St Joseph’s Parish (Discalced Carmelites) serves Chalfont St Giles, Chalfont St Peter, Denham, Fulmer, Gerrards Cross, Iver Heath, Jordans, Seer Green, Stoke Poges, and Tatling End.
St. Joseph’s Parish is a Catholic community brought together by God’s love under the pastoral care of the Discalced Carmelites. Our Baptism calls us to respond to that love by following Christ and serving our neighbour. We strengthen our union with Christ and one another through our celebration of the sacramental life of the Church, especially the Eucharist.
We follow Christ and serve our neighbour in a number of ways:
- Through prayer.
- Through Scripture, through a deeper knowledge and understanding of our faith in Christ, and through the care with which we share our faith with the younger members of our community and with others.
- By full and active participation in the liturgy, especially the Eucharist.
- By welcoming and encouraging new members to the parish.
- By playing our part in the wider community of our diocese.
- By our concern for the sanctity and protection of every human life.
- By our active concern for the needs of others in our local community and in the wider world, especially the elderly, the sick, the bereaved, and those with less mobility and other disabilities.
- Through social action for peace and justice.
- By working with other Christians and all men and women of good will.
- By sharing responsibility for the care, administration and maintenance of the church buildings and grounds, and for the financial support of the parish.
- By sharing in social and recreational activities.
St. Joseph’s Church and Priory on Austenwood Common, Gerrards Cross, has grown in two stages, from modest beginnings in 1913 to the large and flourishing Church of today.
In 1909, Carmelite Fathers arrived in Chesham Bois from Kensington to serve a small Catholic community in the Chalfonts. By 1912, the Carmelites were settled in the area, so the Community moved to Gerrards Cross and purchased two acres to build a permanent house, next to the land donated by Baroness Marchiesi in 1910 as a site for a church. With the help of other benefactors, plans were drawn up and work started on the church whose foundation stone was blessed in a public ceremony on 2nd July, 1914 by Bishop Keating, Bishop of Northampton. The official solemn opening and dedication of the church was carried out by Bishop Keating on 29th July, 1915. The building programme was halted by the War but the existing church, comprising Lady Chapel, Chantry and Sacristies, was dedicated to St Joseph. The church served Chesham, Amersham, Chalfont St. Giles and St. Peter, Gerrards Cross, Hedgerley, Tatling End and Denham, with an estimated Catholic population of 230.
As the population in the area rose between 1919 - 1945, so the Catholic numbers increased and the church was only just big enough to accommodate the worshippers. In 1959 extensive alterations were begun. A compromise over design was agreed, incorporating new thinking on congregational participation in the Mass and church lay-out and a huge money raising programme began. Donations poured in from parishioners, profits from the annual Chalfont Fair increased each year and some were earmarked for the new church. A cheque from the parish for the new pulpit marked the Rector’s Ordination Jubilee and parishioners pledged money for specific items. On 15th July 1962, the foundation stone was blessed by the Bishop and the parishioners moved to the School Hall for Sunday Masses. On 1st May 1963, the completed church was solemnly blessed and opened by Bishop Leo Parker followed by Solemn High Mass celebrated by the Very Rev Fr Joseph McElhinney OCD. In 1976, to mark the final payment of the debt, Bishop Charles Grant consecrated the church and deposited the relics inside a specially prepared sepulchre. The Catholic population continued to rise in the post-war period and this necessitated the parish being sub-divided. Chalfont St. Giles and Denham catered for the Catholics who found it difficult to travel to Gerrards Cross for Mass.
As the parish has expanded over the past 25 years, one Saturday Mass and four Sunday Masses have been laid on to accommodate the increasing numbers and varying needs of the parishioners and the number of organisations has grown.