Sussex priest retires after 57 years’ service to the Catholic church

Father David Rea has been parish priest for East Preston with Angmering since 1996 and started his service in Littlehampton in 1961
Father David Rea has been parish priest for East Preston with Angmering since 1996 and started his service in Littlehampton in 1961

A pillar of the community who has devoted his life to the Catholic church has retired as parish priest for East Preston with Angmering.

Father David Rea will remain at Our Lady Star of the Sea and plans to celebrate weekend masses for as long as possible but he has handed the bulk of the work over to Deacon Allan Veness.

Father David celebrating his golden jubilee at St Wilfrid's Catholic Primary School in Angmering in 2011. Picture: Malcolm McCluskey L24187H11

Father David celebrating his golden jubilee at St Wilfrid's Catholic Primary School in Angmering in 2011. Picture: Malcolm McCluskey L24187H11

A retirement party celebrating his 23 years in the parish and 57 years as a priest will be held in October.

Fr David said: “I am a community priest and our parish is a family. I am so happy with the way they have responded, we are a community that cares about the wider community we live in.

“It was always my intention. I have always tried to make the parish a family that cares about others, not only ourselves in the church but those in the community who need to know they are loved.

“Everybody, to me, I want to help and I do my best. My philosophy to life is as long as you do your best to be good before selfishness and evil, and respect everybody’s belief.”

Fr David announced his retirement following after a nasty fall at home about six weeks ago. The Bishop has granted special permission for him to remain at The Priest’s House in Vermont Drive, East Preston.

Fr David came to the church as parish priest in 1996, following a serious heart attack and triple heart bypass.

He explained: “I was told by the doctors I could not work full time again but I love my priest work and my priesthood. After a year off for convalescence, I told the Bishop I could continue if he found me a nice small parish with a bungalow and a church that I could fall out of and into.

“He offered me here and I said I could commit to six months, and 23 years later, here I am, at the age of 82.

“I have been very happy in all the places I have been. I am a priest of the people and we work together with the Anglican churches in the community.”

Fr David studied for six years at St Patrick’s College, Thurles, in Ireland before being ordained in 1961.

His first parish was St Catherine’s, in Littlehampton, where he remained as assistant priest until 1965. He then went to Our Lady of Ransom in Eastbourne as assistant priest from 1965 to 1975 and was parish priest of St Joseph’s in Brighton from 1975 to 1987 then St Wilfrid’s in Burgess Hill from 1987 to 1996.

Fr David said: “I hate formality. The church is very involved in helping the community and giving donations to charity.”

His pride and joy is the Christmas Day meals he introduced at East Preston, with help from others in the parish.

Fr David said: “Christmas Day is a day never to be alone. For the last 12 years, we have had 40 to 50 people come to the hall for a meal and what a difference it has made. I never had a better Christmas Day lunch. Everything was donated.

“I feel very strongly about it, having been a priest visiting homes and seeing people whose family don’t visit them. In the Catholic church, old people are cherished.”

He has also been heavily involved in St Wilfrid’s Catholic Primary School in Angmering, and played a large part in its development over the years.