History of our Parish
Before our Parish was established the needs of the Catholic community was provided for by Maidstone Parish which was founded in 1859. In 1960 we became an independent Parish when Fr. Timothy Daly was appointed Parish Priest and a house together with 3 acres of land was purchased in East Malling for £5000. We had at that time, a small church in Frog Lane, West Malling and a Mass centre at Snodland. In 1964 a more suitable site was purchased for the cost of £20,000 which was the Hermitage and attached land which is now known as More Park. The church was built in 1972 and the school was completed by 1973 with Derek Johnson as the first Head Teacher. It was at about this time that the house at East Malling was sold but we retained the land.
By now Fr. Daly had an assistant Priest from Malta, Fr. Pat Zammit as we now had daily Mass at West Malling, weekly Mass at Snodland and Leybourne Grange hospital. In 1982 the church was consecrated by the Archbishop of Southwark the Most Rev. Michael.G.Bowen. The Hermitage was divided to provide a home for the Auxiliary Bishop the Right Rev.John Jukes who was ordained Bishop in 1980. The part of the house now used by the Parish had been unoccupied and needed extensive renovation to make it a home for 2 Priests and a house keeper. In 1983 Fr. Daly celebrated 40 years as a Priest with Mass and a party in the school hall. Fr. Daly retired in 1988 due to poor health though I am sure he looked back with some pride at his achievements in the previous 28 years. A house was purchased for him and his housekeeper Eileen, in Snodland where he lived for quite some time before returning to Ireland.
1989 saw many changes,Fr. Kevan Hayden the assistant Priest left to go to Ashford and was not replaced. Our new Parish Priest Fr.John Lawrence now had to run the Parish on his own. Between Fr. Pat Zammit and Fr.Kevan Hayden we had 4 assistant Priests. Fr.Bernard McNally,Fr.Snaith,Fr.James Kirby and last but not least Fr.Sean Hearty. We also had Fr. Burke a retired Priest staying with us for a while. Also in 1989 Pat Lonergan was ordained a Deacon on the 19th. June but tragically he died in January 1990 a sad loss to the Parish. Fr.John Lawrence started up our nursery school soon after arriving and it is still thriving today. The creation of the school required many changes to the Priests house as they occupied half of the ground floor. Leybourne Grange hospital finally closed its doors and resident parishioners were moved to homes and hospitals elsewhere, a sad time for many. It was during his stay with us that Fr.John celebrated the 25th. anniversary of his ordination with a Mass and party in the school hall afterwards.
By 1999 it was all change again and Fr.John left us to become Parish Priest of Cranbrook and we welcomed Fr. Peter Soper from Margate. The last few years have been quite eventful. We now have Senior and Junior Youth Groups, Childrens Liturgy Group and a child protection policy in place. The land at East Malling has been sold, planning permission has been obtained to convert the stable block for the nursery school and Parish use and after much soul searching and debates the decision to close the Church at Snodland was made. We have also had to look to the future of the Parish in the light of the current shortage of Priests and make ourselves ready for this. We have also set up five Area Groups to be a means of 'welcome' and 'welfare' in the Parish, made an audit of the work in the Parish that can be done by Parishioners rather than the Priest and set up a 'Donate 8' scheme (people donating 8 hours a year to the Parish) to involve Parishioners in the running of the Parish so that we can look to the future with confidence whatever happens. It has been a great joy to see the Parish coming together - Church, School and Parish Groups - to become very much a real 'family'.
When St Thomas of Canterbury in Snodland was closed a decision was made to name the stable block conversion when completed 'The St Thomas of Canterbury Centre' therefore carrying on our connection.