ROCHESTER, Kent, which has had no Catholic church since the Reformation-and still has no public Mass-is soon to have a church dedicated to its martyr-Bishop, Cardinal St. John Fisher.
It will stand on historic ground on the main Rochester-Maidstone road. The Ministry of Works has granted a licence for the major part of the building and work is beginning at once on the clearing of the site, about three-quarters of a mile from the pre-Reforrnation Cathedral of St. Andrew, now in Anglican hands.
The Bishop of Southwark will lay the foundation stone early in July, and the church. built in the Romanesque style, will be opened in about nine months* time. When completed, it will seat between 320 and 350 people.
The architect, Mr. Joseph Goldie, has designed a number of churches in the Westminster and Southwark dioceses.
The site is in the PriestfieIds district. In its earliest days the cathedral
-founded by King Ethelbert and dedicated to St. Andrew, from whose monastery in Rome St. Augustine and St. Justus had comewas served by a college of secular priests at Priestfields.
After the Norman Conquest the secular priests were replaced by Benedictines.
The news of Rochester's new church, for which the Catholics of near-by Chatham have for years been working and praying, has also been eagerly awaited in the diocese of Rochester. N.Y., whose Bishop, Mgr.
Kearney, has always had a deep devotion to St. John Fisher and has special celebrations throughout his diocese every year on the martyr's feast day, In the summer of 1949 two priests from America's Rochester, Mgr. Ed ward M. Lyons, and the Bishop's secretary. were visiting St. Andrew's Cathedral and St. John Fisher's home. as well as the site of the new church, in company with the parish priest of St. Michael's, Chatham, Fr. Thomas O'Riordan.
When they returned to the United Slates they told the story of Chatham's efforts, causing widespread interest in the project.
Meanwhile, Bishop Kearney expressed a wish to have a stone from the old cathedral for his new seminary. Through the kindness of the Anglican Dean, a stone from the historic building was secured and sent to Mgr. Lyons.
When it arrived in the United States it was cut into two pieces, one being given to the seminary. the other to the new College of St. John Fisher. In a letter to Fr. O'Riordan, Bishop Kearney has expressed his lively in terest in the new church and has promised the cooperation of his diocese in the efforts which Catholics in many parts of England are expected to make in order to have the church free from debt as early as possible.
Bishop Kearney has also said that he is looking forward to celebrating Mass in the new church after making his next ad limbo visit to Rome.