Roman Catholic Church

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The St Thomas's Church Corpus Christi celebration in 1934
St Thomas's Church
Corpus Christi procession in 1966

History

From Roman Catholicism to Protestantism

The island of Jersey remained part of the Duchy of Normandy until 1204 when King Philip Augustus of France seized the duchy from King John. The islands remained in the personal possession of the King and continued to be part of the Norman diocese of Coutances. It was reluctant to come under the wing of the English church because it had many ties with Normandy.

The island embraced the French Calvinist form of Protestantism during the Reformation and the orders were received to remove all signs of Catholicism in 1547 with the Act of Dissolution of the Colleges and Chantries, which had been applied to Jersey in the Act of Uniformity 1549.

In 1550 a Royal Commission visited the island to sell church property for the benefit of the crown; in 1551 Sir Hugh Paulet, a member of this Royal Commission, was made Governor of the island and so he returned with a Royal Commission addressed to himself to continue the task. The island remained under the diocese of Coutances until 1569.

Catholic immigrants

In the 1790s, during the French Revolution, French Roman Catholics took refuge in Jersey, allowed to hold services but not to convert.

In the 1830s and 1840s the island's Catholic community expanded with the influx of Irish labourers coming to work on major building projects, such as the new harbour.

Towards the end of the 19th century Catholic teaching and nursing orders — the De La Salle brothers, Jesuits and Little Sisters of the Poor — settled in Jersey. In 1894 the Jesuits bought a property called Highlands, which later became Highlands College. In 1917, the De La Salle Brothers founded De La Salle College.

Roman Catholicism in Jersey today

Today, Jersey's Roman Catholic Church is under the diocese of Portsmouth.

There are eight Roman Catholic churches in the island. There is a shortage of priests and workers and the Church has had to close two chapels and sell some of its churches.

Mass in certain churches (such as Saint Thomas's) is regularly held in Portuguese and Polish, and only occasionally today in French.

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