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Letters from Fr John

31 July

THE GILD HALL
ST JEROME’S PARISH CENTRE
OUR LADY’S ACTIVITY CENTRE

Dear Friends,

As you know, the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 led to the closure of the Gild Hall, St.Jerome’s Parish Centre and Our Lady’s Activity Centre. These buildings have remained closed and have not traded since then. As the pandemic continued, and the general economic situation deteriorated, the Archdiocese began a review of all its Parish Centres. Such a long period of closure has not simply led to a deterioration of buildings and grounds, but has had an impact on the financial health of those buildings. There has been no income, but bills have still had to be paid. Consequently, a significant number of Parish Centres across the Archdiocese have had to close permanently.

Late last year, the Archdiocese began a review of our Parish Centres in Formby. The matter finally went before the Trustees of the Archdiocese last week and a final decision was reached. I am now able to tell you about that decision.

THE GILD HALL

The Trustees have decided to reopen the Gild Hall in September. For some years now, it has been managed and administered by the Archdiocese. Jackie, the manager, did a wonderful job of attracting many groups and making it a popular venue. Sadly, Jackie has decided to move on to other things. Our sincere thanks go to her for all her hard work and dedication. A new manager will be appointed in due course and the Trustees have approved a programme of interior and exterior decoration. It has also been decided that the Gild Hall will now be the venue for all the meetings of our new parish. Once the groups of the parish start to come together again, details of how to book days, times and rooms will be sent out.

ST JEROME’S PARISH CENTRE

The Trustees have decided to reopen St. Jerome’s Parish Centre. However, they have decided to make some changes. The Archdiocese will now take over the management and administration of the Centre. The new manager of the Gild Hall will also manage St.Jerome’s Parish Centre. Peter Brooks has managed the Centre for many years and he now steps down as manager. He has worked incredibly hard with great dedication to maintain the building to a high standard, to welcome many groups and to make the building available to the parish. I want to say a huge thank you to Peter for all his hard work and dedication. The Archdiocese has asked him to continue in a supporting capacity, and to offer assistance to the new manager in his or her new duties.

Joe Moreland has served as Treasurer of the Parish Centre for many years. He and Peter have worked tirelessly to keep the Centre open during increasingly difficult times. Joe will now step down as Treasurer and he does so with my sincere thanks for such generous service over the years. The Gild Hall and St.Jerome’s Parish Centre will now be administered as one financial unit by the new manager, under the auspices of the Archdiocese.

St.Jerome’s Parish Centre has just about made ends meet for some time. Declining bar sales, fewer groups renting the building and a decline in the number of functions has made the future of the Centre uncertain. The costs to reopen, to meet its financial needs and to make it more fit for purpose, require a much higher income than previously. The Archdiocese has decided to seek groups that will rent the building for higher rates to stabilise the Centre financially and keep it on a strong footing.  I am very happy that a solution has been found to reopen our Centre when so many parishes have lost theirs. Exactly how the building will now be utilised will be in the hands of the new manager.

OUR LADY’S ACTIVITY CENTRE

The Activity Centre next to the Gild Hall has served many groups from Our Lady’s and the town for many years. It has been managed and administered by Leo Kolassa, who has been tireless in supporting the Centre and making it possible for many to find a home there. The Archdiocese has asked that the Activity Centre and the Gild Hall work as one unit under one manager. Leo will step down from his role, but he has generously agreed to remain on hand for advice and guidance in the future plans for the building. I am deeply grateful to Leo for his dedicated service to the Activity Centre.

The Archdiocese have surveyed the Activity Centre and identified several areas of repair and improvement affecting health and safety that need to be carried out. The financial cost of the works is quite high. So, for now, the building will not be used for group activities or meetings. Once the work is eventually carried out, some thought can be given to its future use.

We now have clarity about the future of the two Parish Centres and we retain the Activity Centre as a resource for the future. Some changes have been made, but we have emerged in a better position than some others. Brian Lowry, who has been overseeing this process on behalf of the Archdiocese, has asked me to provide his contact details at the end of this letter, should anyone wish to make enquiries or ask for further information. His contact e-mail is: b.lowry@rcaol.org.uk

God bless you,

Father John

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Letters from Fr John

25 July

SPECIAL MINISTERS OF HOLY COMMUNION 

READERS OF THE WORD OF GOD

Dear Friends,

Further to my last letter to you, I wanted now to speak to two groups of parishioners who provide a very important service to our parish. Those who assist me in giving Holy Communion to the people and those who read the word of God during the celebration of Mass. 

Firstly, those who assist with Holy Communion. My first concern is for those who are sick and housebound in our new Parish. Now that restrictions are lifting and home visits are possible again, I would like to find out where the sick and housebound are. Some are known to me, but others are not. I am also in contact with the several nursing and care homes around Formby to find those Catholics who need a visit. 

So in the first place, we need people who are willing to take the Eucharist to the sick. This is the area of greatest need. All three former parishes have Eucharistic ministers on their lists. So I am asking the following;

Have you been acting as a Eucharistic Minister in Our Lady’s, St. Anne’s or St. Jerome’s? Can you let us know the names of those you were visiting before the pandemic? Would you like to continue as a Eucharistic Minister? Are you willing, in the first place, to take the Eucharist to the sick, since this is the area of greatest need? 

If you have not been a Eucharistic Minister previously and would like to offer your service, would you be willing to meet with us to take the matter further?

Just a brief word about the giving of Holy Communion in church. The chalice will not be offered to the people for the foreseeable future. I’m sure none of us will be surprised by that. Holy Communion will be offered in the Host only. Our Lady’s in particular had a number of deeply committed Eucharistic Ministers who assisted Father Bernard during these past years. Thank God, I am relatively fit and healthy and can discharge my duty of giving Holy Communion to the people relatively easily. We are also blessed to have two deacons who, through the laying on of hands, are the first assistants of Holy Communion. So, for now, help will not be needed with the distribution of Holy Communion in the Church. But, of course, it will very likely be needed in the future.

If you are a Eucharistic Minister at the moment or would like to be, then please contact John Mc Carthy. His address will be below this letter. In particular, if you no longer wish to continue as a Eucharistic Minister for any reason, we need to hear from you as well.

Now the Readers of the word of God. As with Eucharistic Ministers, we have been greatly blessed in our Parishes with fine and committed Readers. We need more. So I ask the following;

  • Are you already a Reader? Are you willing to continue? 
  • Would you like to consider becoming a Reader?
  • Are you happy to undergo a period of refreshment or initial training?

Please let us know what you would like, or are able to do, as soon as possible. The email address to send your replies to is: ourladyofcompassionformby@rcaol.org.uk

Thank you very much,

God bless you,

Father John

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Letters from Fr John

19 July

Dear Friends,

WELCOME TO THE NEWLY MERGED PARISH OF OUR LADY OF COMPASSION, FORMBY

It might seem strange to welcome you to something that began its life 7 months ago! But since our Archbishop decided to merge the three previous parishes of Our Lady’s, St Anne’s and St Jerome’s into the new parish of Our Lady of Compassion, we have had very little opportunity to enjoy normal parish life. 

Today, the restrictions placed on us by the government to protect the population from Covid have been lifted. The decision is a controversial one and the debate will rage on for many weeks I am sure. Responding to this decision, the Archdiocese has issued guidance for all parishes. You will have had all these details given to you over the weekend Masses and on our usual information platforms. Our Lady’s and St Jerome’s will return to their normal configurations. Stewards will be replaced with welcomers who will be quietly on hand to assist. Face coverings must still be worn, and we ask you to gel your hands as you come into church.

But how do we move forward from here? The summer holidays have now begun, and I know that some of you will be going away for a very well earned break. So things will remain on the quiet side. But once September begins, and the schools return, I expect things to quickly start to take shape. So let me update you with where things are at the moment.

ST ANNE’S CHURCH

As you know, there will be a meeting of St. Anne’s Parishioners on Thursday, August 5th at 7.30pm at St. Jerome’s Parish Centre. After this meeting, the Archbishop is expected to make his final decision about the future of St. Anne’s Church.

ST JEROME’S CHURCH

When the decision about the future of St. Anne’s Church is made, a decision about the future of St. Jerome’s church will also be made. I have been told that the church is likely to remain open for the foreseeable future because of its proximity to the school. The decision will be made about how exactly the church is to be used. I know that there will be frustration about the time it is taking to reach these decisions, but there are many churches across the diocese facing a similar situation and awaiting similar decisions. Hopefully, we will not have to wait much longer.

THREE INTO ONE?

No, this is not a reference to the theology of the Blessed Trinity! But it is still something of a conundrum. How do three parish communities merge into one? All those traditions, histories, ways of doing things, and people? It is a huge ask! Traditions and memories don’t just disappear overnight. They should be remembered and cherished. We can only make a beginning and move forward in faith. But a number of things need to be laid out clearly so that we all know where we are.

There are some sensitivities, anxieties and even upsets across our Catholic community at the moment. The community of St. Anne’s is facing the possible loss of their church after 90 years of worship and life there. That pain has to be acknowledged. The community of St. Jerome’s are anxious and upset about the future of their church and what forthcoming decisions will mean for them and the use of the church. The community of Our Lady’s is anxious about all the things they were familiar with seemingly disappearing. Add to this the shutdowns of the pandemic, seemingly slow decision making by authorities, village gossip and the fact that we are all greater worriers than we used to be, all adds up to a painful, even toxic mix. If you are worried, anxious, upset, then I hope these words will help bring a little calm and reassurance.

How do we move forward? Well, at a time when community identities are shifting and changing, we should begin by focusing on our first and primary identity. To be clear about what we are about. We are Catholic Christians, disciples of Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters, members of the Church, the Body of Christ, part of a diocesan family. This is our foundation, our deepest identity. It transcends everything, even change itself. All that we do begins and ends here.

Now, we will all have different ideas about how all this works in practice. But one thing is clear. Jesus Christ must be at the centre of our community. His face must be seen and his words must be heard. This is the reason we gather for Mass, our central act of worship. So it seems to me that we should begin by asking ourselves; is Jesus clearly seen and heard in our Catholic community? Is it clear to those seeking him that he is here, in us, in all we do?

HOW DO WE ORGANISE OUR PARISH LIFE?

Only when we ask and answer the questions raised above can we then consider how we plan out our parish life, since Christ has to be at the heart of every aspect of our structures. I am placing three key areas at the heart of our new parish;

Evangelisation 

In other words, the preaching of the Gospel. This is not simply my preaching. This is the outreach of every single parishioner to others around us. It is the seeking out of those who are looking for deeper meaning, acceptance, faith. It is accompaniment. It is the patient listening that people need.

Catechesis 

Put simply, this is the sharing of our faith. It is formal and informal sharing. It is the passing on of our faith to children, young adults and all seekers.

Welcome

This is not just welcoming people as they come through the church door. This is a basic attitude that permeates everything we say and do. It is the determination to avoid any kind of exclusivity, of an inward looking community. It is following the vision of Pope Francis for a parish community; seeking others on the margins, avoiding staleness, welcoming to all.

Underpinning all this is the celebration of the Sunday Eucharist, the Mass, on the Lord’s Day. Everything we do flows from this and to this. It is the most important moment of each week for our parish community.

How do we build our new parish from these key areas? It is certainly going to need a common effort. But most importantly, the nearer we draw to the Lord, the more these gifts will appear. Some of you may be scratching your heads and thinking; well, it all sounds rather high brow and complicated, all we want to do is go to Mass and say our prayers. And that is exactly what I hope you will continue to do! These are the most important things. But I am speaking here about ways of thinking, ways of looking at the reality around us, ways of being faithful disciples. We might think that to deliver these new outlooks, we need a proliferation of committees and meetings and organisation. Some of those things are necessary. But we should never be in doubt. The preaching of the Gospel, the passing on of the faith, the welcome and inclusivity of our community, can only begin to appear and flourish as we draw closer and closer, both as a community and as individuals, to the Lord.

STRUCTURES

The Archdiocesan Synod sat in June. Its deliberations and decisions were far ranging and can be read on the Synod 2020 website. The outcome? A new Pastoral Plan for the whole Archdiocese, to be presented by the Archbishop at the end of November. This Plan is expected to introduce big changes across every parish, deanery and the structures of the Archdiocese itself. In short, significant change is coming. The priests have been asked not to create any new parish structures until the Plan is published. 

But we cannot stand still until November. We have to begin to co ordinate the basic functions of the parish and get things started. But obviously, we cannot pick up where we left off 18 months ago. So much has changed. As a new parish we have to begin again as we learn to accommodate each other and learn to live with each other. Previously, Our Lady’s had a Parish Council, whilst St Jerome’s and St Anne’s did not. A new Parish Council cannot be formed until the Archbishop’s plan is published and we know his directions.. So I am putting into place a simple plan to move us forward.

I am gathering a small number of people from each of the former three parishes. This is not a Council, but a number of ‘forerunners’ if you like, to scout out the ground of our new parish, take stock and co ordinate the basic outreach of the parish. I will let you know who they are shortly. They will be looking for people to help, serve and assist. More details will be published in the coming days.

EXPECTATIONS

Since the reopening of the churches at Easter, there has been a growing demand for the Sacraments. The most obvious example is the four First Communion Masses celebrated recently, with a very large number of children. But demand for baptisms has grown quickly, with about 30 now waiting to take place. Four weddings are taking place this month. The number of funerals have been growing for some time. In addition, our two Schools are looking for liturgical celebrations in or for the School, which has led to two Leavers Masses being celebrated in the last few days. We shall see the number of weekday Masses growing shortly.

All of this is very welcome and very encouraging. However, Formby is now served by just one priest. We remember the days when the three parishes were served by a number of priests. I am very grateful that the Archbishop has appointed two deacons to our parish who are a real blessing. We are also blessed that Father Bernard and Father Bradley are able to say Mass when needed, as well as the very generous priests at Mill Hill. But that will not always be the case. In short, our expectations will have to adapt.

A FINAL WORD 

This has been a long letter. I wanted to set out a simple and basic map for our way forward. The map will grow and develop over time as we walk together, pray together and learn together in the coming months. We will need more faith, more patience and more love. Above all, I believe that we will need more forgiveness and healing. I know that some have found the transition of parish priest difficult. I know that some are finding the merging of our parishes difficult, and I know that some are finding the prospect of others getting involved and perhaps moving into their ‘territory’ very difficult. This is almost always the case when one parish priest leaves and a new one arrives. There is no easy way through it. I want to involve and include all who want to serve and work for our community in the coming months.

That all now being said, let us make a new start together, looking forward to the future, asking for the gifts of love, unity, forgiveness and peace. Our Catholic community has immense potential. Let’s start tapping it for the good of all.

God bless you all!

Father John

Categories
Letters from Fr John

15 July

Dear Friends,

As you know, the Government has decided to lift most restrictions, this coming Monday, that were imposed at the beginning of the pandemic almost 18 months ago. The Archdiocese has just issued its guidance to Parish Priests about the way forward for our churches and how our worship will be organised.  I have asked that the full text of the guidance letter be printed and attached to the newsletter this weekend, so that you can read it for yourselves. The main points are as follows;

  • Face coverings will remain mandatory for all attending Mass and liturgical celebrations in our churches.
  • You are asked to continue to use hand gel when you enter the church. 
  • You may enter and exit the church through either of the two entrances at Our Lady’s and St. Jerome’s.
  • Track and trace is ended. The practice of cleaning the benches after Masses is ended.
  • We will continue to ventilate the church as best we can, whilst minimising discomfort.
  • All social distancing will be removed. Stickers on benches, signs and notices inside and outside the church will be removed. Access to all the benches will be restored and permanent seating in the transepts will be restored. You may sit wherever you wish.
  • The Sunday collection will still take place by leaving your offerings in the baskets as you leave church. We are not permitted to pass the bags around.
  • Holy Communion will be restored to its traditional place. You may approach the Altar as usual to receive communion, bench by bench.
  • The Sign of Peace is restored, but only by acknowledging one another, no physical contact will be possible.
  • If it has been your previous practice to receive Holy Communion on the tongue, you may now do so.
  • Holy Communion from the chalice will not be offered for the foreseeable future.
  • Singing is now permitted and the use of hymn books is permitted. Exactly how we can sing with face coverings is yet to be clarified!
  • Weddings and funerals may now be attended up to the full capacity of the church.

The most obvious change will be the end of the service of our stewards. I cannot find the words to thank each and every steward who has served Our Lady’s Church and St. Jerome’s Church over the past year. Only because of their generous and selfless service have we been able to have Masses, funerals and weddings. To each and every one of you, I want to say on behalf of us all THANK YOU!

We will now reintroduce, and build on, the ministry of Welcome. The welcomers will be on hand to welcome, guide and reassure. 

These changes will first be seen at our parish Mass next Wednesday at 12 Noon. It will take some time for all of us to get used to a more normal experience of Mass. The diocese has promised further guidance in the weeks ahead. During this time, I will be providing more information about the increase and timings of our daily Masses and the arrangements for our groups to meet together. The School holidays are about to begin and people will be going away to enjoy some kind of break and rest. All our new arrangements will be in place by the beginning of September.  Please keep an eye on the parish newsletter and listen out for announcements as things begin to happen.

A final word. We all know that this pandemic is not over. Far from it. We have all heard the warnings and concerns of many in the medical and scientific communities. The coming winter is causing concern. Nevertheless, it has been decided that now is the best time to open up and move towards normality. We will certainly play our part. We all want normal times to return. However, I ask that we remain sensitive to one another. Some remain anxious and concerned. It is not possible to have a ‘big bang’ return to normality. It will be gradual, but the changes will be immediately noticeable.

We have been asked to be cautious. It seems perfectly reasonable to be so. The coming months may be challenging and the guidance may be altered at any time. However, let us be thankful that we have arrived at this point, praying for those who are sick with COVID, those suffering from the lasting effects of the virus and those who have died because of the virus. We remember them all. Now let us enjoy our new found freedoms and look forward to brighter days.

God bless you all!

Father John

Categories
Letters from Fr John

11 July

Dear Friends,

The Prime Minister’s recent announcement that he intends to lift almost all restrictions placed on us in this time of pandemic has been greeted with euphoria by the media, dire warnings by some in the medical profession and what seems like a strange eerie silence in society as a whole. It feels like a strange time. The celebrations for the great success of the England team in Euro 2020 have been tremendous. Tomorrow night will be an experience we haven’t had for a long time. And yet… this silence and quiet seems to continue.

I haven’t written to you for some time. There has been little to tell you. I think we have all just been taking it one day at a time. The life of the Church has continued of course; our Masses, live streaming, the funerals for our loved ones who have passed, our wonderful volunteers, many conversations. But all this is just a fraction of usual parish life. 

But things are changing and it’s time to write to you again. Over the past 10 days, I have celebrated 4 First Holy Communion Masses in Our Lady’s and St. Jerome’s for Years 4 and 5 of our two Schools. About 140 children received their First Communion, along with their families. They were evening celebrations, the weather was beautiful, the soloists sang beautifully, and the look of joy and excitement on the faces of children and parents alike was beautiful. 

There are almost 30 baptisms scheduled over the next few months and several weddings. There is a sense of things beginning to wake again and people are instinctively turning to the Church to help them celebrate the key moments in their lives. The parish phone was never quiet during lockdown and restrictions, but now it has become noticeably busier.

So, although things look and seem quiet, out of sight, life is stirring again. How many times have we heard in our Scripture readings and prayers that God prefers to work in hidden and quiet ways, away from noise and fuss? That the silent growth of the seed was the preferred parable for Jesus, to explain how the Kingdom of God works? Yet, throughout this past 16 months, many of us have found it uncomfortable and difficult to be faced with quiet and a seeming loss of our normal routine. It has been a hard lesson, but perhaps we have found the courage to remain in the silence and go a little deeper within ourselves. To meet God within. To understand that life filled with activity is not always valuable, and that our outreach to each other and the needy is made more powerful by those frequent conversations with God, which we call prayer. What has God been saying to each one of us? Only each one of us can answer that question.

We now wait to hear how things will change for us in our churches, our worship and our parish life. That we will now move forward is beyond doubt. However, we will also have to accept that it will be a ‘multi tracked’ experience. I doubt if there will be a single explosion of activity. Some will be nervous and apprehensive. The needs of all will have to be taken into account. However, we will soon be on our way and as soon as I hear about what is happening I shall let you know.

Until then, enjoy the football!!

God bless you all!

Father John

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Letters from Fr John

2 June

Dear Friends,

Beginning again!

It’s been a little while since you last heard from me. I have been taking the opportunity for a few days quiet break. These days have given me the opportunity to reflect more deeply on the past 15 months and all it has meant for us as a faith community. To say that this time has been unprecedented is an understatement. Reflection will continue for years to come, since the effects of this pandemic have been far reaching. But we will all have our thoughts about what these past months have meant to each of us.

All eyes are on June 14th. Then we are likely to hear whether the final stage of the ‘roadmap’ can go ahead on June 21st. I don’t envy the Prime Minister! Huge pressures come from all sides of the debate… not moving quickly enough, moving too quickly.. Likewise for us. Some think we have moved too slowly. Others believe we should remain cautious. We cannot see the future, but we are right to be optimistic about the months ahead. Yes, we know that the pandemic is not yet over and that the variants will remain a reality for some time to come. But the weight of the good news is increasing. Hope is growing!

So are we expecting to just jump back to the days before Covid, and pick up where we left off? It would be perfectly natural to want to. But in our heart of hearts we realise that we cannot. Things have changed. The most obvious change is our new parish; no longer three parishes but one. Three communities of faith now beginning the journey to integrate into one. But at a deeper level, we have all changed. It may not be immediately obvious. But change makes itself felt in the deepest parts of us. 

What lies ahead of us in the coming weeks? The return of weekday Mass, of singing, of meetings and coffee to name but a few. Let’s hold our nerve for a while longer. Above all, let’s look to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to move among us in a new way, to open doors, breathe on us afresh and open our eyes and ears to each other and to God. A new beginning in more ways than one!

God bless you and your loved ones!

Father John

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Letters from Fr John

16 May

Dear Friends,

‘It never rains but it pours!’ This was my first sentiment on hearing the news late last night that Public Health England had ordered surge testing here in our town after the so called Indian variant was found, and infections climbed rapidly. It was almost surreal to see images of Formby people queuing for testing on Sky News this morning! 

What a pity we have come to this point. Only a few weeks ago the virus was virtually suppressed here. So much hard work and sacrifice! We had even begun tentative arrangements for welcoming more people back to church and seeing restrictions lifted next month. Then this. We are reminded that this virus is vicious and persistent. We have been told that being fully vaccinated does not completely prevent us acquiring the virus and passing it on to others. Indeed, the full efficacy of the vaccine is only now being tested. 

In short, this is a setback and a regrettable one at that. The coming weeks will require all of us to be extra cautious in our behaviour. We are all desperate to get back to some normality. As we have now seen, this won’t happen when our guard is relaxed and risks are taken. Let’s make one final push.

My thoughts have been with the community of St. Anne’s over the past few weeks. The consultation which is about to end has brought many submissions by email, letter, phone and conversation. I have read each and every submission several times over and made notes of each conversation. I want to thank each one of you who sent in a submission for all that you wrote and communicated. Every single submission is being collated to be sent and read by the Archbishop. Once this has been done, I will write to you about the next steps after the diocese has been in touch with me.

I have to be honest that, even though I have put a brave face on it, I have found the whole process difficult on a number of levels. Having been Pastor of St. Anne’s for four years, and having lived there with Fr. Bradley for the same time (although I had to relocate to St.Jerome’s at the beginning of the first lockdown to avoid bringing the infection into Fr. Bradley who was shielding), I have a myriad of wonderful memories. A beautiful little church, wonderful, prayerful and kind people and a lovely spirit. 

I realised, when I was appointed to St. Anne’s, that it was already at risk of closure. I say this because the dramatic drop in priest numbers and vocations made it an inevitability. But I had hoped for several years of ministry there. Then COVID struck and accelerated a process that was almost certainly underway before I arrived. But it doesn’t make it easier. How do we talk about the ending of an almost 90 year story of worship, faith and community? The answer is, on one level we do and on one level we don’t. 

Yes, the church may close and only the Archbishop can make that decision. The memories are tied to the building. But on another level, the story continues in the people and in the continuation of what is essential; faith. It is this that is passed on. The community of St. Anne’s are like orphans and feel homeless, so now two things must happen.

First, I am resolved that should the Archbishop decide to close the church, then a full farewell final Mass will be celebrated in St. Anne’s Church, which will enable St. Anne’s community to enter their church again, celebrate Mass together and say farewell to their church. I will also provide a ‘bun fight’ afterwards so that we can all be together as a community one last time. But we must await a final decision of what is to happen next.

Secondly, there must be no spiritual orphans in Formby. Not only do we await the Archbishop’s decision about St. Anne’s, but also his plan for St. Jerome’s. The new parish created by the Archbishop last December was purposefully placed under the patronage and protection of Our Blessed Lady. The church of Our Lady of Compassion will become more and more our home, the home of the whole Catholic community. We must now, slowly but surely make a home there under Our Lady’s protective mantle. How do three communities gradually become one community? Humanly speaking, it is very difficult. In God’s plan all things are possible. Only He can bring this about. But we know that whatever we commend sincerely to Our Lady, she will most certainly obtain for us.

So many intentions! We will need a lot of patience and faith going forward. But in the end, it is God’s work. Let’s remember that when we get tired or dispirited, or when the news about the virus is getting us down. After all this, we have so much to look forward to!  

God bless you and your loved ones!

Father John

Categories
Letters from Fr John

9 April

Dear Friends,

CONSULTATION OF THE CATHOLIC COMMUNITY OF FORMBY ABOUT A PROPOSAL CONCERNING THE FUTURE OF ST. ANNE’S CHURCH

Just over 12 months ago, all three of our churches in Formby were closed as we entered the first lockdown. Last summer, when churches were permitted to reopen, we were required to carry out a full Health and Safety risk assessment on the churches to determine whether they could conform to the new restrictions. Unfortunately, St. Anne’s failed to pass the risk assessment and remained closed.

Now, many months and three lockdowns later, the situation here in Formby has changed. The Archbishop has merged the three parishes into one new parish. Just one Priest serves the whole town. Our financial income has been hit hard by the pandemic and we are unsure about numbers coming to worship in the future.

What is clear is that we cannot sustain three separate church buildings. They have served the Catholic community well and were served by up to five priests at one time. The two year consultation which will culminate in the Archdiocesan Synod in June has asked for, among other things, an all encompassing review of church properties and their sustainability. 

It will come as no surprise that the future of St. Anne’s church is now under review. It is time to consult all Catholics in Formby about a proposal concerning the future of St.Anne’s church, before any final decision is made. The good people of the former St. Anne’s parish have had their church closed to them for over a year. This has caused much pain and anxiety. The hammer of this pandemic has fallen very heavily on them, and I want to thank them for their example of patience and forbearance.

The proposal being put before us all is as follows;

‘The parish of Our Lady of Compassion should be served by two churches, Our Lady’s and St.Jerome’s. St.Anne’s church will be taken out of sacred use and disposed of appropriately’.

It is important to point out that, in common with the whole Archdiocese, this is only the beginning of a process of review into the needs of the Catholic community here as we adjust to new realities. It will proceed gradually. Our community will, of course, be consulted about future plans. 

The consultation period for this proposal will last for six weeks. It will commence today Friday, April 9th and close on Friday, May 21st. Please send your thoughts through the Parish email system (click here), or by letter to Our Lady’s Presbytery or St. Jerome’s Presbytery. At the end of the consultation period, all the replies will be collated and formed into a report which will be sent to the Archbishop. The report will be made available to everyone in the parish.

Finally, and whilst we are still celebrating the Octave of Easter, may I ask your prayers for this process of consultation and in particular for the community of St. Anne’s for whom this will be a very difficult time.

God bless

Father John

Categories
Letters from Fr John

1 April

Dear Friends,

THE REOPENING OF OUR CHURCHES

This weekend, two of our three churches will reopen for public worship. On Holy Saturday, St Jerome’s church will reopen at 6.00pm for a simple Vigil Mass of Easter. On Easter morning, Our Lady’s church will reopen for Mass at 9.00am and 11.00 am. St Anne’s will remain closed.

The churches will be opened on a first come, first served basis. We are by no means back to a normal situation and the usual track and trace, hand sanitiser and social distancing will be required to keep everyone safe. Everyone will be shown to their seat by the stewards.

As ever, I am very grateful to our stewards for their generous service, which makes it possible for our churches to reopen.  

Going forward, we will return to our pre- lockdown Mass schedule;

  • Saturday: Vigil Mass at St Jerome’s at 6.00pm.
  • Sunday: Mass at Our Lady’s at 9.00am and 11.00am.
  • Wednesday: Mass at Our Lady’s at 12 Noon.

God bless

Father John

Categories
Letters from Fr John

28 March

Dear Friends,

Accompaniment’ is a word which Pope Francis uses often. He wants to see more accompaniment and more listening in our journey with our brothers and sisters, particularly those of little or no faith. It is a beautiful teaching and a necessary counterbalance in a culture that is drowning in words!

The days of Holy Week are upon us. How are we going to journey through them? Perhaps we can accompany Jesus. Watch, listen, enter into the events we know so well. We will be overwhelmed if we open our hearts. Such extreme suffering and sadness is too much for us to think about for long. We are staring into the face of pure love!

We may begin by accompanying Jesus. We will gradually find ourselves being accompanied by him. He has much he wants to teach us. Are we able to listen, to ponder, to be silent? There is no other way of entering into these days.

Let us listen carefully to the accounts of the Passion of Jesus in our live-streamed services. Allow our hearts to be opened a little more. There is no better preparation, surely, for the reopening of our churches and our celebration of the great Easter Feast next weekend. 

May God bless you and those you love

Father John