The European Parish – A Brief History
St.Alphonse, Rue des Capucins.
The history of the European Parish in Luxembourg is closely linked with the historical development of the European Union. With the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community in the early 1950’s, Luxembourg became an important centre and considerable numbers of officials from the participating countries settled here. The European Institutions began to take shape and the very first European school was founded.Fairly soon the question of the pastoral care of the new arrivals, with their different languages and traditions, became urgent.
In 1955 Fr. Rémy Oliger, a Franciscan priest from Alsace was entrusted with the care of a new non-territorial parish for a variety of French, Belgian, German, Italian and Dutch European civil servants, teachers and pupils from the European School etc. The congregation met for the Eucharist, first in the Church of the Franciscan sisters in Belair and then, from 1957, in the Jesuit Church in Belair. French and German were the principle languages in the Liturgy, and on big feast days the sermon was held in four languages. Once a month there were homilies in Italian and Dutch. In the course of the next few years German, Italian and Luxembourg priests helped out both at the Sunday Liturgy and in the religion teaching in the European school. In 1959 the European parish, under the patronage of St. Francis of Assisi, was formally set up by the then bishop of Luxembourg, Mgr. Léon Lommel, with Fr. Oliger as parish priest. The latter retired for health reasons in 1967. In 1969 Fr. Maurice Girardin, a Redemptorist, took over as parish priest, and the headquarters, offices and secretariat of the European parish were established at the Redemptorist Monastery, 34 rue des Capucins.
The early 1970’s saw two important developments:
The pastoral care of the Italian Catholic community was taken over by the Italian mission and a similar development took place in the Portuguese and Spanish communities.
The European parish was divided into four linguistic groups, each with its church and chaplain. The French-speaking community began to hold their Sunday Liturgy in St. Jean in the Grund, the Germans in St. Fiacre in Mühlenbach, the Dutch and Flemish in the Glacis Chapel and the English-speaking community in St. Peter and St. Pauls in Hollerich.
A parish council for the entire parish was set up and the different linguistic communities agreed to meet four times a year for a community liturgy. This arrangement continued until relatively recently, when the archdiocese reorganised the structures of the various parishes and communities.
Long before the accession of Ireland and the United Kingdom to the European community and the European parish, there was an English-speaking Catholic community in Luxembourg. In the late 1950’s a group of American Catholics, later joined by some British, used to have Mass each Sunday in the Maison des Missions, near the Cathedral. The community was served by priests who came from the American College in Louvain. In the early 1970’s, with accession of Ireland and United Kingdom to the Common Market (as it was then called), the English-speaking community of the European Parish came into being. Its first parish priest was an Irish Redemptorist, Fr. Tony Mulvey who served the parish from 1974-1985. He was followed by Fr. Pat O’Connor, likewise Irish and Redemptorist, from 1985 to 1999. Fr. Eamonn Breslin kept up the Irish Redemptorist tradition and served in the parish from 1999 to 2012. The current parish priest is Fr Ed Hone who also from the Redemptorist order, and arrived in Luxembourg in September 2012.
Today — the International Parish, based at St Alphonse
The English-speaking Catholic community left the church in Hollerich in July 2013, finding a new home in the Redemptorist church of St Alphonse in the centre of Luxembourg city; this move enabled the congregation to grow and become more active in a number of ways.
In June 2017 the Archdiocese of Luxembourg reorganised parish structures, incorporating former parishes and linguistic communities into new parishes; the City of Luxembourg now constitutes one parish, Luxembourg Notre-Dame, of which our international English-speaking community is part. The previous European Parish thus ceased to be, absorbed into the new city-wide parish, the English-speaking section now constitutes the International English-speaking Community of the Parish of Luxembourg Notre-Dame, reflecting the reality that its composition is by now very international, but also that it is fully part of the local Church. There are strong American, British, Irish, Filipino and Maltese contingents in the English-speaking community; additionally parishioners from many other countries too, from Eastern Europe, from Africa, India and Pakistan. As a result of a poll conducted in St Alphonse early in 2015 we discovered that people from over 50 different countries of origin attend any given Sunday Mass. Our community is, finally, a predominantly youthful one, with young married couples and their children.