For many years the population in Bourne remained at approximately 5,000 until after the Second World War.
In 1911 Mary Ann Duffy, born in Montrose, Scotland, came to live in Bourne where she met and married an non-Catholic, Mr W. H. Scotney. Mary was the only known Catholic in the town. There was no priest, no church and no prospect of there being either. Her two children Bernard and Olive had to be baptised at Spalding, it meant a train journey for the purpose.
In 1919 Deeping Manor became a novitiate for the St. Francis Xavier Order. The Manor was originally owned by the Waterton family who were Roman Catholic. From time to time visits were made to Deeping to the little stable which served as a Church.
The Deeping Chaplain was required at times to cover Corby Glen Mass on Sundays. So there began the arrangements of picking up “The Few” in Bourne at 7.30am in the Market Place in a rickety old bus which had started its journey at Deeping. It was hard going in those days when Catholics had to fast from midnight in order to receive Holy Communion.
In the meantime the handful of Catholics that came to live in Bourne saved hard to get some kind of centre to serve as a church. Mass was sometimes said in private homes if the resident Chaplin could get over from Deeping. One of the new Bourne parishioners was a Mrs. Appleyard who took the scattered few and formed a committee in 1949 under the name of The Altar Society in readiness for some future centre to serve as a church and to carry out fund raising events. It was a long hard slog. The following were the pioneers of the Society: -.
Mrs. Appleyard, Mrs M. Scotney, Mrs. Margaret Sarll, Mrs. Edith Orbell, Miss Olive Scotney, Mrs. Nellie McLean,
Mrs. Josie Kettle, Mrs. Winnie Cunnington, Mrs. Connie Jordan, Mrs Gladys Cuffe, Mrs. Hemsill and Mrs. B. Chubbuck.
As these ladies were married to non- Catholic husbands, there was hardly any masculine support. This committee continued until the permanent church was built, by which time the group came to a natural end.
Subsequently, a Father James Power took over as Chaplain at Deeping. He suggested that if the Bourne group wished he could come to Bourne on Sundays to say Mass if the group could hire a hall for the purpose. The Co-op Hall in North Street let the group have a room for the sum of “2/6d” per week. The priest obtained the services of a Mr. Feneley who would deliver him by taxi for a further sum of 2/6d which included waiting time. Payment was shared by the Altar Society and the occasional “casual” visitors.
The Sacred Heart- [temporary church ]
By 1950 the Altar Society were able to obtain a post-war hut through the help of Mr. Earnest Orbell at a cost of £100. A small piece of land was bought in Exeter St. from Mrs. Gelsthorpe on which to place the hut. The plot also cost £100. This temporary church was officially opened in January 1950 by the late Bishop Ellis and it remained our spiritual home until the permanent church was built.
In January 1957 Fr. Jordan was appointed Parish Priest by the Bishop of Nottingham, and the Catholics of Deeping, Bourne and Corby Glenn became a parish.
A newly built road in Bourne had recently been named “St. Gilbert’s,” so it seemed appropriate that the permanent Church should be named after our own great local Saint Gilbert of Sempringham
The full report on the official opening can be read in the Stamford Mercury issued on the 7th December 1976.
The last priest from the Sacred Heart Order, Father O’Sullivan died ‘in harness’ in 1984. By that time the parish was a mission field no longer and as the Sacred Heart Fathers were suffering a shortage of priests they felt that their missionary vocation was no longer needed. The district was therefore reorganised with Corby Glenn being transferred to the Grantham Parish and a new Parish, which is known as Bourne and Deeping, was formed. The Bishop of Nottingham appointed his diocesan priest; Fr J O’ Hanlon as Parish Priest of this new parish.
On 27th September 1984 the congregations of Bourne, Corby Glen and Deeping St James gathered to say goodbye to the Sacred Heart Fathers. They held a mass of thanksgiving at the Church of Our Lady and St Guthlac, Deeping St James for the work done by the Fathers in 29 years of service to the parish. We were very grateful to their Order their invaluable service.
In September 2002 Bishop Malcolm McMahon OP invited the whole diocese to share in an ongoing conversation, which would shape the future, desiring to reap the rich harvest of our very diverse community. In launching a year of preparation he invited all to take time to reflect on what it is to be Church in the Diocese of Nottingham and to be part of drawing up a creative plan for the future of our diocese.
Our Parish responded to his invitation and formed three Groups at Deeping and four at Bourne which met regularly over the year.
During the Year of Preparation, lectionary based materials were offered to help us to reflect on four key questions: -
What do we need to carry with us?
What do we need to let go?
What can we do better together that we now do apart?
What might God be asking us to do?
The discussions were held in four stages that corresponded to the seasons of the church’s year. The parish provided a report and recommendations from each of the groups to the diocese at each stage.
After this Year of Preparation almost 500 people gathered at Loughborough University from 18th to 21st September 2003 for The Diocesan Assembly. The assembly was attended by four representatives; the Deacon, two from Bourne and one from Deeping where they worked with the other representatives to plan for the future. Following the Assemble the Bishop commissioned a follow up team to take the recommendation forward. Representatives from the parish are cooperating in the ongoing process.