History - St. Thomas More



In 1996 the sanctuary of the church was re-ordered, and the church was finally consecrated by Bishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor June 22nd 1996.

Seaford was originally part of the large Diocese of Southwark, established in 1850 when the English Catholic Hierarchy was restored by Pope Pius IX. Southwark covered the whole of South London along with the counties of Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
In 1965 Pope Paul VI established a new Diocese of Arundel and Brighton, comprising East and West Sussex and rural Surrey. Bishop Murphy-O'Connor was the third Bishop of Arundel and Brighton. In February 2000 Bishop Cormac was appointed by Pope John Paul II as Archbishop of Westminster in succession to Cardinal Basil Hume, and in May 2001 the Pope appointed Monsignor Kieran Conry as the 4th Bishop of Arundel and Brighton.

Father Chris Benyon was keen to encourage a variety of musical styles in the Liturgy, and in addition to the Parish Choir which had been in existence for many years, came the Folk Group and, later the Youth Band. Fr. Chris was keen to promote a greater involvement of the laity in the life of the parish. It was during his time that a system of Co-ordinators responsible for different aspects of parish life was introduced. At the same time a periodic open meeting for the whole parish, known as the "Parish in Council" was set up to enable everyone to contribute their ideas to the future planning of parish life.

In 1999 Father Chris was appointed to St. Leonards on Sea, and Father Anthony Churchill became the fifth Parish Priest of Seaford.

In September 2000 a group of 25 parishioners went with Father Tony on pilgrimage to Rome to mark the Jubilee year. Two more Rome pilgrimages took place in 2001 and 2003, and also in 2003 a pilgrim group went to Poland. Each year the parish is heavily involved in the Raphael Pilgrimage to Lourdes which has been a feature of parish life for many years. More recently parishioners have been involved in the annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Shortly after Father Tony arrived Father Christopher Bedford became a regular supply priest at Seaford. He had been an Anglican priest, and had recently been ordained for the Archdiocese of Westminster. As well as Father Christopher the parish has also got to know another former Anglican priest, Father Douglas Perkins who has become a regular visitor.

The parish has had the benefit of several priests who have stayed in the Presbytery and have helped in the parish. For most of the year 2000 Archbishop Maurice Couve de Murville, Archbishop-emeritus of Birmingham was with us. In 2003 Father Michael Chime from Enugu in Nigeria became a familiar figure in the parish. He was in England to study at the University of Sussex, but also helped out in the parish. In 2004, Father Stephen Hardaker lived here for several months whilst looking after the parish of Peacehaven, which had been without a parish priest since the tragic death of Father Patrick Emanuel in a fire at Easter 2002.

In 2004 Sister Brigid celebrated 70 years of religious life and Sister Bruno 60 years. Sister Bruno has been Parish Sister since 1985. She came to Seaford in 1949 and has been here for 56 years, 35 years as a teacher at Annecy.

Father Tony went to France for the principal celebration at the Mother House of the Sisters of Providence, near Rouen. Deacon John Truman and his wife Tessa were also there, representing the Parish, as were Margaret and Brian Slattery, representing the school. There was a Parish Mass and party in September attended by many of the former pupils from the school. Both sisters received a Papal Blessing from Pope John Paul II.

The year 2004 saw the celebrations to mark the centenary of the arrival of the Sisters of Providence, and the completion of the new school buildings. The children moved into the school in February 2004 when Father Tony blessed the new buildings. In July Bishop Kieran celebrated a Mass in the school grounds and solemnly dedicated the school. This Mass was attended by over 500 people.

The church was redecorated in 2004, and plans are in hand to re-build the kitchen in the Parish Hall and to redecorate the hall in the summer of 2005.