125th Anniversary of St Marys Church
St Mary’s Catholic Church
The origins of St Mary’s go back to 1764, when a French Benedictine monk and botanist named Dom Antoine Pernetty came with the earliest settlers at Port Louis. Dom Antoine screened off part of the dining room in the main building at Port Louis and used it as a chapel. Later, under the Spanish administration that began in 1767, a temporary chapel dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude) was built. This was replaced with a more permanent stone-and-brick building that was consecrated in 1801.
In 1844 the settlers moved from Port Louis to Stanley, which on Friday, 18th July 1845, became the capital.
The Irish Chaplains & Fr Foran (1856-1887)
In the 1850s the Colonial Manager of the Falkland Islands Company, Thomas Havers, a Catholic, rented a house in Stanley, where he held Sunday services and gave religious instruction.
In response to Mr Havers’ request to Cardinal Wiseman and to Rome for English-speaking priests, Irish chaplains would visit the Islands on temporary missions. St Mary’s Church was eventually built at Pump Green and was used from Sunday, the 15th of June 1873.
Fr James Foran, a priest of Hexham & Newcastle, served in the Islands from 1875 to 1886. In 1885, Fr Foran and the parishioners of St Mary’s decided to build a new church on a site they had secured in 1857 “on the front road”. The first Holy Mass was celebrated on Sunday, 28th February 1886.
In 1899, the present church was built adjacent to it. This building was a prefabricated church, ordered from Boulton & Paul, Ltd, of Norwich, England, and assembled from a kit. The church was erected in Stanley, with William Biggs playing a major role in the construction. The earlier church building became the parish hall and is now used by the local school for classrooms.
The Salesian Fathers (1888-1952) & The Mill Hill Missionaries (1952-2002)
In 1888, Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands were made into a separate Apostolic Prefecture and entrusted to the Salesians of Don Bosco. The Salesians served the Catholic community in the Islands for 64 years.
In 1952, the Falkland Islands were erected as an Apostolic Prefecture and entrusted to the Mill Hill Missionaries. Monsignor James Ireland MHM was named as the first Prefect Apostolic and served from 1952 to 1973.
In 1967, under the then Parish Priest, Fr Rudolf Roël, the church underwent extensive remodelling. The interior walls were covered with varnished Gaboon plywood panels. The painting of the Last Supper was moved from the East wall (above the altar) to the west wall, in front of the choir loft. Parishioner Willie Bowles constructed a freestanding altar and a new altar rail, as well as the new porch.
During this renovation, two windows on the East side of the building were uncovered. In 1984, the stained glass from a demolished church in Southampton was presented to St Mary’s by the Worshipful Company of Glaziers and Painters of Glass, through the London Stained Glass Repository. This stained glass was installed over the East windows in St Mary’s Church. They depict the Annunciation, an Angel, and the Women at the Tomb. The stained glass was designed by Henry Holliday in about 1909-1913,
Mgr Daniel Spraggon MHM, served, as the second Prefect, from 1973 until his untimely death in 1985. He was in Stanley during the 1982 conflict. During his time, a new confessional was built.
Mgr Spraggon’s successor, Dr Anton Agreiter MHM, arrived in December 1986 and ministered in the South Atlantic until his retirement in 2002. In the early 1990s, the sanctuary was once again extensively remodelled. The altar rails and the statue of the Sacred Heart were removed. Mgr Agreiter installed a new altar with a carving of the Good Shepherd, as well as a new crucifix and a new statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, both ordered from Mgr Agreiter’s native South Tyrol. The pews, pulpit, and tabernacle were also replaced.
The Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales (2002 - )
Early in 2001, the Catholic community in the Falkland Islands was entrusted to the pastoral care of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Mgr Michael Bernard McPartland SMA, was the fourth Prefect Apostolic of the Falkland Islands from 2002 to 2016.
On the 26th of October in 2016, Abbot Hugh Allan, O.Praem., was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the Falkland Islands. Since the appointment of Fr Ambrose Bennett, OSB, as Parish Priest, St Mary’s has seen some rearrangement of the sanctuary: the old tabernacle, the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the images of St Joseph and St Patrick were returned to their former locations.
Text by Fr. Ambrose Bennett, OSB.
Designer Bee Design
Photography 35p Parish Files
80p Teresa Smith
£1.09 Teresa Smith
FDC Norman Clark
Painting £1.40 Christine Sargent
Printer Cartor Security Printing
Stamp Size 42 x 28mm
Perforation 13 ¼ x 13 ½ per 2cms
Sheet Layout 10
Release date 12 February, 2024
Production Co-ordination Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd