Everingham is a village in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, on the Howden Road. It is small, and stands in beautiful woodland scenery, five miles west of Market Weighton, and the same distance south of Pocklington.
A Catholic church, dedicated to Our Lady and St. Everilda, a 7th century saint, was built in 1839 by William Constable Maxwell, Esq. on his estate at Everingham Park, adjoining the red-brick, Georgian mansion.
While on a visit to his friend Ambrose Phillipps de Lisle of Grace Dieu, Leicestershire, Maxwell saw at first hand the fruitful apostolate of the Oblates in the surrounding countryside. His chaplain had just retired through failing health and Maxwell asked the Oblates to serve the Everingham mission and the chaplaincy of his household. The General Council granted permission in November 1847. This offer was appreciated as a solution to the difficult situation created by the Penzance debacle. “How is it possible to forget that Mr. Maxwell was our recourse when we were left without any shelter…?” wrote the Founder in July 1853 to Father Bellon. Fr. Frédéric Perron was transferred there with Frs. Samuel Walsh and Peter Grey and Bro. Ferdinand Vernet. They lived independently of the Hall in a residence known as ‘the Priory’, on the outskirts of the property. In a letter written by Bishop Jolivet on the occasion of Father Cooke’s death we read: “The house had been handsomely furnished by the munificent squire…This was too much for Father Cooke’s love of holy poverty. Carpets, easy chairs, etc., were soon removed, and the interior arrangements of the house wore the severe aspect of religious poverty when I entered it.” For a very short time in 1848 it served as the novitiate. The Founder stayed there during his 1850 visit to Britain, arriving on 29 June. Father Casimir Aubert was thinking in August 1851 of making it his base.
The Oblates administered to about 800 Catholics who lived in the immediate vicinity and to many scattered families further afield. Fr. Perron threw himself into this work with enthusiasm and he was well received by Christians of all denominations. After his tragic death of typhus at Everingham on February 22, 1848, Fr. Robert Cooke succeeded him in February 1848 and a short time later he was joined by the remaining members of the Grace Dieu community. Bishop John Briggs now invited the Oblates to open up their apostolate to a more extended area. Mr. Maxwell placed a horse-drawn carriage at their disposal and the Fathers were able to visit Beverley, Pocklington and especially Howden where there were then only about a dozen Catholic families in the locality. Fr. Cooke began a system of open air preaching and house-to-house visitation. Soon the number of believers increased and he was able to build a Gothic church under the title of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was consecrated on the Feast of the Sacred Heart 1851 with Bishop Ullathorne preaching the opening sermon.
The new missions at Liverpool and Leeds increased the pressure on personnel. In a letter to Father Tempier May 27th, 1851, the Founder wrote: “I would be reluctant to give up the mission of Howden because it is easier to serve from the community of Everingham and it is we who have formed this Christian community. The Bishop of York would not easily accept it. He has no priests to spare and this mission is not populous enough to furnish the needs of the priest that would be placed there.” And again in July of this same year he writes to Father Casimir Aubert; “I admit that I would be loath to renounce the mission of Howden, fruit of the labours of Fr. Cooke and fellow Oblates. Could not this little mission be served by the small community of Everingham, do they not have a horse and carriage to facilitate the trips?” This solution seems to have been adopted. Brother Vernet recounts: “Every Saturday I drove one of the Fathers to Howden, leaving him to spend the night there. Every Sunday, after Vespers at Everingham, I drove Father Cooke to Howden, where he preached at Vespers at 7 o’clock, the Father who had said Mass at Howden returning with me to Everingham.”
Bishop Jolivet also recounts about the Howden mission: “Many were the converts, so many that they indeed soon outnumbered the old Catholics, although these too had proved more numerous than had been anticipated, and I witnessed there a scene very like that described in the Acts of the Apostles as having led to the ordaining of seven deacons. The new converts murmured because they fancied that the old members of the church had little respect for them. Father Cooke with great prudence and charity settled this dispute which at a time threatened to split in two the newly formed congregation.”
However, the Everingham mission, rich in Oblate associations where so many French Fathers made their first acquaintanceship with the English mission, was soon to be abandoned. Faced with urgent calls for personnel in new urban missions, the Provincial Council decided in 1853 to leave Everingham but the General Council delayed the date of departure until May, 1855 out of respect to the generous benefactor who had befriended them when every other resource had been denied them. The Founder visited there again during his second visit to Britain in 1857.
Among those who served here, apart from names given above, were Frs. Egan and Arnoux.
Sources and Bibliography
Registers of General Council, May 25, 1855.
Ortolan I, p. 544.
Cooke, Robert, o.m.i., Sketches of the Life of Mgr. De Mazenod, Vol. II, p. 165.
Oblate Writings I, Vol. 3, passim
Jolivet, Bishop Charles, o.m.i., “Father Robert Cooke”, in Missionary Record, 4 (1894), p. 1-3.
Bence-Jones, Mark, The Catholic Families, London. 1992.