Thousands of Polish Catholics from around the UK will be gathering for Mass at Fawley Court in Oxfordshire this Sunday, the Feast of Pentecost, in a last-ditch effort to save the centre, after the Marian Fathers announced that they are selling the property.
The 17th mansion in Henley-on-Thames, which was bought, in a very dilapidated state in the early 1950s with funds raised by Polish migrants, was built up over the years and used as a school until 1986, and a retreat and conference centre, bookshop and other facilities. With a chapel sponsored by Prince Radziwil, it is home to the Divine Mercy apostolate. Its Whitsun fairs and other events draw thousands of Polish families each year.
Last year the Marian Fathers announced their decision to sell the property. Fr Wojtek Jasinski, superior of Fawley Court, told the Catholic Herald last May, that Fawley Court was "just not affordable" and needed at least £2 million to be spent on repairs. He said the Marian Fathers had decided to look for smaller premises closer to London and use any extra funds raised from the sale to pay for a pro-life project in the Philippines.
Since the announcement many Polish organisations, including the Polish chaplaincy to the UK have come forward with proposals that would enable the Polish community to keep Fawley Court. Some argue that the Marian Fathers do not have the moral right to sell the centre. There is also been a petition which has already attracted thousands of signatures.
However the Marian Fathers have now announced that they will close Fawley Court at the end of this year and are in the process of selling the property to an unnamed buyer for about £22 million.
Andrzej Zakrzewski, a spokesman for the Committee for the Safeguarding of the Polish Heritage of Fawley Court told ICN:
“The Polish Community is facing the loss of a very important site which has been purchased and supported by the Polish community since 1954.
"Over the years, it established itself as a centre for the Divine Mercy and a key gathering place for Poles in Great Britain. We are doing everything we can to dissuade the Marian Fathers from the sale because we believe that the Polish community needs Fawley Court now, and in the future, as a place of Catholic worship, Polish education and culture and Anglo/Polish integration.
“This is especially important in view of the large influx of Polish immigrants.
“We are hoping to persuade as many people as possible to come to the 12 noon Mass this Sunday to pray for divine intervention so that Fawley Court with its church will remain in Polish hands and also to demonstrate the extent to which Poles care for Fawley Court.”
Another supporter told ICN: “The Marian Fathers have come here from Poland and really don’t understand how much Fawley Court means to our community. With the huge number of Poles now arriving in this country we should be building up Fawley Court, not closing it. We are all praying that they have a change of heart.”
The Marian Fathers were unavailable for comment this morning.
Anyone wanting further information about the event or the campaign should contact Andrzej Zakrzewski on 07957 591832.