singing was
quite divine. Alas, the standard was not maintained throughout.
Did anything distract you?
When the altar party processed in, I spotted the gentleman who
had been roaming up and down the nave before the service, now
attired in priestly vestments. I wondered for the rest of the
service whether he was still wearing the casual sports top underneath.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or
Relaxed Catholic with moderate use of incense. The young servers
seemed a bit rushed as they busied themselves and moved about
the sanctuary. The altar party consisted of one adult (thurifer)
and five young people (crucifer and acolytes). They were the
age group that was missing from the congregation.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
1 minute (the celebrant) plus 5 minutes (a lady from the Lourdes
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
7 To deliver the shortest of homilies and yet have a very clear message is no mean feat.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon
Father Peter reminded us of the last words of Jesus before his
Ascension, and concluded that we are the Good News as we are
responding to Jesus’ commission to make disciples of all the
nations. This took no more than one minute. He then handed the
mike over to the Lourdes Pilgrimage Trust lady, who spoke of
the feeling of "Heaven on Earth" permeating the Lourdes
pilgrimages. The message to us was pretty clear: she wanted
Which part of the service was like being in
I have not attended a full RC mass in over two decades and was
struck by the changes that have taken place since. Even the
hymns and musical settings seem to be pretty universal across
the denominations these days. It served as a very poignant reminder
of the novena with its prayers for Christian unity at this time.
The air of hope was palpable. I felt light-headed.
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
Some of the children were rather noisy and the sound system
did not manage to rise above it, so it was difficult to follow
proceedings from where I was sitting. And there was only one
hymn board, which I did not spot until the third hymn.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
My schedule did not allow me to look lost afterwards, but I did feel a bit lonely in my pew and only shook two pairs of hands during the peace.
How would you describe the after-service
The newsletter stated that fair trade goods were on sale in
the side porch after mass, so one assumes that the beverages
would have been fairly traded.
How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
5 If they sorted out their sound system I might consider it. Without that incentive I'd feel lost.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a
Yes. The obviously multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-national
congregation reminded me of una ecclesica catholica
where language does not matter.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time?
That we are the Good News, the air of confidence accompanying
this message, and a Roman Catholic priest in a rugby top.
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