Our parish is a part of the Catholic Diocese of Clifton, in communion with the Holy Father and our Bishop.
We are joined through time by the nuns of the Carmelite Order whose chapel we now use as our parish Church. This is why we are dedicated to St Joseph and especially St Teresa of Avila.
Parish Groups and information
Adult formation aims to provide a supportive and informal way for Catholics, and those who wish to be received into the Catholic Church, to develop and deepen their faith by learning from and sharing with others.
Continuing Christian education and formation of adults should enable adults to develop their talents to the utmost, and is lifelong. We should reflect upon and learn more about our faith, with catechesis for all.
Every person has a specific vocation, and all should be vocation promoters. We need to help everyone to discover and respond to God’s call.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the way in which we welcome and share with others our faith and way of life as Catholics, for those yet to be baptised and for those baptised who seek full communion.
FAITH SHARING GROUPS
Several groups meet about once a month to discuss and share their thoughts. As examples, in recent years letters in the New Testament and the Pope’s encyclical Evangelii Gaudium have been considered, and this year the book The Reluctant Disciple is being used. These groups meet in parishioners’ homes or in church, in the day time or in the evenings.
Contact: Barbara Lewis in the Parish Office or Gill Baxter.
There is a well-stocked library which is in the narthex of the Church. Parishioners are welcome to borrow books. In addition, Catholic Truth Society booklets are available for purchase. Contact: Mark Grinsell http://email@example.com
The parish has organised a retreat on an autumn Saturday recently, and our sister parish of Cheddar welcomes us to their retreats. In addition, retreats are arranged in and by the Diocese, which are publicised in the parish newsletter. The parish also hosts events from time to time, such as evening talks, Lent talks etc. Contact: Mark Grinsell http://firstname.lastname@example.org
The parish will support those who wish to be received into the Catholic Church (the rite of Christian initiation of adults, RCIA), and those Catholics who wish to consider life as a priest, monk or nun. Contact the parish office for more details.
Abbey House retreat centre, Glastonbury: http://abbeyhouse.org
Ammerdown retreat centre: http://ammerdown.org
Catholic Church of England and Wales:
Clifton diocese adult education: http://www.cliftondiocese.com/departments/adult-education-evangelisation
Clifton diocese vocations: www.cliftondiocese.com/departments/vocations-2
Downside Abbey (bookshop, adult education, vocations): www.downside.co.uk/benedictine-monastery
These activities help us to think about how our faith works in today’s world. They aim to strengthen and deepen our commitment and by doing so will help each of us to become more active Christians. Our shared commitment will help our parish to play its part in the heart of the community.
Christians Together in Wells
CHRISTIANS TOGETHER IN WELLS
The CTWA brings together Christians of every denomination for joint worship in the Wells area. These include the Catholic church of St. Joseph’s and St. Teresa’s, the Church of England: of which there are three main churches in Wells (including Wells Cathedral) and several parish churches in the surrounding areas who also play an active role. In addition there is The Vineyard Church and Elim Pentecostal Church, as well as the United Church (a union church of Baptist and United Reformed Churches) and The Methodist church. Ministers or officers of these churches meet on a regular monthly basis for mutual support, prayer and to help the work churches work together.
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE CTWA
- To enter as fully as possible into the Ecumenical movement
- To draw churches together in a greater understanding and unity so as to provide a more united witness to the wider community and as such be able to serve that community more effectively
- To provide a common expression of faith and devotion within the Christian churches.
REGULAR EVENTS IN THE CTWA CALENDAR
An evening service of worship is held usually on the third Sunday of each month. All the churches concerned take it in turn to host this service, giving each denomination the opportunity to share with others their own particular form of worship. Refreshments are provided after the service.
During Lent there are joint study groups organised, these provide an opportunity to worship, pray and study together, leading up to Easter.
On Good Friday there is a morning service of worship, usually at St. Cuthbert’s church, followed by a ‘Walk of Witness’ to Wells market square with readings and the distribution of Hot Cross Buns.
A forum meeting takes place under the chairperson every few months, churches taking it in turn to offer a venue. This enables everyone, from all the denominations to come together to discuss services and events that have taken place and to put forward any new ideas that may help to promote the general running and aims of the CTWA.
BENEFITS TO ST JOSEPH’S AND ST TERESA’S OF TAKING PART IN THE CTWA ORGANISATION
- By becoming part of the CTWA the parish offers its parishioners the opportunity to become part of the wider Christian community in the Wells area
- In worshipping and socialising together we are able to learn from others locally, who share our Christian faith and in acknowledging our differences, we come together
- In harmony, gain some understanding and insight into the different forms of worship in the Christian churches, who are our neighbours.
Each of the churches has its own particular links with the wider community they serve, some are more active than others. In becoming a member of the CTWA the parish along with all the churches involved shows to this wider community the intention to be at peace with our neighbours and on occasion to be able to join together with one Christian voice.
HOT OFF THE PRESS
We’re excited to announce that Christian Aid’s Joanna Tom-Kargbo will be visiting the region in March. Joanna, from Sierra Leone, will tour the region, sharing her stories everywhere from Cornwall to Gloucestershire to the Isle of Wight, and in between, too.
Check http://bit.ly/jtk_march2019 and come and see her when she’s near you.
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Aid worker from Sierra Leone to speak in Wells on delivering hope in the most dangerous place to give birth
Passionate change-makers in and around Wells will be fundraising and campaigning in support of work in Sierra Leone and elsewhere this Christian Aid Week in May. The harsh reality of giving birth in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where ten women die from giving birth each day, will be brought to life when a Christian Aid worker shares stories from the frontline of maternal health in her country, inspiring us for the buzz of Christian Aid Week activity to come.
Sierra Leone’s Senior Programme Officer for Health Projects, Joanna Tom-Kargbo, herself a trained nurse, will speak at St Thomas’s Church on Wednesday 13 March. She will share how Christian Aid supporters are delivering hope to mothers and babies through a programme to make childbirth safer in what is the world’s most dangerous country to give birth.
The stories she shares will feature in this year’s Christian Aid Week (May 12-18th 2019). Last year Christian Aid groups and churches across Somerset raised £152,000 in Christian Aid Week including over £7,500 from Wells.
Joanna said: “Communities in Sierra Leone see a woman dying in childbirth as the will of God. But we work so they know it is unacceptable.
“I am looking forward to meeting supporters in Wells to share with them how their contributions are making such a difference.
Everyone is welcome to attend the event at 4pm which will include a talk from Joanna, refreshments, and inspirational ideas on how to get involved this Christian Aid Week.
Rowena Francis, Chair of Christian Aid in Wells said: “Christian Aid Week is an amazing celebration of our potential to change the world, through generosity, solidarity and action.
“It’s remarkable what we can achieve when we stand together. Do join us and come along to hear Joanna speak.”
For more details about the event contact email@example.com
Health and Safety
Our parish continues to work alongside the Diocesan Health and Safety Officer to meet all our Parish Health and Safety needs and requirements.
Our parish H&S officer meets regularly with the Fabric and Finance Committee and reports all issues directly affecting our church and presbytery buildings.
There are many guidelines to take into consideration for the benefit of everyone’s safety. This is all overseen by our Diocesan Health and Safety officer.
In the past year we have been able to address most outstanding issues such as fire risk, electrical inspections, kitchen hygiene and many other important elements such as the annual servicing of equipment.
Contact: Connie Lane
Ss Joseph’s and Teresa’s Ladies Group
Our independent ladies group was formed in 2016 with the objective of sharing regular monthly social ‘get togethers’ and caring for our community through visiting any sick or lonely parishioners.
Throughout the year we’ll be taking part in a mix of faith based activities, fund raising for the Parish and local charities, and hosting speakers on a range of topical and interesting subjects.
Meetings are held on the first Monday of each month at Ss Joseph’s and Teresa’s church starting at 2 p.m.
If you’re interested in joining or simply coming along to meet us please contact:
Pam Mapstone (Chairman) email Tel: 01749 678812
Monica Tyrrell (Vice Chairman) email Tel: 01749 572011
Joyce Merchant (Treasurer) email Tel: 01749 672173
All parishes in the Clifton Diocese are required by the Bishop to have formed a Pastoral Parish Council (PPC) that brings together the various themes and activities of parish life. The purpose of the PPC is to support and advise the Parish Priest in his role as spiritual and temporal leader of the parish community. Members are elected by the parish body for a three year term. Elections take place at the annual general meeting which is generally held in February, but under special circumstances, additional members may be co-opted to attend to special issues or projects.
Responsibility for specific activities is delegated to specific members of the PPC. Currently these are:
Patron and Spiritual Director(s): Dom. Anslem Redman and Dom. Bede Rowe
Chairperson: Sara Tambling
Secretary: Charlotte Lythaby
Children and youth: Connie Lane
Adult formation: Helen Cox
Charitable Activities: Bernadette Green
Social Events and Caring: Bernadette Green
Ecumenism and Deanery: Jim McDonald
Liturgy and music: Ruth Hudson
Communication: Alan Ford
Practical matters: Deirdre MacGuire
Any of these individuals can be contacted directly, via the parish office or through the parish ‘pigeon holes’.
A new member was elected to the Pastoral Council at the AGM held on Saturday, 3rd March 2019: Helen Cox. She has taken up responsibilities for co-ordinating Adult Formation.
The approved minutes of the Business Meeting held on Wednesday, 7th August 2019 are as follows:
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Every human being has a value and dignity which we as Catholics acknowledge as coming directly from God’s creation of male and female in his own image and likeness. This implies a duty to value all people and therefore to support them and protect them from harm. In the Catholic Church this is demonstrated by the provision of carefully planned activities for children, young people and adults; supporting families under stress; caring for those hurt by abuse in the past; ministering to and managing those who have caused harm.
It is because of these varied ministries that we need to provide a safe environment for all which promotes and supports their well-being. This will include carefully selecting and appointing those who work with children, young people or vulnerable adults and responding robustly where concerns arise.
All volunteers working with vulnerable groups must agree to adhere to the Catholic Church’s National Safeguarding Policies before they can be appointed.
The Parish Safeguarding Representative has special responsibility for promoting good and safe practices in all activities involving children, young people and vulnerable adults within the parish. The Parish Safeguarding Representative is the link between the parish and the diocese and as such is in regular contact with the Diocesan Safeguarding Co-ordinator and Diocesan Safeguarding Officer.
The Parish Safeguarding Representative attends training sessions and has a sound knowledge of the policies and procedures and also who to contact. The Parish Safeguarding Representative is involved in the recruitment of people to roles within the parish and has the responsibility for facilitating the Disclosure and Barring Service, (DBS – formerly known as CRB), pre-appointment vetting checks at parish level and ensuring that everybody who is required to go through the procedure does so.
The Parish Safeguarding Representative: Sara Tambling
Our parishes recognise and follow the CSAS (Catholic Safeguarding Advisory Service) policies and procedures.
Our diocese’s safeguarding details can be found here: https://cliftondiocese.com/departments/safeguarding/
A BRIEF TIMELINE
By the second part of the 19th Century the numbers of Catholics in Wells had grown to some thirty people and they wanted their own permanent place of worship. Female religious orders were continuing to thrive, opening new communities. Sometimes it was difficult for them to find the right surroundings. The Carmelite Order located in Plymouth found their surroundings there, situated next to a public house and overlooked on all sides, somewhat unsatisfactory for a contemplative life and were seeking a more suitable home.
The Carmelite Order approached Bishop Clifford to consider the relocation of their convent to the Clifton Diocese. The two seeming problems dovetailed perfectly: he wrote to the Prioress:
“It seems to me that Providence has put in our way the very thing you require. The late Bishop of Bath and Wells [The Rt. Hon. The Lord Auckland] did not like to reside in the episcopal palace at Wells because he considered it was damp, so he took a house in the town which has a large garden attached to it. When he died his widow continued to reside there, and she having died recently the place is for sale… It has quite the look of a convent.”
Bishop Clifford personally found the nuns a home and the order took possession of ’The Vista’ in Chamberlain Street on 13th July 1875. Negotiations had to be carried out by a third party since “there would be no chance of getting it, if it were known to be wanted by Catholics”. There was some uproar when news broke out that the Catholics had acquired it, but the deed literally had been done.
‘The Vista’ in Wells was purchased for £2,250. This at time when the average wage in the area for a farm worker was about 10 shillings per week. Just yards up the road from this new convent, was Beaumont House which had been built on the foundations of the house once owned by the catholic Beaumont family and where Mass was reputedly celebrated in secret during the early recusant years.
The Carmelite sisters settled in and the first public Papal Mass since the Reformation was celebrated on 16th July 1875, on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Bishop used a chalice that had been donated to the Carmelite Order by His Holiness Pope Pius IX.
By 1877 Mr John Mercer of Wigan, Lancashire, and nephew of one of the nuns contributed £1,300 to build a chapel in the convent grounds, for the benefit not only of the nuns, but also the Catholics in the neighbourhood. The foundation stone was laid in the convent grounds. The blessing and laying of the corner stone by Bishop Clifford was reported in a local paper, The Wells Journal, in March 1877. The architect was Charles F. Hansom and the design of the chapel was to be suitable for a cathedral city. The Chancel and Nuns Choir were designed by Hansom and Bond. All costs were met by the Carmelite community. This chapel now constitutes the nave of the church.
Interestingly the exterior of the church resembles that of the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham, although that chapel had at that time, not been restored. The Wells Journal described the design being adapted from a small “wayside chapel” in Norfolk, a kind of building very common in France and Belgium.’ The barrel roof interior follows the design of roofs found in Pre-Reformation Somerset churches.
The small convent church took less than a year to build and was opened on 15th October 1877 and was dedicated to the two patron saints of the Carmelite order: St. Joseph and St. Teresa of Avila. After the Pontifical High Mass, about eighty guests went to lunch at the Swan Hotel.
Ten years later, in 1887 the chapel was extended with the addition of the current sanctuary; Canon Scoles, a noted architect, designed the handsome Altar and the Reredos, which had been donated by Mrs. Keegan, mother of one of the nuns. There was a new Choir for the sisters leading off to the left, behind a solid wall with a grille, shielding the sisters from view. Today the solid wall has been replaced by an arch and what was the sisters’ Choir is now the side aisle.
The debts paid off, the church was consecrated on 31st July 1890. The local papers described each of these major events in great and glowing detail. Diocesan records show there were between sixteen and twenty nuns and this is confirmed by the National Census.
The Forster Education Act brought the school provision to the fore in many minds. It is probably less well known that there was, for a time, a second convent in Wells. The Sisters of the Third Order of St Teresa came from Wardour to Wells in 1876, with the intention of running the mission school. They left three years later, but returned in 1887 when Bishop Clifford purchased No 22, Chamberlain Street for them. Some five or six nuns managed to eke out a precarious existence teaching the school, but the Order finally left Wells in 1936.
There were around thirty Catholics living in Wells in 1875 when Bishop Clifford invited the Carmelites to the city. By 1903, diocesan statistics show that numbers of Catholics had doubled. By the time of the First World War there were 98 adults and 17 children. Although in 1915 this included 15 Belgian refugees and in 1916 it did not include 12 adults on active service.
The first presbytery ‘Vista Cottage’ was built in 1880 on the land across Chamberlain Street from the convent as it was not appropriate to have a chaplain living in the convent. However, by 1883 the cottage proved to be too damp to live in and 1 Chamberlain Street became the presbytery.
The first annual outdoor Corpus Christi processions since the Reformation took place through the city streets in 1914, no doubt watched with curious interest by the locals. The procession was arranged by the chaplain, Father Morton who was also responsible for the formation of the local catholic Scout Troop. Uniforms for the scouts were made by the nuns. Numbers of Catholics continued to grow; by 1932 there were 168 adults: which included fifteen catholic inmates in the local asylum.
It seems the nuns were financially secure in the early years – probably through the generosity of one or two families, but by the 1920s and 1930s, the nuns, like many other people, were having to make economies. By 1947 they could no longer support their chaplain, and Bishop Lee called a meeting of all Catholics in Wells to tell them that if they wanted a priest, they would have to devise some means of supporting him. As a result a great deal of fundraising went on and Fr Kelliher became the first parish priest, and he also served the nuns. In 1947, rationing and hardship still very much a part of many peoples’ lives.
Twenty five years later, in 1972, the Carmelite sisters decided to leave Wells and join the Carmelite convent in Darlington as part of a wider consolidation of convents in England, Scotland and Wales. The closure of the convent in Wells was in the main as a result of: the location becoming less conducive to a contemplative life being situated on an increasingly busy main road; the intrusion of church services required for parishioners (then numbering over 700) into the routine of convent life; the need of the Carmelite Order to make economies and close underutilised convents; the convent in Darlington was larger and better situated than the convent in Wells.
The convent buildings were turned into flats and the Carmelite Order donated the church buildings, the Choir and the Sacristies to the parish. They also made a donation to the cost of alterations of the church. After 97 years in residence the Carmelite nuns closed their convent in Wells on 29th February 1972 and left for Darlington.
In 1975 the nuns’ choir became incorporated into the church as the side aisle and part of the convent grounds formed a new entrance. At the same time work on the new school was completed and the Carmelite nuns donated statues of Ss. Joseph and Teresa, which are now situated in niches at the school entrance. Bishop Alexander visited the parish for the official opening of the school and the blessing of the newly adapted church.
Both church and primary school still continue to thrive, although, as in so many places, the parish priest has to divide his time between two parishes. Fr Philip Thomas is currently parish priest of both Ss. Joseph’s and Teresa’s, Wells, and also Our Lady Queen of the Apostles, Cheddar, a combined congregation of some 300 souls.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN THE CHURCH
Baptismal Font – Donated in 1899 by Lady Turner a friend of the community and convert.
Stained Glass Window (behind the Reredos) – Donated in 1907 by the relative of one of the nuns.
Church Bells – Donated by benefactors of the Carmelite community to mark the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the Prioress, Mother Catherine. The bells were blessed by Bishop Burton in 1909.
The likeness of SS Joseph and Teresa, Wells to the Slipper Chapel at Walsingham is remarkable.
The Pre-Reformation Slipper Chapel, Walsingham had in the intervening years been used as a poor house, a forge, a cow shed and a barn. It was restored to the Catholic Church in 1896 by Charlotte Pearson Boyd.
Walsingham Slipper Chapel: http://www.walsinghamvillage.org/about/the-roman-catholic-shrine-slipper-chapel/
Ss Joseph and Teresa exterior:
Mrs. Gillian Hogarth, Clifton Diocesan Archives
Wells and Mendip Museum
Martin Langley and Edwina Small, West Country Towns Wells, An Historical Guide
Church of SS Joseph and Teresa, Wells, Somerset – Darlington Carmel
SS Joseph and Teresa Parish Office
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