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Poles stage Whitsun protest

AROUND 2,000 Poles took to the fields surrounding Fawley Court in protest at its ?22 million sale by Polish Catholic priests.

The demonstration on Whitsunday was designed to show how Poles feel cheated by the Marian Fathers, who had owned the property since 1953.

The protesters believe that Fawley Court and its land is a “piece of Poland”. One, Bozena Karol, said: “The Polish community believes that they provided most of the money for Fawley Court’s purchase and the committee representing them continues its dispute with the Marians.”

The Whitsum celebrations continued as normal with a midday mass in St Anne’s Church, which could not hold the entire congregation.

Afterwards, people signed a petition against the sale before walking through the grounds, sunbathing and holding barbecues. Ms Karol warned that the sale would be bad for the local economy.

She said: “If you look around Henley there are only two stately homes, Fawley Court and Stonor Park. If Fawley Court was turned into a hotel, then Henley would lose an amenity. Hundreds and thousands of people visit Fawley Court and Henley every year and it would mean fewer visitors. The last words that could be heard as people left were ‘See you next year’.” After the Second World War, Fawley Court was a school for the sons of Polish families and it once held a museum and library of historic Polish texts, all of which were eventually sent back to Poland.

The fathers purchased the building and 27 acres of land from Scottish Banker Edward Mackenzie in 1953. The school closed in 1986. The buildings have been used by the Marian Fathers as a retreat and conference centre.

Published on 15 June 2009

Independent Catholic News
Evangelium Conference 2008

Explaining the Catholic Faith in the Modern World
8th – 10th August 2008, Fawley Court, Henley-on-Thames

The First Evangelium Summer Conference, sponsored by CTS, has been an astounding success, with young people describing it as ‘the best weekend of my life’, an ‘answer to prayer’ and an ‘inspiration and encouragement’.
Over the 8th – 10th August over one hundred young people assembled at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, Fawley Court, for a series of talks, workshops and other activities addressing the crucial evangelistic question of our time – how to reach out and explain the Catholic Faith to people in the modern world.
Speakers at the Conference included CTS authors Prof. Roy Schoeman, Fr Jerome Bertram CO, and Joanna Bogle, as well as Fr Thomas Crean OP, Fr Reto Nay, Fr John Saward, and Walter Hooper. Delegates also represented CASE, Aid to the Church in Need, Family Life International, St Anthony Communications, St Patrick’s School of Evangelisation, the Good Counsel Network, the Iona Institute and the Linacre Centre. Although the topics addressed were often serious, there was also much good humour and a great sense of joy. The liturgy and music were organised by past and present seminarians of the Venerable English College in Rome. Many young people especially praised the love and reverence evident in the celebration of Holy Mass.
The Conference was organised by Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Andrew Pinsent of the Evangelium Project, in association with the Catholic Truth Society. As Fr Pinsent describes the approach, “We aimed to provide orthodox Catholic teaching with challenging intellectual depth and liturgical beauty, very much the vision of Pope Benedict XVI. The enthusiastic response of the young people present at the Conference confirms the fruitfulness of this approach and encourages us in planning future projects of this kind.”
Many young people left the Conference asking for more and the Evangelium Project is hoping to organise a second Conference in summer 2009.
Other comments from young people present at the Conference:
> The best weekend of my life. It was really an answer to prayer. Before I could say, “Lord, I love you and accept the Church,” now I can say, “Lord I love you and I love your Church.”
> All of our talks, discussions etc. were permeated by prayer. I’m leaving here rejuvenated both in my own faith and feel more equipped in sharing the riches of the Catholic faith. Please hold another conference next year!
> Thank you very, very much - it has been priceless - I would love to come again! God bless you for organising this!
> The high point for me was the way Holy Mass was celebrated. So much love and reverence.
> Very high quality of speakers - fluent, full of interest and humour, and orthodox. A fine mix of people, all from different background but with an implicit unity of approach to their faith. Very encouraging and inspiring.
> It gave me the inspiration and encouragement to challenge myself more, to dive deeper in searching my vocation and courage to be more outward about defending my faith.

Independent Catholic News

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.
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