MONSIGNOR Anthony Wilcox, parish priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Henley, is to retire on Wednesday (September 30)
MONSIGNOR Anthony Wilcox, parish priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Henley, is to retire on Wednesday (September 30).
He has served in Henley for more than 23 years.
Sacred Heart parish is part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham and Father Anthony, as he is generally known, has served all of his 52 years as a priest in the Archdiocese.
During his time in Henley he has undertaken to make sure that all the parish buildings are in good order.
When he arrived in 1992, the first job he had to do was to make sure the church had a new roof as it was leaking very badly.
Since then the church has been completely refurbished ? it is a Pugin ?gem? and one of Henley?s hidden treasures.
The parish hall has been completely modernised as it is sought after as a place for meetings. The presbytery, the parish house, has been brought up to date and has served as a centre for priests.
Sacred Heart Primary School had just 65 pupils when Fr Anthony arrived but under his influence the total has grown to more than 200. It is a much sought-after school because of its Christian principles and ethos.
Fr Anthony?s congregation has remained constant in a time when church attendance is falling.
Regularly at weekends some 250 people are present at one or other of the three masses. Parish life flourishes and the community spirit is great. Fr Anthony, who is 76, has played an essential part in building the friendship and solidarity of the Christian ministers of the district.
He is well known in the town. He is a member of Leander Club and takes a keen interest in all things rowing and boating. He is often to be seen on the Thames piloting the boat which he shares. One of his great interests is cookery and his dinner parties are renowned.
He is widely known in Henley, often to be seen sharing a drink in the Bird in Hand in Greys Road, his favourite local pub.
Fr Anthony will find a lot to do in his retirement. He is staying in Henley and will help out from time to time in local parishes.
For many years he has spent time in Rome, working for the Venerable English College, where he himself studied many years ago.
It is the oldest English foundation abroad, dating back to 1362. He will continue working there.
Monsignor Wilcox is only the fourth Catholic parish priest of Sacred Heart in 127 years, since the parish was established in 1888.
He is succeeded by Father Paul Fitzpatrick, who takes over immediately.
A special mass of thanksgiving is being celebrated by Fr Anthony tomorrow (Saturday) at 8pm, followed by a reception in the parish hall. Any of his parishioners and friends are welcome.