The Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, Newent and Blaisdon came into existence in 1935 when the Salesians of Don Bosco set up a school for disadvantaged children in Blaisdon Hall.
For almost 60 years Blaisdon became a second and much-loved “home-from-home” for hundreds of young lads from the inner cities of London, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol, Sheffield and even as far afield as Glasgow. Even now, more than 20 years after the school closed down, we have a number of Past Pupils who come back to Blaisdon for a Reunion every August…..as well as a small number who return every year on the Sunday after Easter.
The priests of the Community began saying Mass in Cinderford and Newent in Public Houses, private houses and eventually, in the Market House in Newent. During the war the numbers in Newent were boosted by POWs from Italy and Germany, notably Maurice Marcovecchio, Joe Perillo and Andrew Rosso – who all married local ladies and settled down here after the war.
The parish thrived under Fr Bill Boyd SDB and by 1955 plans were afoot to build a church in Newent. Richard and Greta Ovington along with Mrs Chris Robinson were leading lights in fund-raising for the new building. Most of the work was done by voluntary workers. The Catholic community has never forgotten the financial support so cheerfully given by many from various local Christian Churches.
The Church of Our Lady of Lourdes was finally opened in 1960….at a cost of about £2500! There was always Mass available in Blaisdon Hall but now there could be a regular Sunday Mass in Newent, with an attendance of about 40 people.
Fr Bill Boyd resigned as Parish Priest in 1970 in order to take up an appointment as Services Chaplain at the RAF base in Rhaindahlen, Germany. He was the longest serving Chaplain in the British Forces when he finally retired at the age of 90.
Fr John Chadwick became Parish Priest in Newent but died unexpectedly within two years. His place was taken by Fr Jim McGuire who was to serve here for 22 years. He was noted for his cheerful enthusiasm for visiting the sick and housebound and whenever possible calling on most other parishioners at one time or another. He is especially remembered for a Mission Week he organized in 1985. Of particular importance were the preparations. Parishioners were sent out, two by two, to visit every house in Newent to invite people of any faith or none to come for the uplifting talks to be given by Fr Gregory Grant. It was a great success. Around the same time he managed to have a Sunday Mass broadcast nationwide on the BBC which brought responses from as far away as Norwich.
At the end of 1993 the last pupils left Blaisdon Hall, the Community began to disperse to various other Salesian Houses and the Hall was put up for sale. Fr Jim McGuire “retired” at the end of 1994 but continued to work as Assistant Priest in St Peter’s, Gloucester. His place as Priest-in-Charge of this parish was taken by Fr Aidan Murray SDB.
By now the number of Parishioners had grown considerably, occasionally touching 200 at Mass in Blaisdon and Newent over the weekend. The church building was beginning to show its age. The poverty of post-war Newent was never going to build a magnificent structure. However, with the new Millennium it seemed right to refurbish and upgrade Our Lady of Lourdes Church. A small committee under Julian Dowle met to consider what could be done. Providentially, a retired Architect, Peter Gibbons, had started attending our Saturday evening Masses….and Julian had worked with him on various projects. Together they agreed to give their time and their talents for free so that we might have a warmer, more welcoming, more attractive Church in which to worship God. The result is what you see.
On the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11th Feb 2010 we celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the Opening of the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. Bishop Declan Lang celebrated the Mass and blessed the new sanctuary and the refurbished building.
A booklet called “More Precious than Gold” was published to commemorate the history of the parish. A small number are still available.