Bishop Challoner Day - Our Annual Celebration
Every year on the 29th September, the day of Richard Challoner's birth our school celebrates Bishop Challoner Day. Those who studied here in the 60s, 70s and 80s will remember this as a school tradition (although we no longer ask students to wear the hats that would mark the day back then!) The whole school enjoys a day of prayer, celebration and thanksgiving with Mass, special lessons, food and gifts.
Bishop Richard Challoner - Biography
Richard Challoner was born on 29th September 1691 at Lewes. Richard showed an early desire for the priesthood and it was arranged for him to go to Douay (Northern France) where his entry is dated 29th July 1705. Catholic parents were still liable to fines if they sent their children abroad for their education so Richard took on his mother's maiden name, so he was briefly known as Richard Willard. It was not until 1731 that Richard Challoner returned to England as a missionary priest.
Challoner soon recognised two needs that could best be met by the printed word. The first was to instruct and strengthen Catholics in their faith; the second was to combat Protestant misconceptions and attacks. He always regarded the first as of primary and urgent importance; he preferred not to enter into controversy but it could not be avoided; the Church must be defended. 'The Unerring Authority of the Catholic Church' was published in 1732; five years later came 'The Catholick Christian Instructed', a book that went through many editions up to the 1880's and was translated into French.
In 1741 Richard Challoner was consecrated as Bishop of Debra on 29th January, at the Hammersmith Convent. He worked tirelessly in trying to support the Catholics within the London District. It was about 1748 that Challoner began the work for which he is best remembered the revision of the Douay Bible. The translation of the New Testament had been published in 1582 and of the Old Testament in 1609. The complete work, with Challoner's notes, was published in 1750.
In 1758, Bishop Challoner became the Vicar-Apostolic of the London District at the age of 68. It was through his ministry saw the First Relief Act of 1778 and The Gordon Riots (an anti-Catholic protest in London) of 1780. Richard Challoner served the Catholics in England for fifty years at a period when the penalised Church was slowly losing ground; many had become disheartened and the prospects of recovery were more than doubtful. His Missionary Priests gave Catholics a pride in their ancestry and showed them patterns of endurance under persecution. His revision of the Douay Bible was for two centuries the Bible known to Catholics.
Bishop Challoner died in his house in Gloucester Street on 12th January 1781. Richard Challoner's remains were reinterred in 1946 in the Chapel of St Gregory and St Augustine in Westminster Cathedral, a fitting resting place for the greatest of the Vicars-Apostolic who in his lifetime was known as 'the Venerable Bishop Challoner'.