St Monica's Roman Catholic Church in Dymchurch
The St Monica's Roman Catholic Church in Dymchurch is located in Chapel Road, which leads
off Dymchurch High Street.
Sunday Mass time: 8:30 a.m
Holy Days of Obligation: Vigil Mass at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, please visit Catholic Hythe website.
In the early 1950’s, just after the Second World War, men and women were returning from duty
in the War or seeking to normalise their lives after six years of upheaval. For Catholics in Dymchurch and the surrounding area, the nearest church was Our Lady of Good Counsel, the Parish Church in Hythe.
St Monica's Roman Catholic Church
For those without a car, and that would be the majority, it was difficult to get to Hythe on Sunday morning for Mass. So in Dymchurch an Altar Society was formed, which later became the Dymchurch Catholic Church Committee. Its principal aim was to work to provide a Catholic Church in Dymchurch, fit for community worship.
In the meantime, as fund raising for the building continued, Sunday Mass in Dymchurch was celebrated in a variety of places throughout the village including the public bar of the Ship Inn,
the Bowery Hall, the Old School Hall (now the Masonic Hall), the Church Hall of SS Peter & Paul on the other side of the churchyard and finally in the British Legion Hall.
Setting up for Mass each Sunday, wherever it was held, involved a lot of work. The Sacristan made sure everything was in place for Mass: a fold down altar was erected and with other essential items created a reasonable altar and sanctuary. The priests brought with them their own vestments plus wine and hosts for the Consecration. In addition, seats had to be put out - which in the summer amounted to quite a few!
Schemes were proposed and dreams were dashed on many occasions before the land for the church was bought and the funds put in place. A local builder began work during in the summer of 1963, and in September the foundation stone of St Monica’s was laid by Fr Richard Bell, Prior of the Augustinians who were based in Hythe and served the Catholic community on the Marsh. By November the same year, the church walls were built ready for the roofing to start. Sadly, delays during the winter meant the church was not ready in time for 4th May, at that time the Feast of St Monica.
Undaunted, on Sunday 6 June 1964 Fr Michael Guerin, the priest with special responsibility for saying Mass in the Marsh churches, celebrated the first Mass at St Monica’s, and the homily was preached by Fr Richard Bell. Amongst the many guests at that first Mass, St Monica’s welcomed the Vicar of Dymchurch, the Reverend D’Esterre Meredith and the Methodist Minister, the Rev Latham.
Once the new church was built, the congregation settled down to using it for normal church activities: Sunday Mass, as well as regular Rosary and Benediction and the Church was kept open for private prayer.
In time the Scouts and Brownies held their Thinking Days at the Church and ladies from the congregation prepared Catholic children attending local schools for their First Communion while special Masses were arranged for children from Dymchurch Primary School and from Southlands Secondary School. Christmas Midnight Mass alternated each year with Littlestone. During Lent several House Masses took place in the area. The Dymchurch Women’s World Day of Prayer was, and continues to be, held at St Monica’s in rotation with the Dymchurch Methodist Church and the church of St Peter and St Paul.
In 1996, amidst great sadness, the Augustinians, who had served us faithfully for so many years, decided they had to leave the parish. As the Augustinians left, we welcomed the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, (“SOLT”) and this Catholic Missionary Society, founded in the USA, continues that work of service.
This story of St Monica’s Church in Dymchurch belongs to all of us: those with the vision in the early days who strived to get the Church built, those who are still with us and remember those early days before it was built, and all those up to the present day who worship and work for the greater glory of God in this place.
(abridged from the history given at the Golden Jubilee service in August 2014)