Archbishop McMahon wrote to parish priests asking them to consult with their parishioner as to how we move forward with the mission of the church with fewer priests and making best use of the resources that we have. The number of priests has reduced dramatically over recent years and with planned retirements is due to reduce further. The number of people attending mass in the archdiocese dropped by two thirds from 2000 to 2016.
At the end of this consultation period some proposals have been put forward by the pastoral area.
Parishes will work together in three pastoral units within the pastoral area. The North Pastoral area would include Our Lady of Compassion, St Jerome’s, St Anne’s and Our Lady of Victories Hightown.
The three Formby churches work together towards becoming one parish across the three churches. What this means for Our Lady’s and each of the churches is still to be worked through. At the pastoral area meeting on Friday 18th, parish representatives explored sharing some resources, and joining some groups across the parishes where needed.
It was clear from the discussions that there are different views and expectations. Many people will find this difficult and would like to return to a time when there were more priests but this is unlikely in the short term. Some people across our churches were uncomfortable with some of the ideas put forward on what we ask priests and lay people to do. Others were frustrated by the lack of willingness to explore new ways of working.
This is the beginning of a new journey. However we move forward we need to be sensitive to the feelings of others and journey forward together. Having some further meetings of parishioners from across the Formby and Hightown churches was proposed to help explore what all this means for our churches in Formby and how we reach out to others.
Key themes from responses across the Pastoral Area
1. Make Sunday mass as good as it can be so people feel part of a community
2. Enable sick and isolated to access church services -
3. Train more Eucharistic ministers to do outreach & visits to housebound
4. Deacons could cover a wider geographical area
5. Look at demographics and social priorities and strengthen work of SVP, bereavement, schools etc.
6. Nurture faith & education
7. Pray for vocations
8. Look for opportunities for training lay people
9. Relieve priests from burden of admin and finance and undertake with paid professionals and lay people.
10. Increase outreach into schools to reach people who don’t regularly attend church
11. Use social media & modern technology to reach out
12. Have three pastoral units in pastoral area-
This summary is made from 37 individual responses and discussion groups at a parish consultation meeting.
Recommendations at a local level
Most individual responses related to the possible need to close or consolidate parishes and to the role of priests and lay people.
Priests & Laity
Free priests up to do sacramental duties and preach the word of God with lay people taking more responsibility, ownership and undertaking tasks currently done by priests. Suggestions included:
Eucharistic services during the week and at some weekend masses
Other services done by lay people with appropriate training-
Parish management and administrations-
Lay people to lead Catechesis
Lay people to lead pastoral care and outreach
Some people would like more priests but most people addressed the question of how we manage with fewer priests
Parishes and Buildings
Improve communication & Coordination across parishes-
Possibly one priest across 3 parishes, or one parish with three churches
Delegate some responsibility and decision making to lay people in the parishes.
Appoint a Joint Committee group of trustees across the three churches to listen to views, and undertake decisions on mass times, buildings etc-
Involve women more in running of church.
Keep all churches open if possible
If not possible then consider access, numbers, link with schools, maintenance costs & alternative uses etc. before making any decisions
Use presbyteries creatively-
If one needed to be closed-
One suggestion to have priests living at a pastoral area with more peer support than individually isolated in parishes.
Using schools more proactively to engage families. – appoint deacons or other ministers to liaise with schools
Use modern communications & language-
Amalgamate groups within 3 Formby parishes when needed-
Open our homes for meals, bible study, prayer
Visiting people in nursing homes from each church.
Recommendations at an archdiocesan level included:
Options to lobby for Married priests (v popular) , Women priests & deacons, priests who have left priesthood
Need for church to move with the times-
Training for laity (e.g. Eucharistic minister) to undertake services
Fast track training for deacons (and women deacons)
Free priests up from administration and parish management to enable them to preach
Learn from Anglican church
Some people would like more priests (vocations) or brought in from other countries
Concern about some of the churches rules -
There was some concern expressed that any of these suggestions are very dependent on permission of the individual priest and that any agreed arrangements can change if the priest changes. There was a suggestion that in new appointments some attempt should be made to match parishes and priests in terms of interests and aspirations.
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School Lane, Formby, Liverpool. L37 3LW.
Tel: 01704 873 230
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