Saint Helena is served by the Church of the Sacred Heart in Jamestown. The Parish Priest is Fr. David Musgrave of the Schönstatt Institute.
Confession: On Request.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
Tel: +290 22535
A Brief History of the Roman Catholic Church on St. Helena
Information Provided in Part by Fr. Brendan Sullivan (Record Search)
Early records show that in September 1819, Abbe Antonio Bounavita and Abbe Ange Vignali arrived on St. Helena. The two Roman Catholic Priests were tasked to minister to Napoleon and his entourage. Bounavita, in poor health, left in March 1821 on the Sailing Vessel, Orwell, less than two months before the death of Napoleon. This left Vignali to administer Extreme Unction to Napoleon on the 5th of May 1821 and conduct his burial service on the 9th of May 1821.
The work completed, Vignali left St. Helena on the Sailing Vessel, Camel on the 27th of May 1821. Records are scarce, noting a French Priest who died on his way back to France, until 1852, when a succession of Priests, beginning with Fr. McCarthy, were sent to minister to the Roman Catholics in the British Garrison on St. Helena. In 1852, the Church of the Sacred Heart was built in Upper Jamestown, where it remains today.
Also in 1852, Bishop Raymond Griffith, Vicar Apostolic of the Cape of Good Hope, arrived on the Island to administer Confirmation to 33 people. There were, during this time, approximately 20 Military Chaplains from 1852 to 1906, when Military Chaplains were withdrawn. Records show that the Chaplains ministered almost exclusively to the Military. However, the last of these Priests, Fr. J. H. Daine (1891 – 1906) broke the mould. Edward Cannan’s book, “Churches of the South Atlantic Islands 1502 – 1991,” states that Fr. Daine lived outside of the Garrison at Maldivia and at the Briars. With a view to improving the Island’s economy, he planted cotton and imported silkworm eggs. The cottage industries he inspired did not catch on. The passage continues with the fact that for the next 50 years there were only sporadic visits and stints by Roman Catholic Priests. In 1957, the RC Archbishop of Cape Town sent Reverend Jarlath Gough, OFM, who stayed for six years and restored the Church of the Sacred Heart.
Six years later, average attendance at Sunday Mass was 17. Fr. Kelly SDB succeeded Fr. Gough and stayed on until 1978. Also helping out in the Parish was layperson, and Hospital Matron, Miss. Fitzgerald, who communicated while the Priest in Charge visited Ascension Island. Fr. Peter Feeney OP succeeded Fr Kelly, 1979-1980 and Fr. Philip Bruggeman, who stayed from 1981 to 1985, succeeded him. A Vatican decree dated 18 August 1986, designated St. Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha “Mission sui Iuris –“ a mission territory not forming part of any apostolic vicarate. St. Helena and her dependencies had been part of the Archdiocese of Cape Town. Mill Hill Missionaries, who had already worked on the Falkland Islands, were sent to minister on St. Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island. Fr. Joseph Holznecht served from May 1988 to February 1989. In 1989, Fr. Brendan Sullivan arrived on St. Helena and Fr. Joe Welland succeeded him.
Sacred Heart Catholic Church