On 19th May 2019, Cardinal Vincent Nichols visited St Ignatius of Loyola Church in Sudbury-on-Thames, Surrey, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the church. More than 300 people crowded into the church to mark the anniversary of Archbishop Manning’s inaugural mass on 23rd May 1869. Cardinal Nichols described the occasion as a ‘really lovely and special moment’ for all those in the parish.
Cardinal Nichols told the congregation: ‘We stand in a long line of people who have come here to nurture and express their faith in God who loves us’. That ‘line of people’ extending right back to the 1840s, when the first Catholic school was established in Sunbury. Cardinal Nichols stated that, ‘In a school the living stones of the church are pre-formed and those living stones will take care of the building of the church’. The first Catholic school in Sunbury was a converted stable, used as a place of education during the week and of worship on weekends. Most Catholics in the area had fled Ireland due to the potato famine and settled in Sunbury for farm work.
The foundations of the Sunbury church were dug out in 1868 by parishioners themselves, many toiling after putting in a full day’s paid work elsewhere. As most parishioners were poor, labour was their contribution. Cardinal Nichols recognised their contribution: ‘The church was built by men who came and did it after their day’s work because they wanted a permanent expression of their faith and a dignified place where people would come to worship and put their lives before God and draw the nurture we all need’.
At the end of Mass parish priest Father Michael Tuck thanked Cardinal Nichols for gracing the people of Sunbury and congratulated the Cardinal on having served ten years as Archbishop of the diocese.