Archbishop blesses new church centre

Archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley
Archbishop of Birmingham Bernard Longley

DIGNITARIES and congregation members celebrated the blessing of a new £1.6million community centre at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Bicester on Saturday.

Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Reverend Bernard Longley, led a service of thanksgiving before blessing the new John Paul II Community Centre in The Causeway. Bicester MP Tony Baldry and Bicester Town Mayor Councillor Rose Stratford were among the guests.

Father Paul Martin, parish priest at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, said: “It was a very peaceful occasion. It was attended by about 200 people, including Tony Baldry, Rose and Lawrie Stratford, and other civic representatives.

“It began with a Mass in the church before we processed to the centre, where the archbishop said a blessing and a prayer, and sprinkled holy water.”

The archbishop’s blessing, which is due to be followed by a visit from the Princess Royal on November 1, is the culmination of six years of hard work by parishioners and the diocese.

Fr Martin added: “It has been designed in such a way to be a true community facility – not just for the parish, but for people of all faiths and of none.”

Fr Martin and parishioner Ewan Gordon completed a 500-mile walk from the holy island of Iona to raise money for the new community centre. North West Bicester eco-town developers P3Eco provided contractors to build the new centre.