We were honoured by the company of Mary Ward family members from all over the world this April, as we celebrated the 250th anniversary of our hidden chapel.
Built originally in 1769, at a time when keeping the Catholic faith was still illegal in England, the chapel’s characteristic dome is hidden from view of the street by a pitched slate roof. It was designed to have eight separate exits, allowing the congregation a swift escape in the event of a raid by the anti-Catholic authorities.
Building work in the early twenty-first century also uncovered a hitherto unknown about priest hole. There’s no way for us to know if the priest hole was ever used – we have no evidence, at least – but it gives a good idea of the depth of fear still experienced by English Catholics in the eighteenth-century.
A quarter of a millennium later, our chapel still brings sanctuary and comfort to visitors from all over the world.
Our sisters would like to thank everyone who joined them for this very moving occasion, and all those visitors around the year for whom the chapel is a special place.
For those who are interested, we have the text of Bishop Terry’s beautiful homily here online for you to read: download the homily.