The earliest written records of Catholics in the district of Ross date from the early years of the 19th century. The area was part of what was known as the Western District administered by Vicars Apostolic with the rank of Bishop. The priests serving large areas were known as Apostolic Missionaries.
In 1818 there were eight Catholics in Ross – a surgeon, a housekeeper, a tailor and five members of the Morgan family. Numbers gradually increased and in June 1845 a room was hired in the Swan Hotel and Mass was celebrated there once a month. The visiting chaplain was the priest at Courtfield. From Sunday 22nd November 1846 mass was said regularly every week. A temporary church was opened in the Gloucester Road area in February 1861, the money for which was collected by Father Farrant on the continent. He seems to be the first resident priest in Ross.
By 1875 the number of parishioners had risen to 71 and the search was on for a more permanent church. In January 1876 “The Oratory of the Most Blessed Sacrament situated at Crofts, Ross, in the county of Hereford” was registered according to the law as a place of worship for Roman Catholics. The fee for such registration was 2s.6d. This was done by Father Armand Hamelin, a Frenchman, who served the parish from 1875-78. He laboriously collected all the available information pertaining to the Ross parish. It was the church that gave its name to “Corpus Christi Lane”. The church at the Crofts was to serve the Catholic community for over 50 years, but with the passage of time the congregation looked forward to the day when they could have a more convenient and better appointed House of God than the small and somewhat inaccessible church tucked away in the Crofts.
The process of accumulating the necessary funds went on over a long period of years, but with the appointment of Father Jeremiah McCarthy as parish priest in 1926 an impetus was given to the scheme. The present site at the junction of Walford Road and Sussex Avenue was acquired and as a first stage of the development the present presbytery was erected. A legacy of Frances Mary Webb, who died 3rd November 1929, enabled the full scheme to be proceeded with forthwith. The foundation stone was laid and blessed with appropriate ceremony by the then Archbishop of Cardiff, the Most Rev. Francis Mostyn, on September 10th 1930. To mark the link with the church at the Crofts and in recognition of the generous gesture of Miss Webb an incised stone tablet in the wall of the porch bears the following inscription:-
The church was designed in the Early English style and is cruciform in plan. The Sanctuary, which contains the High Altar removed from the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in the Crofts, has a barrel pitch-pine ceiling. The carved altar rails are of Austrian oak. The west transept is designed as a small chapel. The confessional opens out of this chapel and the east transept forms the sacristy. The nave measures 52ft x 25ft and has as open roof constructed of pitch-pine.
Outstanding features of the interior are the carved Stations of the Cross and the striking Altar Frontal oak carving of Jesus and the disciples at Emmaus.
Father McCarthy died in 1935 having seen the fulfillment of his great wish. He was succeeded by Father Hodges who continued to beautify the church and to make it what it is today. He organised a memorial to Father McCarthy which, apart from a suitable gravestone at Belmont Abbey, took the form of a leaded light window at the rear of the church depicting Saint Frances of Rome. The windows of Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas more were added as gifts from parishioners. The other leaded lights were added later.
Archbishop Mostyn, on the occasion of the opening of the Church in 1931, remarked that parishioners should, as far as possible, make the place where they received the Sacrament beautiful and fitting for His Holy Presence.
Frances Mary Webb provided her gratitude to God by this gift. She was not alone. There were many others who vied with her in this work.
They had only to look round the church to see the gifts which had been generously given by the members of this flock to adorn and beautify it. “Long may this church stand as a monument of gratitude to Jesus Christ and the Blessed Sacrament” concluded the Archbishop, “a monument erected by one pious soul and other souls who wish to express their gratitude to God, not forgetting what their dear Lord had done for them. Truly we may say – Bless the Lord, O my soul”
The annexe or meeting room is a very useful addition built in 1984/5. It was funded and built by Canon Patrick O’Connell to encourage parish communal activities after discussions and suggestions with parishioners, particularly Neil Wareing, who designed the addition to the property. The Church having been built with the legacy of Frances Webb now gave the opportunity to the other parishioners to express their devotion and generosity by the many gifts to furnish and adorn their parish church.