Parish Priest: Fr. Phil Barry S.C.A. Pallottine Frs.
Address: 90, Colchester Rd, Halstead , CO9 1NF.
Telephone: 01787 472477
1897 Cardinal Vaughan visited Halstead to deliver lectures on the Catholic church. As a consequence, Mass was from then on be celebrated once a month, in a room in Rosemary Lane. The Cardinal indicated that he wished a mission house to be started to support evangelisation in the surrounding area. As a result a congregation of Franciscan Sisters settled in Bocking, Braintree. Their chapel serving as the parish church for the new parish of Braintree which covered Halstead was carved out of the Witham parish.
1898 On Christmas Eve, A Franciscan priest took up residence at the convent.
1923 The Bocking Sisters were requested by the diocesan bishop to engage in pastoral work at Halstead. They started catechetical instruction of children.
1926 A Mass centre was started and site for a church acquired in Halstead.
1928 A temporary church (now the church hall) was built in Colchester Rd. The first permanent priest was established in post. The cost of this was borne by Madame Edith Arendrup, nee Courtauld, a convert lady.
1936 The Parish Priest incapacitated as a result of a road accident. After a number of temporary arrangements, Braintree again assumed responsibility for Halstead until in...
1942 The Pallottine Fathers, due to the influx of Italian prisoners of war, took over the parish in December.
1950ies A Mass centre set up in Yeldham, moving later to Sible Hedingham (in the Constitutional hall) where it remained until Christmas Eve 1982 when it then moved to St. Peterís, the pre-reformation Anglican church.
1953 The house next to the Halstead church was acquired by the Pallottine Fathers as the presbytery.
1955 In October, the permanent church of St. Francis was opened. Financed largely by Dr. Richard Courtauld, another convert, whoís fatherís cousin had provided the finance for the original temporary church. This was the third church this man had played a major part in establishing. The other two churches being at Braintree and Lexden.
1970 The Parish Pastoral Council established.
1973 First phase of re-ordering the church, as required by Vatican II undertaken.
1987 Second phase undertaken to make it compatible with the standard required by the diocese.
2001 Due to advancing age and diminishing numbers the Franciscan sisters relinquished responsibility for religious education of the children to the parish. Children from the parish seeking a catholic education are obliged to travel to the schools given above.
St. Francis of Assisi parish is predominately rural although few of its members are engaged in agriculture. Most live along the line of the A1124 in Halstead, with clusters in the villages of; Earls Colne, Colne Engaine, Sible and Castle Hedingham plus Gt. & Lt. Yeldham. There are a few others thinly scattered in the remaining dozen or so villages that lie to the north of this road up to the Suffolk boarder from Ridgewell in the west through to Chapple in the South-east.
It has a high number of retirees and a few younger families. With the distances involved and the small numbers, building community is an ongoing challenge. On leaving school, quite a number of our more able young people leave the area to go onto higher education or to find work.
St. Francis has an active Parish Pastoral Council, is involved at deanery level and represented on the Diocesan Pastoral council.
Ecumenical relations, although a minority activity, are very good particularly in the town of Halstead and in the Hedinghams. St. Francis is represented on the Churches Together, in Halstead.
Information courtesy of Clive Whybrow.