Parish History-Second Church

1st church on current siteBy 1919 the Catholic population had grown to 26, Fr Vendé had celebrated his first wedding and burial in the town and had started the Mission in Downham Market (1915), but his health was beginning to fail, so he moved to become Chaplain at Oxburgh Hall. However, he didn’t stay long there and he moved on to Cornwall, where the Canons had an Abbey, and he died there on 17 January 1924.

He was replaced by Fr John Malone . Life for the early missioners must have been difficult, with shortage of money, few parishioners and incomprehension from the local people. Fr Malone wrote to the Bishop saying he had just finished

"my first Sunday’s work. I feel very lonely and desolate, but I shall try to shake off that feeling and shall do my best for the spread of the Church in this ‘no-man’s land’ ".

He soon started a series of lectures on the Faith but “attendance was very poor.

" What can be done to wake up the sleepy Swaffhamites?"

he wrote. However the new ‘temporary’ Church to seat 120 was built in 1920, and it was opened and blessed by the Bishop on 22nd August, Fr Vendé returning from Oxburgh for that occasion.

After three years, by which time the Catholic population was 51, Fr Malone too was replaced, this time by Fr Jerome Esser, O Praem, of Tongerloo Abbey in Belgium. He was in residence at “The Presbytery, Woodside” in September 1922; and indeed Fr Malone must have found his work an uphill task, for Fr Esser reported that on his first Sunday in Swaffham

"there were 7 people for Holy Communion and 18 in all at Mass including the Priest. At the Evening Service there were 20 - 25, and the offertory for the day was 8/2½d [41p]".

The discrepancy in numbers between those at Mass and at the Evening Service could be accounted for by the congregation being mainly working people (domestic servants, labourers and so on) who could only get time off in the evening.