The ground for the church was purchased in 1949 with the intention of providing a place of worship and a place for social activity for the local community. The design of the building allowed for it to be used either as a church or a hall by the lowering and rising of shutters located in the sanctuary.
The first turf was cut by Canon Michael Coughlan, who at that time was Parish Priest of St. Josephs, Branksome. The foundation stone was laid by Bishop Francis Grimshaw, Bishop of Plymouth, on the 22nd July 1949, the blessing was attended by 15 priests but there was nowhere for them to get ready, thankfully a neighbour named Mrs. Cake offered the use of her house to the Bishop and Priests.. On the 16th April 1950 in the evening, the Bishop blessed the new church and hall and celebrated High Mass, thus officially opening it for use.
During its first years the congregation had the task of re-arranging the furniture i.e. chairs and kneelers, and lifting and lowering the shutters for the weekly transition from church to hall and vice versa. Weekly Whist Drives were organised and parish socials took place at regular intervals and in 1952 the hall was further divided to provide classrooms due to an overflow of numbers from St. Josephs School. This arrangement continued until classes returned to the school in 1959/60.
Up until 1953 when the Presbytery was built the parish was served from St. Josephs and the first occupant, though not designated as Parish Priest, was Fr. Michael Reid. The first official Parish Priest was Fr Michael Walsh, now Canon Walsh, who served from 1956 to 1962. Fr Walsh was a great fund raiser and decided that there was more to be gained from bingo than Whist and so whist was dropped in favour of bingo which took place every Friday evening and was always well attended by the local community. These social activities as well as helping to build community also did much to pay off the church debt.
The beautiful statue of Our Lady of Fatima which stands in the Lady Chapel was brought back from Fatima in Portugal in about 1956 at the end of a parish pilgrimage to the Shrine and was crowned in 1999 after another successful pilgrimage to mark the end of the millennium and the beginning of the golden jubilee.
In 1962 Fr. Walsh moved to another parish and was replaced by Fr. Cornelius Twohig who served re-ordered the church, having the shutters removed and pews installed. The use of the building as a hall was then discontinued with the bingo being transferred to the Parkstone Conservative Club until it eventually ceased.
Fr. Twohig stayed in the Parish until 1974 although some of this time was spent in missionary work in Kenya when Fr. Patrick Dorrian, Parish Priest of Ensbury Park until his death in 1999, became Priest in charge during his absence between 1967 and 1969. It was during Fr. Twohig’s time that the Parkstone Section of the Catholic Women’s League which continues to do much good work for the parish was formed and the first of the now popular parties and shows for senior citizens were started.
In 1974 Fr. Twohig was replaced by Fr. Patrick Mulvany who stayed only briefly until 1975 before being replaced by Fr. Christopher Smith, well known for his DIY and breaking down of walls. It was he who enlarged the meeting room by demolishing a dividing wall thus allowing room for more events to be held. He established a Girls Club and an Altar Servers Club both of which were very successful. He organised many parish outings and activities. It was Fr. Smith that led the parish on a pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1978.
Since the departure of Fr. Smith in 1979 there have been a number of priests serving the parish, Fr. William Kiely until 1988; Fr. Michael Howard until 1995 and Fr. Terry Dolan until 1998. Each made his own mark in the gradual development of the church and the parish to where it is now. Over this time the parish continued with various events including an annual Summer Fete which, until his death, was held in the grounds of Lord Ventry’s house in Lindsay Road. When the house and grounds were sold the venue moved to St. Josephs School but this was found to be too far off the beaten track and so St. Josephs Church kindly allowed us to use their hall and grounds where it has been held for the past number of years.
The Presbytery was then occupied by Fr. Stephen Geddes O.S.B., who served from September 1998 to 2002, a Benedictine Monk and ex-Naval Chaplain. He set up a Pastoral Council and Finance Committee, re-established the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Choir and helped to start a successful Senior Citizens ‘Wednesday Club’. The other organisations such as the Knights of St. Columba and the CWL continue steadily with their work of service. Canon Peter Webb served here for some years before retiring to France. He was the last resident priest.
A screen was constructed in the church, creating an area which can be used for social activities whilst not detracting from the area reserved for worship. Thus the parish has turned full circle and is able to provide for the spiritual and social welfare of the local community as was first envisaged at its inception.
Bishop Mark O'Toole invited a community of Ursuline Sisters from India to move into the presbytery. The parishioners worked to make the house ready for them. We are waiting for them to arrive.
Of the original congregation many have, of course, moved on and a number have died, but many remain. Their names can be found in the parish records and among the Lay Ministries and church organisations in which they continue to serve quietly and faithfully looking for no other reward or recognition than to serve their neighbour and their God. It is not unusual to see three generations of the same family worshipping together at Sunday Mass.
2017 marks the centenary of the Fatima apparitions. As well as a parish pilgrimage to Fatima, there is a series of events that the parish is organising to celebrate the message of Our Lady.
Let us then thank almighty God for the many graces he has given to this church and parish over the years and for the love and protection given to us by Mary our Mother under her title of Our Lady of Fatima. May God and his Holy Mother continue to watch over this church and parish and the families within it forever.