30 JAN 2013. There was a double reason to celebrate at the parish of Bury St Edmunds on December 8, 2012. It’s a major feast in the Church’s calendar, but the parish also had a historical reason to celebrate it. It was the 250th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in 1762. The chapel, which was built by a Jesuit, Fr Gage, is dedicated to Our Lady under the title of The Immaculate Conception.
When it was built in 1762, 75 years before the main Church was built, it was hidden from the street behind Fr Gage’s house - now the Presbytery - because at that time Catholicism was an “underground religion”. Various laws at that time stipulated that as a Catholic you were not allowed the freedom to worship. In 1791 however, the Second Relief Act came into law and a licence to worship was granted.
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel, our original hidden Church, was one of the first chapels in the country to be licensed for public worship. It is also the oldest post-Reformation Church in use in the diocese of East Anglia, giving it a unique historical significance. We are privileged to be able to pray in the chapel and attend daily Mass in it 250 years later!
On Saturday December 8, 2012, the exact day 250 years ago when the first Mass was celebrated in the chapel, priests and parishioners in Bury celebrated the occasion. Sixteen priests concelebrated Mass. Fr David Bagstaff, Diocesan Administrator, presided and blessed the new Altar and Tabernacle, which had been installed in the newly refurbished Chapel.
The Jesuits who had worked here for 174 years and the St Louis Sisters who came here in 1924 were both represented at the Mass. After Mass all were invited to refreshments in the Crypt where we chatted and met old friends and priests who had worked in the parish over the years. It was a day to remember and one of great joy.