Our Parish was established in 1972, however the roots of the parish of Our Lady of Peace & Blessed Dominic Barberi were formed many years before that. Please read on to see how we came together from “Our Lady of Christians Centre” to Our Lady of Peace & Blessed Dominic Barberi Parish.
Up until 1946, the Parish of St James in Reading covered a vast area bounded by the River Thames to the north, the River Loddon to the east, the Hampshire County boundary to the south and the Reading to Basingstoke railway line to the west. In 1946 this parish was split onto four new parishes:
- Christ the King
- St William of York
- St James (reduced in size)
- Woodley, Earley and Sonning with Woodley being the centre.
In the early days of these new parishes, Sunday Mass for Earley was celebrated by the Parish Priest based in Woodley, Fr Thomas Lane, in the Reading Cricket Club, (which is where High Trees Close is today). After Fr Lane had developed a Church, Church Hall and Presbytery on the corner of Beechwood Avenue and Crockhamwell Road (now part of the Woodley Shopping Centre) he turned his thoughts in 1951 to developing the Earley part of his Parish – there was talk at the time about the two Parishes of St William of York and Woodley and Earley joining together. With this in mind, our present site was bought with a view to it being the focal point of the two parishes. The house next to the existing BP Garage, 153 Whiteknights Road, was bought and both Fr Lane and Fr Donnelly, Parish Priest of St William of York, took up residence. Mass was transferred from the cricket club to the ‘long room’ in No.153. The two parishes didn’t join together at that time.
Fr Lane then directed his energies into building the Main Hall of our Community Centre and this was built by the same voluntary labour that built the old church and hall in Woodley. The hall was opened in 1952 and Bishop John Henry King gave permission to celebrate regular Sunday Masses in Earley. The hall was originally dedicated to “Our Lady of Christians” and Mass was celebrated there every Sunday, for 24 years, until our existing church was opened in 1976.
The next major development of Catholic activity in the area was the formation of the Earley Catholic Church Development Society in 1965, under the Chairmanship of Norman Preston, and its aim was to raise enough money to build a Church on the same site as the hall. However, in 1970 the Diocese decided to amalgamate the area of Earley with the Parish of St William of York with Fr Kearney being the Parish Priest. Two years later the Diocese Boundary Commission recommended that Earley should be made into a separate parish in its own right. So, in 1972 Bishop Derek Worlock created our parish in Earley and established Fr Vincent Flanagan as Parish Priest. As the house in Whiteknights Road had been sold, Fr Vincent lived for a short while in Our Lady’s Hostel in Wokingham Road and a flat in St Peters Road. A house was bought in Aldbourne Avenue where Fr Vincent lived until the present presbytery was completed in 1976. Fr Vincent started work on building the Church and Presbytery with the foundations of the Church being laid in 1975 and the Church was opened in June 1976 with a new name of Our Lady of Peace.
Once the Church was up and running the Parish grew and Fr Vincent next developed the social side of the Parish, organising an extension to the hall to incorporate a fully licensed Parish Social Club as well as other function rooms which was completed in September 1980 and opened by Bishop Anthony Emery.
Fr Vincent was transferred to Maidenhead in 1983 and Fr Philip Quinn became Parish Priest, and was succeeded in 1985 by Fr Peter Codd, who, soon after, was entrusted with a mission to establish a new parish in Earley. He was assisted, and very soon after succeeded by Fr Alan Griffiths.
Fr Peter moved to Lower Earley (to a house in Sawtry Close) to organise Parish of Blessed Dominic Barberi and Fr Alan became Parish Priest in Earley. Whilst Blessed Dominic Parish was growing successfully under the leadership of Fr Peter, there were further changes in ‘Our Lady of Peace ’. Fr Alan was appointed as the Catholic Chaplin to the University of Southampton in 1987 and was replaced by Fr Vincent Convery.
Meanwhile Fr Peter in Lower Earley was building a parish community and tried hard to find legal help to build a parish church. He moved to Gipsy Lane and celebrated daily Masses in the house. The largest room became the chapel dedicated to Blessed Dominic Barberi and the focal point for parishioners. For Sunday Masses Fr Peter, with the parishioner’s help , hired school halls and other premises. He also was the Chaplain to the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
The local authority did little to help the Parish of Blessed Dominic Barberi with finding a site on which to build a church. At that time the newly appointed Bishop Crispian Hollis decided to abandon development in Lower Earley and to re-connect the two parishes. This happened on Easter Sunday 15th April 1990. On that day the re-connected parish received a new name, which remains our Parish today: Our Lady of Peace and Blessed Dominic Barberi led by Fr Vincent Convery as Parish Priest.
Fr Peter Codd was given four months sabbatical before taking up his new role of Parish Priest in North Hinksey. At the same time Fr Vincent instigated, among many other things, a major refurbishment of the Social Club.
Our next Parish Priest was Fr Eamon Walsh who came in 1993 and stayed with us until 2004. In 1997, to manage the Social Club on behalf of the parish, a separate legal entity was incorporated under the name of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Club Ltd, fully owned by the Diocese. In 2003 a new extension was added onto the front of the church to provide more space at busy times, more flexibility for courses and meetings and a welcoming area before and after masses. The extension is named The Advent Room.
It is also important to mention that during the period when Fr Eamon and Fr Shaun were our Parish Priests and Fr Anthony was our Priest in Charge, they were supported by Fr Terry Burke MHM, the University Chaplain, who celebrated masses in our church on a regular basis.
Fr Shaun Budden took over in 2004 and was our parish priest for two years. During his short stay amongst us, he updated maintenance, administration and the pastoral side of our parish, creating the Parish Pastoral Council.
In 2006 we welcomed Fr Anthony Ikhenoba from the Archdiocese of Kaduna in Nigeria, who came originally for a year’s study at Reading University but stayed until 2011 during which time he gained his degree. As it was never established how long Fr Anthony would stay in the parish, many parishioners took responsibility for different areas of parish life. These changes, put in place Fr Shaun were providential, and helped the parish community to remain close and support the running of the parish.
On 4th January 2009 a water main burst on Wilderness Road. This resulted in extensive flooding of the area leading to the hall and the club premises being submerged under water causing substantial damage.
After a short period without a Parish priest in 2011, we were fortunate to be loaned Fr Emmanuel Odoemene from Nigeria. Fr Emmanuel, as with Fr Anthony, was in the UK to gain his degree, which was successfully accomplished in December 2014. Over the course of three years, he, as our priest-in-charge, supported development of monthly Adoration on Fridays and Sunday Rosary. During that time the church was redecorated which included replacing the carpet, and creating a new reredos at the back of the altar.
Since 2015 our parish has been run by Fr Stanisław Gibziński, as our Parish Priest. He is also the Catholic Chaplain to Reading University. Fr Stan is from Poland but he belongs to Portsmouth Diocese.
In 2016 the parish celebrated the 40th anniversary of the opening the church. Since then we have started preparation for the consecration of our church. The first step was organising a Marian Chapel from the existing Lady Chapel and the installation of an icon of Blessed Dominic Barberi. This took place in October 2017.
Notable dates and our Priests – then and now:
1952 – Bishop John Henry King gives permission to celebrate regular Sunday Masses in Earley.
Fr Thomas Lane as Parish Priest of Woodley opens our Hall “Our Lady of All Christians” in 1952.
1965 – Earley Catholic Church Development Society is set up with the aim to build our church.
1972 – Bishop Derek Worlock creates our parish.
Fr Vincent Flanagan (1972 – 1983) – the first Parish Priest of Our Lady of Peace (OLOP).
1976 – Our church is inaugurated and daily and Sunday Masses are celebrated
Fr Philip Quinn (1983 – 1985) –Parish Priest of OLOP
Fr Peter Codd (1985) – Parish Priest of OLOP
1985 – OLOP divided into two parishes by Bp. Anthony Joseph Emery
Fr Peter Codd (1985 – 1990) – Founder and Parish Priest of Blessed Dominic Barberi Parish
Fr Alan Griffiths (1985 – 1986) – Parish Priest of OLOP
1990 – Amalgamation of parishes of OLOP and Blessed Dominic Barberi under one name by Bishop Crispian Hollis.
Fr Vincent Convery (1987 – 1993) – Parish Priest of OLOP& Bl Dominic Barberi
Fr Eamon Walsh (1993 – 2004) – Parish Priest of OLOP& Bl Dominic Barberi
Fr Shaun Budden (2004 – 2006) – Parish Priest of OLOP& Bl Dominic Barberi
Fr Anthony Ikhenoba (2006 – 2011) – Priest in Charge of OLOP& Bl Dominic Barberi
Fr Terry Burke MHM – Catholic Chaplain to Reading University for many years, and a friend of OLOP& Bl Dominic Barberi helping Fr Eamon, Fr Shaun, Fr Anthony.
Fr Emmanuel Odoemene (2011 -2015) – Priest in Charge of OLOP& Bl Dominic Barberi
Fr Stanisław Gibziński (2015 – now) – Parish Priest of OLOP& Bl Dominic Barberi