29 August 2019, The Tablet

Word from the Cloisters: An island parish

Word from the Cloisters: An island parish

RAY CAVANAUGH’S account of Napoleon Bonaparte’s flickering Catholic faith in the issue of 10 August prompted Fr David Musgrave, the current parish priest of the church of the Sacred Heart in Jamestown, St Helena, to where Napoleon was banished after his defeat at Waterloo, to get in touch.

Napoleon wasn’t long into his exile in the South Atlantic before he was wheedling for a priest, quite a cheek for a man who had imprisoned two popes. Two Catholic priests arrived in St Helena to oblige the dethroned emperor’s spiritual needs. One of them, Father Ange Vignali, gave Napoleon viaticum on the day of his death, 5 May 1821.

There were only sporadic visits to the island from priests for the next 30 years. A permanent church was inaugurated in 1852 – built by Anglo-Irish soldiers serving in the garrison – and the first resident priest arrived. Fr Musgrave is a Schoenstatt father who served in the archdiocese of Cape Town for over 30 years before spending 10 years in a parish in Bolton, in the diocese of Salford. On reaching the age of 75 three years ago, he asked for a move to St Helena.

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