Parishioners of St John Fisher Catholic Church in Wellington have welcomed their new parish priest – and he invited them all to lunch.

Father Tom Dubois also has charge of Taunton’s two Catholic churches, St George’s and St Teresa’s, but it was St John Fisher that had the first taste of his culinary skills.

For social distancing purposes, he hosted two parties on consecutive Sundays in the church hall, cooking chicken chasseur for one event and chicken casserole for the other.

“We also had cheesecake, and one of the parishioners, Teresa, shared her fourth birthday cake, which was very sweet of her,” said Fr Tom.

He learned to cook as a child: “My mother had multiple sclerosis, so she taught me, from her wheelchair, and I took over cooking for the family. I really enjoy cooking, particularly to share with others – it is something Jesus did, of course.

“I use a slow cooker most of time, because a priest’s life is really very busy. I can put something on before the 8am Mass at St George’s and it’s ready after the 11.15am in Wellington.”

Fr Tom, 40, said he was aware of a vocation for the priesthood when he was very young, but he ‘pushed it aside’ during his teens. He gained a degree in physics from Bristol University before entering a seminary.

His first post was as a deacon in Gloucester before becoming a priest at St Peter’s, Salisbury, and then spending eight years serving Nailsea and Portishead.

He spent the past year in France at the Notre Dame de Vie: “It was a desert year – one of silence, manual work and contemplation.

“It’s for diocesan priests like myself, so we belong to our diocese while making a commitment to two hours of contemplative prayer each day, not just at Notre Dame de Vie but always. It’s prayer for one hour in the morning, which is easy, and one in the evening, which can be harder to find because there are so many other things going on. I find it centres me.”

His predecessor at the three-church parish was Monsignor Bernard Massey who moved to St Bonaventure in Bristol – and by complicated coincidence Fr Tom’s ‘stuff’ was in that presbytery. It meant only one removal firm was needed, to take Fr Tom’s belongings to Taunton and return with Monsignor Bernard’s.

Fr Tom said he was ‘loving’ his new post and settling in well: “This parish, St John Fisher, is really friendly – there’s a lovely sense of family,” he said.

He already has plans to run an Alpha course, arrange a priests’ retreat – and to cook more for his flock.