Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

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Faith in the Future

Faith in the Future


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A file of all the Responses


Response 1












Response 2

There seems to be no connection between St. Thomas of Canterbury School and those in the parish who no longer have children there.  Many in the parish would like to hear more about what is happening in the school, its progress, its successes and its social events.  There is rarely anything about the school in the parish newsletter and very little these days in the local paper.  It feels as if the school is closed off from the parish.

It would also be nice if the children came to their school Masses in church, as they do in other parishes, rather than having Mass celebrated in the school.  This would make school Masses more of a parish event and would make ‘coming to Church’ a part of the children’s lives.


Response 3

Having spoken to many people in connection with the Faith in the Future document, including Parishioners from or own Church and other parishes also lapsed Catholics from our Parish and people from other denominations.

The general opinion is that changes are needed and must be taken soon, there have been other consultative documents asking for opinions in the past and very little positive action taken.

It has come as no surprise that the shortage of Priests is becoming a grave concern and needs immediate action before Parishes are forced to close,

Nearly everyone are of the opinion that the Bishop should agree to lay Deacons being appointed like other surrounding diocese. It is an issue that unless this is done very soon, the Faith in the Future would be impractical.

It was further suggested that each Parish should have 2 appointed Deacons, who would go on a fast tract course and after say 6 months they could be appointed acting Deacons, then after further training of say 18 months they could become ordained Deacons. The local Parish Priest could select parishioners who if agreed could be put forward to the Diocese as a possible Deacon.

Parishioners of other faiths explained that the appointment of lay people to assist in parishes were there was no resident clergyman had worked successfully for many years.

We should move away from some of the outdated and old fashioned practices that operate within the Catholic Church and if we want Faith in the Future to succeed, we must at least bring ourselves into modern day society.

Services should be made more attractive to families and young people with brighter music and more active co-ordination with people. Unfortunately many of the services are dreary and monotonous which many young people feel is boring and unattractive.

Cooperation should be more active with other denominations and bring together our Christian beliefs and work together with our services and social activities.

Until Deacons are appointed Parishes should appoint certain lay people for various duties. These people should be named and officially appointed to enable parishioners to identify them when ever they need help, or wish to volunteer there services.

Everyone I spoke to were of the opinion that action needs to be taken immediately before the situation gets worse.


Copy of a letter addressed to Bishop Kelly December 1993

December 8, 1993

Dear Bishop Kelly

A meeting was held in the parish of St. Thomas of Canterbury Bolton on Tuesday 2nd of December 1993. The meeting was held against the background of the declining number of priest in the Deanery and the Diocese

It was seen that through the Sacrament of Holy Orders preaching the word, celebrating the Eucharist and administrating the sacraments was essential to the ministerial priesthood.

While these are functions which cannot evolve to a lay person, it was generally agreed that the laity can and should be much more involved in the active life of a parish.

It was felt that the primary objective should be to keep the identity of the parish and if necessary hold Eucharist services when it is not possible to celebrate mass. There were strong

feelings expressed that no sudden change should be imposed on parishioners and recommended therefore that preparation should be made though a training programme designed and supervised by the church to prepare the parish and parishioners for any possible new role.

The problem is not a new one and other dioceses have had experience of this situation. It is recommended that information is gathered from these diocese, and the experience gained there, is used as the basis for change within our own diocese. A further study could be carried out in the Deanery itself to identify how it perceives the problem and whether it feels that individual parishes or churches should be maintained.


If the number of priests decline then it may be that parishes will have to be combined or that mass is celebrated in central locations with people coming in from outlying districts This could pose problems for many members of the community who are not mobile and hence our desire to keep the parish identity. Another alternative is for priests to group together at one location and visit parishes on a rota basis

If the number of priests decline then it may be that parishes will have to be combined or that mass is celebrated in central locations with people coming in from outlying districts This could pose problems for many members of the community who are not mobile and hence our desire to keep the parish identity. Another alternative is for priests to group together at one location and visit parishes on a rota basis

Shortage of indigenous priests could be overcome by inviting priests from those countries where vocations are high, for example Far East or Poland etc

The question of celibacy was raised. Should we be looking at the ordination of married men? Equally there are former priests, now married who could be recalled to their ministry.

There is a strong case for the ordination of Deacons who after suitable training could be appointed to a parish by the Deanery and become a leader of the lay ministers, in the absence of a priest The commissioning of a deacon could be by the issuing of a 3 year licence, after which his / her position could be reviewed retrained or reappointed or withdrawn.

In the long term if the number of priests continues to decline and the pace of technology continues, should we be looking at mass being celebrated though the media of a very localised T.V. service to supplement a service by a lay person. In summarising therefore points considered were -:

·         Involve the laity in decisions

·         Keep parish identity

·         Feasibility Studies

·         Oversees Priests

·         Married Priests

·         Commissioning of Deacons

·         Use of Technology

In conclusion there was deep concern at the noticeable lack of attendance and participation of younger people within the Church The services also require urgent attention to presentation and promotion of the image we should be portraying.

We sincerely hope that these comments and ideas are received favourable for your future consideration

Yours sincerely





Response 4

Response to the consultation

The laity will need to take a more active and responsible role in many aspects of the leadership, administration and spiritual life of our parishes.  We must each be prepared, therefore, regularly to give of our time, labour and skills in the service of the Church and not leave it to someone else!

The laity will need to play an active role, alongside our priests, in developing the ‘collaborative ministry’ that will be the backbone of our future parishes.

‘Daily Mass’, a feature of the latter years of the C20th, may involve us in travel to a neighbouring parish.

Our parishes must develop and maintain a sense of community that will be seen as being both ‘welcoming’ and ‘inclusive.’  There should be opportunities for everyone to become involved, not just a few.  And we should actively encourage each other to become involved.

The needs of our young people – ‘Church of today: Hope of tomorrow’ – will need to be identified and catered for.  Not everything can or should be left to the schools.


Response 5


Some groups are already well established which is good – Reading Counting Driving Eucharistic Ministers we should build on these


More volunteers, wider participation needed in

Counting Reading Driving

Some people have been counting the money since their children were small.  Now their grandchildren are growing up! Younger ‘counters’ needed.

Some of the drivers for old people to 11 am Mass are pensioners themselves!

Not enough readers for flexibility at holiday ties or ‘can’t do’ weekends

Could we recruit Young people/Teenagers to read?


In the past Fr Linden used to have regular hymn practices before Masses so that all the congregation learned & sang hymns.  We learned a lot of the ‘modern’ hymns in this way.  Could we do this practice at all Masses, say once a month, so that the Music Liturgy would improve at all Masses?

Diocesan level

Why can’t we have Deacons in this diocese?  Often people like to have a person ‘in authority’ in the absence of a priest.

Vatican level

We need to have married priests to help solve the shortage crisis.

Why is the Vatican so against this measure?  It is a Church rule rather than Christ’s rule

Response 6

It seems to me that our present concerns regarding the shortage of priest in this deanery are part of a much wider problem, one which will probably require quite radical solutions.  In the long term serious thought will have to be given to the ordination of married men.  It may well be that this will not produce many more vocations, but there is no single solution to the problem.  If married clergy from other denominations can be ordained and the relevant parishes can cope with their different life style, I cannot see why Catholic married men could not do the same.  There would undoubtedly be logistic and financial problems, but in times of crisis solutions have to be found.

More controversially, the ordination of women should be considered.  Personally I feel that many people would have no problem with this change.  Again there would be practical problems to be overcome, but other denominations seem to be able to solve them.

Thirdly, a very valuable resource is being lost in this diocese, namely, permanent deacons.  If the time is going to come when there will be no resident Parish Priest and the laity have to manage the day to day affairs of the parish, a deacon would be a source of continuity and a permanent link with the deanery.  I understand that a deacon can officiate at baptisms, weddings, without a Mass, funerals, again without a Mass and at the grave side or crematorium.  I would suppose that he could take pe-marriage classes, he could lead any discussion groups, he could be a member of the Parish Council, he could be a spiritual adviser to the Parish societies, he could visit the sick and undertake any other form of pastoral care.  He could not replace a priest but he would be able to reduce the work load of any priest who was not in residence.  I have used the male pronoun because I am considering the immediate situation.  Additionally I believe that we are denying men the chance of testing their vocation.

The deployment of priests will have to remain the prerogative of the Bishop.

If there is to be no priest in residence a parish council will have to be formed.  A number of responsibilities currently carried by the priest will have to be devolved to the council, including finance.

My generation (I am 77) will continue to  take part in the liturgy and provide financial support whatever the arrangements are and so I think a major effort will be needed to attract and retain the 50s, 40s, 30s, 20s and children.  The new school hall should give us an asset.  Advice could be sought from the priests at Thornleigh – they are experts in engaging young people.

Other Christian denominations seem to be much more skilled at providing activities for young people.  St. Peter’s Halliwell, for instance have a thriving youth section.  I don’t think we should ignore any expertise which might be available to us.  My deputy head at a local primary school and is a source of introduction to the leaders there.

Finally, I think we should have a message in every church bulletin offering a welcome to any new parishioners.  Perhaps it could invite them to ask for a welcome pack.  A short history of the parish and school, an outline of school admission policies, a list of parish societies with tele numbers, an indication of areas of possible involvement, reading, counting etc.  I am sure there are much better qualified people in the parish when it come to producing such a document, but as I have made a number of suggestion to make work for other people, I feel I should put my computer where my mouth is.


Response  7



I must begin by thanking Canon Byrne for the way he has led us through the practical and spiritual issues - and for the opportunity to take part in the consultation process.

Three main issues seem to arise:

1.      The reduced - and reducing - number of priests.

2.       The changing pattern of population: few people living where once there were many.

3.      The location of the churches: some were at the centre of the parish which they served but are now, as it were, "in the wrong place"

I am sure that many people will have commented on various aspects of the consultation documents. I would like to concentrate on the complex issue of "amalgamation" and "closures". I had experience in the closure and amalgamation of Catholic schools, particularly when 27 Manchester schools were amalgamated into 12 (and later into 7).

Issues which give rise to anxiety, resentment and even downright hatred stem from:

loyalty (the loyalty to churches is very deep-rooted as the emotional link relates to family events such as baptisms, wedding and funerals. This is much greater loyalty than there might be to schools),

fear - of the unknown and uncertainty

o - will we still be able to get to Mass?

o - what about the priest we have and like
feeling that one is being driven over rough-shod and without consultation
- this is sometimes be based on fact, sometimes from the mishandling of decisions ignorance - blissful ignorance of the severity of the problem and the implications of any decisions.

I am sure that the meeting on July 8lh will be useful in addressing these matters (though unfortunately I will not be able to attend). I am sure that consultation will emphasise the wish to hear what people have to say and promise that their comments will be listened to and taken seriously. At the same time it has to be acknowledged that painful decisions will have to be made which may not be in accord with desires expressed.

This leads to a point which I feels need stressing: that consultation is the process of hearing what people have to say because their opinions and ideas are valued. But it is not a democratic process whereby a "majority" are assured that their ideas will carry the day.

It may seem somewhat materialistic to mention money, but I do feel that it is a moral matter to ensure that parishioners' and diocesan money is not wasted on plans which are a financial extravagance. This could be the result of an unwillingness to make unpopular decisions such as the unnecessary retention of church buildings. This may seem harsh but in the long run it is fair and right. It might be opportune also to consider the use of underused presbyteries..

In the light of this, I feel that the following questions might be usefully addressed: In the light of the 3 issues mentioned above:

1.      Which churches should be kept open as a parish churches?

2.      Which churches should, or could, be closed?

3.      Which churches should remain as a Mass Centre or chapel of ease?



Response 8

FAITH IN THE FUTURE – a few thoughts which may be of no help at all

It is inevitable, due to the shortage of priests, St T of C will need to share its resources – clearly all parishes will need to support one another.

Looking at the Deanery profile the obvious sharing would be Ss Thomas, James & Joseph – how do you create a sense of community between such a wide spread parishes?

Will the closing of churches become a consideration – I shouldn’t think so, especially those with schools attached? Each church is there to support its school and close community.

Does our Catholic community require/need two churches in the Bolton centre? 

What are the attendance records of St Edmunds & St Patrick’s? Should one of these churches be closed? Is there any reason why these two communities cannot be brought together?

It appears that the time has come when we will no longer have parish priests but community or deanery priests.  Where should the deanery priest be housed, centrally within the deanery to be called upon as needed?

Two or three Deacons should be created to serve each parish and to liaise with the deanery priests.

I cannot see how you can break up the separate parishes without destroying the communities.  I strongly recommend that most parishes should be left as they are and be brought together for services and other activities.

The bringing together is the difficult problem.

As regards Mass and other religious services, these could be celebrated in each church in a community within a Deanery as necessary in rotation and relayed by satellite TV to the other churches.


Response  9

Faith in the Future

As a non-resident of the Parish Community I have found St. Thomas of Canterbury Parish to bevery welcoming and accepting of me.

      There are many long established groups within the community fulfilling a variety of needs and providing services useful to the community but communication between these groups and the parish could be improved.

It might help if a directory of these groups/personnel was made availablea Parish Directory? Thismay also help to identify areas where there are needs and requirements for new input and ideas. Once this directory was established it could be circulated to the other Parishes in the deanery and groups with specific responsibilities could meet and share ideas. Occasionally people could share these ideas with whole parishes through newsletters and by talking to people in short slots at Mass and after Mass informally about what is involved and what they do.

Some of these groups are also difficult to penetrate and influence and any real sense because of the strong personalities within them. These personalities assume/have an authority but I'm not sure where it comes from....long held positions/roles which they volunteered for; long residence within the Parish; from the Parish Community or their individual personalities? In the absence of a resident priest/priests (viz. the 'normal' authority) how would this authority be confirmed so that the whole community accepted it...and dare I say...some of the priests? I'm not sure that the whole community does accept the authority of some ministries at present. Without becoming too formal perhaps there could be some sort of commissioning not just within the parish but also among the deanery, since it seems obvious that no one Parish can survive on it's own if it is to assume many of the roles fulfilled by a good P.P. such as those outlined in F in F 5 Preparation for Baptism, Marriage visiting the bereaved etc. and F in F 7 parish administration, pastoral assistants, catechists etc.

I can't think of any other ministries apart from perhaps a youth ministry...a youth club arising from the present children's liturgy group?

      Before commissioning perhaps candidates could be presented to the community with some sort of approval from the Bishop...some confirmation that the person is competent and acceptable to the whole/ most of the community...a certificate of approval? I would think that training needs to be for the specific needs of Parishes without a resident P.P. and for collaborative and team ministries between Parishes. Fr. Byrne is more than competent to do this training. I wouldn't want to impose this on him but he has initiated this collaboration and obviously has some vision of what the outcome might be.

The number of Masses has to be reduced so that it is possible for the remaining priests to deliver quality rather than quantity. Some church buildings in close proximity to each other may have to be closed and that will mean that people will have to travel if they wish to come to Mass and other liturgies. Some people already do this because they appreciate the quality of community already established. Transport might be needed for some. More people will have to be involved in the delivery of Eucharistic celebrations if people wish to meet for liturgy everyday.

When people do volunteer we need to express our need for their help very carefully, neither discouraging them nor overwhelming them. I feel the present consultation, although informative, has been somewhat overwhelming. Indeed, if initiating and responding to all of these needs is seen as only or mainly the priest's responsibility it's hardly surprising that so few are offering themselves for ordination or perhaps it's because young Catholics today seriously question the nature of the hierarchical Magisterium and some of the Church's teaching.

Whilst considering this aspect, perhaps the celibacy rule should be relaxed, and since married Anglican clergy have been accepted into ordained ministry within the church, perhaps those priests who have been laicised should be invited back into the ministry along with open discussion and consideration of an ordained ministerial role for women in the church, but these are discussionswhich might/should be taking place in more influential places within the church        

To quote CharlesCurran 'The whole Church, the hierarchical Magisterium and theologians must listen to the Holy Spirit speaking in the lives of Christian people. This reality, however, cannot simply be reduced to a majority vote'. They are not of our immediate concern but we should not be afraid to consider all possibilities when contemplating the passing on of our faith and beliefs, which may not necessarily also be our present structures be they fabric or hierarchical.

I'm not sure what our neighbours who are not Catholics would miss            have we asked them? I

suspect that the school might be important. Some of us do not meet people who are not Catholics in the immediate vicinity of St. Thomas's because we don't live here....we do meet others in our daily

life, at work, shopping, waiting in a queue, wherever we aredo we communicate with them in anordinary way? We need to do this because then we are preaching the Gospel. I was brought into The Church by the goodness of the people around me, inspired by their belief in the Gospel, indeed I am still inspired in spite of misgivings regarding the present structure and understanding within the hierarchical structure of the Church.


This group received by email

Response 10a

In response to our request I wonder just how much contact there is within the three Churches, including finance.  St T. Seems to be a fairly wealthy parish, when I see the weekly contributions from St James there is a great difference.  It is only of quite recent times that I have visited St Josephs, I was so impressed by the beauty of the Church.

Should there be encouragement for parishioners of the three churches to visit one another and possibly arrange multifunction’s?


Response 10b

Neighbourhood Watch for the Elderly etc.

I suggest that under the auspices of the SVP, say, the Parish be divided into a number of segments within a volunteer overseer in that segment to keep regular contact with the Elderly, Sick, housebound, those in need etc.

Any problems which arose could then be referred the SVP for them to resolve.

The overseer need not be a member of the SVP, but one who is acting on behalf of the Parish.


Response 10c

Would it be possible to concelebrate a Mass once a month with Christchurch?

I would envisage that they attended our 11 O’clock and we in turn would attend an appropriate Service in their church; that it would be a full concelebration to receive Communion.

Is this utterly unrealistic?


Response 10d

One parishioner asked me (Fr Byrne) a couple of weeks ago to make her idea known at one of the parish meetings.  She would like to know in advance who is getting married in our church and would like to see that information in the Newsletter.  She feels that we should be able to attend weddings in church if we want to and especially if we have some knowledge of the family so that we can give support to the marrying couple.  She says that we turn out to funerals to pay our respect without needing to be invited and we should do the same with weddings but, obviously, for a different reason.


Response 11

We need to hold on to young families and build up their allegiance for the future.  Could we have a regular Mass for children and families – perhaps once a month, including the Masses for the sacramental programme.  I would like to see this as a children’s Mass like we had at the jubilee.  For teenagers, there are not many of them visible in our church but across the deanery there might be enough to have an occasional Youth Mass with some special even after the Mass = even just music, pizza and a get together across the deanery.  There doesn’t seem to be anything special for this group and this may be one way of the church keeping in touch with them.           -                    A mother of two teenagers.


Response 12

Dear Fr Byrne

In response to your request for comments and suggestions for the way forward as a community at our church and in the wider world.  Here are a few of my thoughts.

I am extremely happy with the Sunday Mass.  I find it truly uplifting and satisfying at a deep level.  I do feel there is however a need for a little more interaction between the member outside the Mass.

More than that what I would like to see is a “Spiritual Club” of some sort that meets once a week.  This would be for those of us who want to deepen and explore our spiritual side.  Perhaps with some emphasis on meditation practice.  I say spiritual so that it can be inclusive and welcome people from other religions and denominations.

Maybe there can be invited speakers who are advanced in there area.  Also there could be debates/discussions on moral and ethical issues, teachings of Jesus etc.

Just a few thoughts I wanted to express.


Response 13

The readings for the last few days have been with regard to decisions being made in the church with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We are being asked to make decisions on our Faith of the Future (in our deanery) it was suggested to me, we should have women ordained.  I’m not sure we are ready for this yet however, with the help of the Holy Spirit talking through our community, a decision filtering through could be what men who would make excellent priests but feel they are unable to take the vow of celibacy could or may be should be allowed to become members of the clergy.  Could it be, the Holy Spirit is making us re look at this principal, how would this reflect on the Vatican.?

I would imagine if the Holy Spirit is being called upon to re focus on this topic would our ideas be taken beyond our local community? This could be a fundamental change to the thinking of the church.

Thank you Father for the opportunity to look at these issues meaningfully and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can as a Deanery share new and innovative ideas to help the Priests and empower the Parishioners.


Response 14.

      This paper was submitted in response to the Faith in the Future consultation. It is the product of a team of people who were facing the same issues in another part of the country a couple of years ago.

            A Way Forward

As a bureaucracy the Church is comparable with many outside organisations, both public and commercial, and, in reviewing its organisation and structure, has much to learn from their experience.

There are, of course, those who say that Church should sit back and see what happens. We feel that this is not really an option. We need now to begin putting in place a structure and organisation that will lead us well in to this century. This should not be done in an ad hoc or reactionary manner but as part of an overall, comprehensive plan, with both short-term and long-term objectives, that utilises there could be some more sharing there – and that might help the church have a biggthe talents of all 'Christ's faithful members', priests and lay members alike. We need to embrace step change as well as continuous improvement.

Our local Church structure has been geographically based, around the parish and the parish priest. Whilst we would wish to see local access to the spiritual resources of the Church retained for as long as possible, we need to plan for the future. We would suggest that the Church ought now to be planning its priestly resources and the services it provides across a wider geographical area than that covered by the local parish.

Within each Deanery, we would see a number of local structures. In some places, there would be a traditional parish with its own parish priest, whilst in others there would be a moderator and assistant priests. Under the chairmanship of the Dean, they would, however, come together to plan and co-ordinate Church services and activities across the area of the Deanery, based on both long-term and short-term planning.

The Dean would be a key responsibility, providing overt leadership and direction across the parishes of the Deanery. The needs and views of the lay members will also need to be listened to and taken in to account. There are many lay members who have wide experience that they can bring to bear and who must be called upon, either formally or informally, to assist.

Central to our vision of a Deanery-based structure would be the establishment and maintenance of a good communications network, based on a sound communications policy. At its heart would be a channel strategy. An essential requirement would be the appointment of an Area communications manager, a role that would be filled by a suitably qualified lay member.

However, 'communication' is a two-way affair and also involves the communicator in listening! Within the Deanery-based structure there will need to be established some form of 'Deanery Council', bringing priests and lay members together 'to discuss matters of common interest and concern'. We  would not see the Deanery Council as having a mandatory role or usurping the authority of the parish priest. Rather, we would see it having a consultative, co-ordinating role. The Deanery Council would support and be supported by Parish Pastoral Teams and similar groups. It would not replace these groups but would be able to call on lay members across the Deanery to provide help and support and leadership.

We are concerned at the lack of modern office resources within some parishes. The office resources of the Deanery should be seen as a joint resource. Lay members with specialist talents, training and experience should also be identified and invited to participate in Deanery activities. We would like to see opportunities made available for those lay members who wish to develop their talents or test their vocations.

Within any comparable outside organisation, the roles of Dean, parish priest and moderator would be seen as key management roles and the incumbents would be given appropriate preparatory and in-service management training to prepare and support them. We propose that anyone appointed to a role within the Deanery, including the local parishes, should be given appropriate training.


Response 15

There are a number of people in the community of St Thomas of Canterbury from other countries and, therefore, other cultures, which we probably don’t fully appreciate or understand.  Would it not enhance the whole community if someone from those cultures were invited to share their experiences – growing up, being Catholic and what it is like settling in a strange country.

As we will eventually be working closely with people from other parishes would it not be advisable to get to know the parishioners better now?  Suggestions for this are – meet in small groups of common interests to share ideas and goals – ie how each Parish organises social events, fundraising etc.


Response 16

Having read the various leaflets on Faith in the Future I would like to make the following observations.

On joining the community at St Thomas of Canterbury I found the people welcoming and friendly.  Over the years I have seen many people with lots of talent that would enhance life within the parish,  However I sense a reluctance to get involved due to the fact that there is a core group who seem to think it is their duty to run the parish and who are not forth coming in allowing newcomers to take part in what they see as “their domain”.  The impression that is given is that they know what is best for the parish and that any ‘incomers’ don’t really know what is best or have anything to contribute.  Things will not truly move on in the future unless this core group are prepared to allow others to truly participate in building Faith in the Future.  They need to realise that it is not their sole responsibility to run the Parish, but there is a need to allow others to become involved.  I think we all need to take a long hard look at ourselves and become less like the Pharisees and more like the tax collectors in the gospels.  There appears to be too many I’s and not enough we’s trying to run things.


Response 17





Response 18

Dear Fr Byrne

Thank you for the leaflets about the future of our parish/diocese and the opportunity to comment.

The reduction in the number of ordained priest to lead our worship is concerning and is a major issue for the future.  Parish Priests will need a lot of lay support and will need to spread their influence over combined parish communities.  However, I feel that ordained priests, not lay people should lead and control in decision making.  I was brought up in the Church of England, which is more of a ‘democracy’ rather than an ‘autocracy’ (as the RC Church).  There are advantages and disadvantages to both but I believe leadership from those who have committed the whole of their lives to Priesthood is a better system.

This time of reflection is an opportunity to consider how the church can get back in touch with the daily lives of the Catholic community.

Especially I am concerned about the way the church deals with people who have suffered the breakdown of their marriage.  I have first-hand experience of the hard hearted manner in which people seeking nullity are treated.  At a time in life that is already difficult, dealing with the sense of loss establishing a new home as a single parent overcoming alone the thousand and one problems family life throws at you, the Church demands a fee of over £500 to be paid before a Decree of Nullity is issued.  That is not a reflection of our Lord’s teaching.

We have to face the fact that more and more people nowadays face this sort of situation.  Too many received no help at all from the church and, not surprisingly, leave.  I implore bishops/priests/people to welcome ‘jilted’ or lapsed Catholics back into the community with the love of Christ, not to push them away with man made rules.


Response 19

I wonder if we had a group of people either in the parish or deanery who could be trained to make the first contact with families who would like to have their child baptised.  I don’t know if all the parishes have the same approach to the sacraments but it would be an opportunity to share best practice.


Response 20

Faith in the Future

20 June 2010

4 Parish Life

·         It is good to see different ages meeting and mixing in church and at school

·         School/children/parents give a lot of life to the parish

·         It is VERY IMPORTANT that families with children (especially those who do not attend every week) feel welcomed

·         Not much is on offer for single people, young married and families with pre-school children

·         We must continue to be welcoming to all

5 Parish Worship

·         Public worship is good Fr. Byrne’s spoken input is excellent.  Organist at 11 am mass of variable standard.

·         Could have one Sunday morning mass between current timings – say 10am (or perhaps 10.30am) – instead of two.

·         Would like Saturday evening mass to be available but recognise his could be at another church.

·         Lucy Cleary could help with folk music masses on a regular basis

6 Wider relationships

·       “Churches together” initiatives are good e.g. Evening get-togethers/Easter Walk – we could have more such events

·       Parish is already a strong supporter of CAFOD – perhaps we could do more for fair trade

·       Perhaps we could collaborate with local churches e.g. to run toddler group or youth group making use of their church halls.

7 Collaborative ministry

·         Collaborative ministry is a good idea but in reality many people are very busy.  Training would need to be provided e.g. bereavement counselling.  Maybe the diocese will need to have more (non clergy) paid workers e.g. youth workers.

·         Overall with the right planning this can work – the laity has a large pool of talent to be drawn upon.

Offer of assistance


Response 21

To whom this may concern – all of us!

            The situation that we find ourselves is now and which in the future will become more serious requires much thought and prayer at present.  It calls for a change of emphasis on both laity and clergy.

Our clergy need much more help than is in place at present because so much physically is demanded of them and some of them are “Getting on in years”.  I suggest that each parish has a Legion of Mary and a Saint Vincent de Paul group and in this a greater willingness for the laity to feature than is seen at present with the small numbers in the SVP and not many Legion Presidia.

Without taking the ultimate responsibility out of the hands of our Priest the Legion’s first call is for the spiritual needs of our parishioners possibly in updating the records of the Parish and so finding the whereabouts of practicing Catholics and lapsed Catholics.  The SVP are looking to alleviate the loneliness and physical isolation of Parishioners.

The location of need means that the Priest whose workload is great now will have an even greater workload.  This opens the door for DEACONS which the Diocese has been without up to now.  The Deacon could take on so very much of the work of the Priest to give the Priest somewhat less of the work of the Parish without taking any of his seniority away from him.

Just as the laity work shoulder to shoulder with other colleagues so will the priest find this new initiative as a second specialist to lean on and who will give their complete cooperation.  The thought that I have heard expressed that the Deacon cannot do anything that the Priest can’t is not the point.  He can do many of the things that the Priest can do except hear confessions and in saying Mass consecrate the bread.  This again will give our Priest some respite as needed by the Priest in charge of two parishes moving between them to say Mass and then having three baptisms to carry out.


Response 22

SVP Group – St Thomas of Canterbury

‘Faith in the Future’

The group held discussions on ‘Faith in the Future’ at two separate meetings.  Below are the main points to emerge from the discussions.

1)      We could be taking Holy Communion to more people

2)      The SVP could be a vehicle for encouraging more people to go out into the parish, they need not be members of the SVP.

3)      Will the parish accept a wider role of the SVP?

4)      The SVP could be available routinely to welcome visitors to our church, especially at funerals.  There is rarely a funeral in church that SVP members do not attend.

5)      The SVP, as an organise and identifiable group within the parish, is well placed to visit families at time of bereavement and offer any help that is required.  Specific training (bereavement counselling) would be required for this.

6)      The SVP could be involved in welcoming newcomers to the parish.

7)      The SVP is well placed to cross parish boundaries though this may be easier to accomplish if organised through the District Council.

8)      As a parish, we must make every effort to work with those from other Christian churches in our area; SVP could be a catalyst for this

9)      It was recognised that any of the above would require more time and commitment from existing members and that all ideas need some organisation.  Some members felt that our group is already at the limit of its commitment and availability; others felt that we could do more.


Response 23

Thank you to Father Byrne for the 7 papers on this topic which I found very helpful and enlightening.

Some thoughts:

1        As sharing of priests is inevitable, altered mass times must also come.  I think it is important that there is a range of time across the cluster and that some shared transport system is developed.  It won’t be easy – I know because I have run transport for disabled groups and things change/go wrong all the time – but with the internet and mobile phones, it ought to be possible to devise something.

2        I have had connections through family in the past with Holy Infants and St Joseph’s and still know people there.  Some of my memories are from childhood of seemingly endless, dreary, hell-threatening services and I expect other people have memories which make them more or less at-home in certain churches.

3        I am interested in ecumenism and in things that local churches might do together.  I have several wonderfully Christian friends in local Anglican churches which run some very impressive care services.  Perhaps there could be more sharing there - and that might have a bigger impact on the whole community.

4        I am not young but mercifully reasonably fit and as a former social scientist and worker with people with disabilities, I would be especially interested in tasks in that field


Response 24

Faith in the Future

These are some thoughts of a small group touching into three local parishes following discussions in a social setting.  Thank you for the invitation to chat among friends about the future of our parishes.

The shortage of priests means that clergy and laity must work together in the future Collaborative ministry is not just a good idea it is a must.  But it means that lay people must have a say in planning as well as doing.  It is obvious that some new structures will have to be developed to meet new situations, especially when we consider involving parishes working together.

That means we will have to work really hard at building good relationships between priests and people, and between priests and people of other parishes.  This is more than just being friendly.  It means being able to speak openly and to listen to each other so that we can work together.  This may be new for some people involved and positive steps must be taken to build up confidence and trust.  It will not just happen by itself.

In some way we have to develop some shared targets agreed by all involved.  At first we might only be able to share very limited aims but we think it would be better to build from a limited start than to aim too high right from the beginning.

Many people have gifts and abilities to offer but are shy of coming forward.  Perhaps we could encourage them by asking for someone to volunteer for a task that requires this or that sort of ability.  By naming what they can do they might respond better.

One thing we fear, even about our own ideas.  We need new structures.  We need people in place with clear ideas of where we are going.  But we must remember that we are a family, a community of love, not a business or government project.  We feel we have got to be careful that we don’t go for efficiency at any cost and end up with half a dozen committees and no people.


Response 25


We need to distinguish clearly between the present local problems and the more fundamental issues relating to the nature of the church, how it gives witness in the world, and the roles/relationships of laity and clergy.

Current Local Problems

The short term problems of falling numbers of priests/sustainability of parishes and buildings should be addressed immediately by the parish communities of the deanery working together.

Any changes e.g. to the number of churches, Mass times, location of priests, should be based on a fresh assessment of what would be appropriate to serve the deanery area.  This assessment must encompass issues of demography and accessibility not simply the size and strength of existing parishes.

One of the biggest inhibitors of change is the present environment of parochialism.  At the same time as setting up appropriate forums/mechanisms for sharing ideas/information and for developing solutions, we should be encouraging greater inter parochial contact and awareness.

There may be administrative, financial and property issues which could be managed by the laity on a deanery wide basis.  This would help to relieve priest of non sacramental responsibilities and also might be advantageous for smaller parishes.


The Church in the Future

The church of the future will not necessarily look the same as the church we have grown up in.

We should be thinking more in terms of communities and needs, the place of the church in the wider world, less in terms of buildings.

The shortage of priest is a symptom, the underlying cause may be more to do with our vision of church.

The scope of lay ministry must be based on a genuine acknowledgement of their true role in the Church, not simply as a sticking plaster to be removed when priestly numbers rise (if they ever do)

These issues of enhanced ministry are subject to the norms approved by the hierarchy, national and international.  Therefore, development of local proposals on these matters, whilst to be applauded, has to accompanied by dialogue with the Bishop.

The Deanery could begin by organising formation and awareness sessions to develop clearer understanding of what is involved.  Such sessions would also help to bring the parishes closer together.


Response 26

Offer of assistance with the process


Response 27


PRIESTS— Should they be allowed to marry? We seem to be at variance with other faiths and other Christian groups. Is it time to move forward? We accept married Anglican clergy into the Catholic Church so what is really stopping us? Not sure if I would go as far as women priests yet, we need to take one step at a time, but maybe that is what the future might hold. We have female alter servers and women who take Communion services, so we should not in this present time of crisis totally rule it out.

PARISHES/CHURCHES       Before there is a genuine need (the sad loss of a priest) parishes

should start having mixed parish masses. Perhaps close one church one Sunday so that people have to travel to another church for Mass, a sort of "practise run". Perhaps priests could swap churches occasionally so that we get to know other priests.

PARISH COMMUNITY          There are many groups within our parish but do we all know

"who is who" and" who does what"?

Perhaps a series of introductions over the course of several weeks to help the wider parish community get to know the different parish groups.. Maybe a small parish information booklet listing groups, the work they do, who to contact if needed.

Maybe a "Newcomers to the parish" welcoming group would be an asset.

MASS—Many of our older parishioners (the 60+s) were brought up on strict catechism rules regarding going to Mass, the Sunday observance/mortal sin etc. Do we all know if all these rules still apply? (I ask this because during Lent I had several surprising conversations with people who said that they didn't). If this is the case what if there is not a local parish Mass and we can't get to another parish? Many of us need re-educating with regard to the rules and possibly other aspects of Catholic life.

Will it come to the point that we attend Mass on any day of the week instead of a Sunday to fulfil our obligation? Will a Communion Service held by any of the laity count as having been to Mass?

COLLABRATIVE MINISTRY—The many distinctive groups within the parish could possibly meet (tea and biscuits?) once maybe twice a year so that we could get to know each other, to help us recognise each other at Church Services, to possibly be able to liaise with each other or help each other out in some way. When we feel comfortable with the groups within our own parish perhaps this could be extended with meetings of similar groups in other parishes so that if we/when parishes have to amalgamate people know each other and work and activities are not being doubled up but supported by a larger group of people.

I feel sure that there are millions of questions that people want to have answers to but these are some of my thoughts, questions and concerns. I hope that this brief response is helpful.


Response 28

1.                  Although the parish has become more welcoming over recent years, there are still incidents and events which would make newcomers most reluctant to come back to the church or become involved in the church e.g. reactions, looks etc. from more established members of the parish particularly to those unfamiliar with the way the church

It's a great thing that so many young families are becoming more involved in our parish, however, if you look at the makeup of the congregation if is either very young or older, the number of teenagers is very low. we seem to lose the teenagers once they leave primary school, we need to encourage them to become involved in the parish. Having discussed this with teenagers, this could be done by:

                      Arranging social events specifically aimed at teenagers e.g. a curry night

                      Using the expertise of our parishioners who work in secondary schools to arrange masses specifically aimed at teenagers

                      Encouraging/inviting those teenagers who attend mass to have a higher profile e.g. musicians/Eucharistic ministers/readers.

                      Encourage/invite to act as catechists for the sacramental programme/children liturgy

3.                  One of the greatest strengths in our community is the parish school link. This has been particularly evident in the jubilee and sacramental masses. If family masses were a more regular part in the church's calendar, e.g. monthly, the community would be further strengthened and children and parents who would not otherwise attend mass, would be encouraged to attend.


Response 29

Faith in the Future. A response, following informal discussions with several people, mainly one other parishioner.

1.      re paper no.4, our parish community, looking ahead.

In effect, we are going to be members of our own parish and also part of a wider community, the "cluster" of parishes. Some organised joint events could be a good idea, as a starter, e.g. CAFOD lunch.


Looking at the list of our cluster group, some are easily accessed by bus on a Sunday, and this could make a difference to which one a person or family chose to attend, assuming fewer priests and so fewer Mass opportunities.


A list of current Mass times at each of the cluster churches would be useful, on our (and each) church notice board. (My apologies if there is one already there, not seen.) People could then pick and choose where they went, if and when the times were rationalised overall. A Sunday evening Mass would be very helpful, especially for people working on a Sunday or going away for the weekend. (At present, St Mary's Horwich meets a need.)

2.    re paper no.5, spiritual life of our parish.

Well catered for, in terms of liturgy, really relevant sermons and bidding prayers. Parish website, very good, especially section on Prayer. Perhaps there could be more links to other helpful sites, e.g. Catholic church in England and Wales, Salford diocesan website. Perhaps some people nowadays pay more heed to websites than verbal or written notices.

The experiences of other local churches, especially the Church of England, might be helpful to us, especially as I understand two of them are functioning currently without a resident minister, with the laity sharing in running the parishes.

3.    re paper no.6, relation with other communities, local and wider, other faiths, civic life, local organisations.

I know many people in this parish are active in local organisations already as individuals, providing public service to others.

Could the YCS/YCW approach be helpful and of interest to young people? In the 1950s, I was a member of the Young Christian Students at school and at university, and found it formative and life-directing.

4.    re paper no.7, priests and laity working together in parish ministry.

Deacons. Other dioceses appear to have very effective deacons; I know of the work of several in Liverpool and Lancaster. Why are there none (so far as I know) in Salford? Has this option been considered? Several of the people I chatted to made this suggestion; one person felt that a deacon would function with greater authority than a lay person, and she would appreciate that.



Response 30

It would be good to get the teens involved in mass by maybe doing the Readings etc.


Response 31


Not a rugby score!

I am sure that the call for the laity to take a role in the forging the future of the parish will be taken up with enthusiasm.

But the core of everything we do is the Mass, and the spiritual direction of the priest.

Less priests means fewer masses, perhaps not taken for granted at times to suit us.  But it also means less tie for the priest to do everything else, and all the other activities, charitable social etc need direction.

Surely the answer stares us in the face, permanent deacons, if Liverpool needs them why do we not.  Sometimes the answer to problems are distant, here we need look no further than Wigan


Response 32

Faith in the Future

Leaflet 4 asks how well do present means of communication meet our needs and what other forms of communication could be developed.  Our present means of communication, the newsletter, is limited and dated.  It is time to consider something new.

If we are going to build up contact between different parishes then new lines of communication will have to be established.  This should mean lines of communication will have to be established.  This should mean more than a shared newsletter.  This is the age of emails, blogs, face book and twitter, and that is where the people of the future will be looking.  The deanery should invest together in developing a broad inter-active communications system into which parishioners as well as parish priests can post information.  Exchange of information across parishes, organisations and groups cold lead to a sharing of ideas and help us to get to know a bit about each other and gradually help us to break beyond the parish ghetto.


Response 33

Sunday Mass and weekly sermon are helpful but I would like something more.  I left school at 15 with a firm knowledge of the catechism but not much else.  As time has gone on many things have changed and I sometimes feel a bit lost.  Reading books might be a help to some but I find it difficult and anyway do not know what books to read.  Could we have a sort of course, but not a very heavy one, where we could learn about the bible and the Mass and questions like science and religion, and talk about some of today’s problems.  I am sure it would give us strength for the future.   Thank you

Response 34

Can we have married Priests??

To keep so many sick Priests, coming out of Retirement.


Response 35

 Prayer e.g. (Adoration of the Eucharist)


Response 36

Children’s Mass

Children saying Bidding Prayers


Response 37

1.      let the young people be more involved in the Mass, by letting them play their kind of music and hymns.  Maybe a small group of musicians? Once a month.

2.      If there will be a shortage of priests in the future can our church not adopt the C. E. by having a stand in priest to perform a service and give out the Eucharist on week mornings and thus taking pressure of the priest, who will probably be in charge of more than one church.


Response 38

Have school children organised for Sunday Mass to make some contribution.


Response 39

Are we as welcoming a parish as we would like to believe we are?  Some of our parishioners have expressed doubts.  It appears that we need to look at how we behave and try to find ways  to reach out to others

How we make the Mass more joy-filled and relevant to our children and youth?  They are the Churches’ future and we must not lose them.

It will be inevitable at some point that we will have to share a priest with other parishes.  This would mean that we would have to lose at least one weekend Mass.  One possibility would be to keep the Saturday Mass, and have just one Mass on Sunday.  This may mean that people would have to travel between parishes and we need to support those who have no transport.

How can we prepare for this?




Response 40  Sent in by email

One individual view that was expressed and that I promised to pass on is that the parish should appoint a paid secretary because, at the moment ‘too much is expected for no payment.


Response 41

Response to Faith in the Future

When a small group of us met to discuss Faith in the Future in the Becket Suite after Mass on Friday, 11th June, two things struck me forcibly and they seem central to this process in which we are engaged.

The first thing was the recognition of the prime importance of the Mass and Sacraments in our lives.  It was clear that tension exists, however, between people at Mass because of the way people conduct themselves during the celebration of the Mass.  A proper understanding of the Mass and our participation as a faith community in the celebration of the Eucharist is needed.  A coming together of young, middle-aged and older members of the community to share their views and listen to one another in needed.

The second thing that struck me was a sense that the Holy Spirit was at work within our little group on Friday Morning.  In the atmosphere of loving trust we were able to share experiences, enabling others to do so too and we all seemed to gain from it.  This strengthened my conviction that we need to gather not just for the celebration of the liturgy but also like this, less formally, in smallish groups (8-10 people) in the Becket Suite or, perhaps better, in one another’s homes, to share our faith and strengthen our faith.  At these gatherings, with or without benefit of clergy, we can grow in knowledge and understanding of Scripture and Church teaching and its application to our daily lives. 

It seems to me that if we can gather together (let’s not call them “meetings” or “discussion groups” but “gatherings” of the faithful), if we can gather together in a spirit of faith and prayer, guided by the Holy Spirit, we may become a real community with genuine concern for one another and for the society in which we live.  Service of others will flow from discussion.  What form the service takes will depend on what emerges at the gathering and will be varied, according to people’s abilities and the needs of others.

These groups may consist of people from different parishes, may include the housebound and may be lay-lead.

At these groups information on political and moral issues of the day may be disseminated and discussed.


Response 42

Allow women priests this will reduce the shortages and bring Catholicism into the 21st Century


Response 43

Fear and complacency is affecting our approach to the future of the church.   We need to communicate more with this younger generations, to find ways to involve them without being so critical.  Society and life has changed we have to find ways to adapt to that.




Response 44

Family Mass – Child friendly



Children           Read at Mass

                        Bidding Prayers


Response 45







Response 46

With reference to discussion paper 4

Need to invest in our young people. Maybe a paid Church Youth Worker?

To ask other denominations what they do, for e.g. St Peters, to pool resources from other neighbouring churches.


We look after our older congregation for e.g. SVP Transport to Mass

With reference to paper 5

To carry on with Liturgy training – resources evenings.

House groups would strengthen our bonds with each other.

Liturgy for young children – teenagers and young people 

With reference to paper 6

To meet more often in worships with people of different faiths for eg Muslim, Hindu neighbours.  To pool our rescores with our neighbouring parishes and other Christian communities eg Chorley Old Rd Methodist, Christ Church, St Peters etc Drop Ins - Youth Clubs etc.

With reference to paper 7

Paid pastoral assistants to the priest – for e.g. to visit when there has been a bereavement – to support the family throughout until funeral and after.  To help choose – hymns – readings etc.

Paid Church Youth Worker – Volunteers also needed – couples to help with marriage preparation to build good relationships with couples to be married.


Response 47

With reference to discussion paper 4

There is a strong sense of community in this parish but can we do more to reach out to those less fortunate.

Other churches have parish groups to keep in touch with the sick and the elderly – can we do something on this subject.


Response 48

With reference to discussion paper 4

·         There is a strong commitment from particular people.  There has to be an appreciation that family constraint can limit involvement.

·         It can seem to people that a small group of parishioners are ‘in control’ of certain areas of parish life and that one would be ‘stepping on toes’ to become involved.

·         The parish community is generally a welcoming one.

With reference to paper 5

·         Worship: Provision of the ‘Little Church’ (9.00/11.00) enables parents to focus more on their own worship if they are not needed to supervise their children.

·         Homilies always provide an opportunity to reflect

·         Masses at specific times of the year and for special occasions tend to be more uplifting, possibly due to the emphasis on music praise and involvement of school.

 With reference to paper 6

·         The reduction in Masses will either lead to closer relationships as people travel to other parishes, or for some people greater isolation

·         Inter – parish events might foster closer relationship

·         What puts people off coming to Church?  The school has 300 baptised Catholics – this is not reflected in the congregation.

With reference to paper 7

Firstly, a consideration of why people are reluctant to become involved such as:

·         Young children

·         Commitments of work – many families have two working parents.

·         A feeling that you have to have a deep understanding of Catholicism and protocols to become involved

·         The formation of ‘teams’ (as happens now) is a good way forward.

·         Some concerns over Sacramental Programme – so children of 7 and 8 years old really understand? How are they supported afterwards?


Response 49

With reference to discussion paper 4


With reference to paper 5



Response 50

With reference to paper 7




Response 51

With reference to paper 7

If we allow another religion to join ours with married clergy then we should allow our priest to get married then maybe we would have more priests.


Response 52

With reference to paper 7





Response 53

With reference to paper 7


a)      Priests from overseas?

b)      Deacons?

c)      “Disaffected” Anglican Priests – wanting to ‘come over’ to R.C.

All above would have had training, Vocations, and chose their ministry


Response 54

With reference to discussion paper 4

The pupil and teacher relationship is very important to keep the community together

With reference to paper 5

The singing at mass (9 o’clock) is not uplifting and needs more commitment

To have Eucharistic Service Monday to Friday so the priest just does Weekend Mass

With reference to paper 6

The newsletters in our parish could be sent to other parishes and vice a versa to become closer to one another.  This way people would meet each other at different events.


Response 55

With reference to discussion paper 4

The laity already support well our sick & frail housebound – i.e. SVP & transport etc. However where guidance support + instruction on spiritual matters is concerned then I believe only people properly ‘qualified/trained/experienced’ in these areas should be considered.  Humility + love should be their ‘qualifications’ lack of knowledge could lead to serious errors


Response 56

No comments on this Faith in the Future – 8 included 

Response 57


I scribbled on the Faith in the Future No 8 pamphlet, but in the end I ran out of space and it wasn't very legible, so I hope you don't mind that I present my comments in this way

First discussion paper (No 4) - strengths & weaknesses in our parish:

We're lucky in that we have a relatively large congregation and there are many groups and individuals who support the administration of the parish and the liturgy etc, as well as charitable groups within the parish i.e. CAFOD and the St Vincent de Paul Society. All do a fantastic job. However there seems to be little communication between the groups and between them and the wider congregation. An example recently; the liturgy group asked the choir to sing particular hymns/parts of the mass at the vigil mass on Saturday. This request was made via a printed list of the items required, which was given to the members of the choir attending that mass on the Saturday night, with no forewarning. There seemed to be no consideration given to how many members of the choir would be there that night, if the mix of voices would be right or even if the choir director would be there (which on this occasion she wasn't). In this instance choir members felt a little as if they were being dictated to. A simple phone call to the director a day or so before would have been useful. Lines of communication need to be opened and perhaps some sort of parish council with a representative of each group sitting on it would be useful. Meetings need not be very often; just enough to keep all informed, for ideas to be aired and fed back to the individual groups and parish community as a whole.

Second discussion paper (No 5) - exploring how our life in relation to God is supported etc: Personally I find mass a very calming interlude in what is generally a very busy week. Although there are younger people at the mass I attend, there aren't many. By 'younger people' I mean teenagers and young adults, not children who come with their parents. Other masses may have more or less attending. Unfortunately I'm not sure what the answer is. Maybe it's just a part of growing up that you don't want to do what your parents do. We have tried youth masses in the past, maybe someone out there has ideas on how to make our services more attractive to this sector of the community and involve them more; maybe we should ask them what they would like. I think this is very important as they are the future of the church.

Sometime ago we had parish members, young and old, in the porches meeting and greeting people before mass. I thought this an excellent idea. Maybe it should be revived if enough people could be found to stand there for ten minutes or so before each mass.

Third discussion paper (No 6) - not to be parochial; developing relationships with other parishes, other Christian communities' and those of other faiths: Catholic parishes in Bolton do seem to exist in isolation at times. More inclusive events both of worship and social would seem to be a good way forward hosted by different parishes. Something like a 'come and see our church' could include those of other faiths, so that they could see what a Christian church is like, what we do there, what we believe, exchange ideas and even discover what we have in common. Could members of the Catholic community visit them? Could members of different parishes fill a need at another parish, could our choir for example sing for an event in another parish, could people from other groups in our parish help out in a time of need? Conversely could they assist us when needed?

Fourth discussion paper (No 7) - collaborative ministry: we have the seeds of this in ministers of Holy Communion, readers etc. Few priests, fewer masses; in such a climate we need to makes sure all parishes are aware of when and where masses will take place, what the transport options are for getting there, is there an inter-parish network for giving lifts to the less able and if so making sure the relevant people know about it.

Finally I have some comments with regard to the wider church, which may be considered rather radical and controversial, but I think we have to change in order to go forward:

5.       The church excludes approximately 50% of the population from the priesthood. I am talking of course of women. We have made in my own life time considerable strides in this area. When I was a child the only time women went beyond the alter rails was when they married or if they did the cleaning. Now we have female alter servers, readers, ministers of communion etc. I'm not a biblical scholar, but to my knowledge nowhere in the gospels does it say a woman can't be a priest. I doubt this will happen in my lifetime, but I think it has to eventually. There may be vocations out there we know nothing about simply because a whole section of the population is excluded.

6.        I think the rule of celibacy needs to go. Again we exclude a section of our population from the priesthood. It's my understanding that this requirement is relatively recent in the history of the church. Some may of course choose this option, but there are others for whom this is a major stumbling block to an otherwise genuine vocation. I believe priests who are married and have a family could greatly enrich our communities and such priests would have a unique understanding and insight to the concerns of their parishioners. Could we not also encourage vocations in older people who have perhaps been widowed? I'm no expert on what the training to become a priest involves, but could there be a shorter training period for such people so that they were at least ordained to say mass if not take on a full parish priest role?

7.        Maybe the Sunday obligation to attend mass needs to be revised. It has of course relaxed a lot in recent years, but given that there may be less priests and this is a 24 hour society we need to think in terms of not necessarily attending every week on a specific day, i.e. Sunday (or the Saturday vigil). These could still be the major times for most people, but if the rule was to attend at least one mass in the week it would make life easier for many who have to work at weekends. My daughter for example works on Saturday and Sunday most weeks and the timings of masses and her shifts simply do not give her the opportunity to come to church. I know she misses this and she feels a bit isolated at times from what goes on in the parish.


Response 58



We must face the fact that before long we ill not have a resident parish priest.  An option would be to do nothing and leave it up to the diocese to do or not do whatever they wish with our community by way of elimination or merger with other communities – or we can take control of our own destiny.

If we want to continue as a community in the absence of a resident parish priest we need to become as self sufficient as possible.  We need to be a laity led community benefitting from such provision of clery as can be provided by the diocese from time to time.  We must not allow the community to die simply because we do not have a resident parish priest.  We cannot simply say we require provision to be made for us from outside the community, we – the lay members of the parish community – must become the masters of our own destiny.

Having established our own abilities, we need to have contact with the deanery so tha what we can do and who can do it becomes known to that wider community.  There can then be exchange of skills and provision between the various parish communities so that needs and abilities can be matched.

A parish community is tight enough to be the foundation of this.  A deanery community is too disparate to be the foundation.  It needs a bottom up approach.

As a community we probably do not know what a parish priest is require to do in that role.  Previous experience suggests that newly appointed parish priests do not know either.  There ought to be available somewhere within the country (if not within this diocese) a handbook for parish priests explaining what the role of a parish priest is and in concrete terms what “jobs” he is required to do in practical terms.

That would enable the community to know what it will need to do if that community is to carry out many of the roles of a resident parish priest and to decide within the deanery what can be done by the laity at a parish level and what needs to be done by the clergy at a deanery level.  That will facilitate the drawing up of a “needs” database so we know what we have to provide to be a successful parish community.

Having established what we need to do, we also need to establish what abilities we have to do those tasks.  When volunteers are sought, they are few and far between and yet one hear people say that “I could or would have done that if onl I had been asked”.  We need to have a parish census to know who is in the parish and who has what abilities so that it is possible for the right people to be asked when needs arise.

A form should be produced for people to complete at the end of Sunday Mass giving their name, address, age, contact details, similar details and relationship of other people living with them in the house, occupation or skills and a column for comments about how they might be willing to work within the community.  This should be completed and handed in before leaving church otherwise they will not be completed or be brought back.

That census (which initially will have to be limited to those attending Mass) will enable a skills database to be established which can then be matched with the needs database.

Agreement of all concerned needs to be obtained for this to be done so the form referred to should contain a simple consent.

It might be that all needs can be met by the parish community other than the offering of the Mass and (in principle and certainly to begin with) the celebration of the sacraments.  The collaboration with other communities in the deanery mentioned above should enable gaps in any particular community’s abilities to be made available to the parish community every bit as much as the school community.  They should not feel that their involvement in the community is limited to their input at school.

However much this might be hated and however much one may loath the idea of meetings etc, structures need to be established to enable the above to operate and that is going to involve a top down approach.  There is going to have to be a hierarchy of communication and “control”.  That is not to say we must establish a power base.  Quite the contrary.  If we do that we will alienate the whole community.  Nevertheless a structure must exist.

We will need groups in place to oversee the various aspects of parish life that need to be provided.  What those groups will be will depend on the outcome of the above in determining and matching needs and abilities.  It is likely that there will emerge some natural groupings that can oversee for example physical property matters, financial matters; liturgical matters; matters relating to preparation for marriage; counselling following a death and preparation for funerals; preparation of converts; preparation of children for the sacraments of confirmation confession and Holy Communion; ongoing education of the community, and maybe many other things.

There will be groupings that become clear and it should be made clear to the parish community what those groupings are and how they can be contacted.  A parish directory should be produced in that respect.  If all these things were done by each parish community in the deanery maybe that parish directory could then be shared within the deanery and abilities can then be made available to meet needs of communities where particular skills are not available within those communities.

These groupings cannot operate as separate empires.  It is essential that they do not become empires at all.  They should not be seen as power bases or fiefdoms of particular individuals  That will alienate everyone.

Representatives of those grouping should form a parish council which should meet regularly as in the parish of Dibley! The meetings should be attended by the parish priest who will attend similar meetings within each community and form the basis of deanery oversight and be able to share best practice from other communities and generally be able to co-ordinate and act as the link between the diocese and deanery and the parish.

If these grouping and a council are established they must report back to the community on a regular basis.  Notes of meetings should be made available on the parish website and people should be encouraged and reminded regularly to visit that website.  The directory proposed above should be there so that people know who to contact when needs arise.  There should be contact details for the parish priest and other clergy to be contacted in the event of need.

Not everyone has access to the web; there should be ability for regular information to be provided to those people who do not have access to it by way of the parish newsletter.  Everyone must be told everything that is going on – not only so they are informed but also by way of encouragement to get involved themselves.

If this is going to be successful it cannot be left to the “usual suspects” to get on with it and do it.  We must all be willing to be involved to a greater or lesser degree according to our abilities.  There is too much to do.  A great deal of time and effort is going to be required and passengers who simply sit back and criticise would be an unwelcome and additional burden.

If we want our community to continue it is up to us to make it happen and if we start to be successful in that and if the same approach is adopted by other parish communities we can learn from the benefit each other but the bigger the foundation become the more difficult it will be to hold it together.  For that reason we much start with our own community and then work with others to share what we have and what we can do and vice versa.


Response 59

With reference to discussion paper 4

We are very lucky to have a good working Parish.  The only fault I find is getting people to attend things within the Deanery.  The lent Masses if we cant do this how on earth can a cluster group work.  Could we please have a flower group started, so we can have more people working together for funds to get fresh flowers always on the Alter.

With reference to discussion paper 5

To reduce Masses we could cancel one Mass, but put a Mass on within the cluster, in a Parish with only one Mass.  Maybe a monthly Deanery News letter to give times, not as in the almanac were some say to be announced, that’s no good if you are not in that Parish a list of names could be printed of willing helpers to bring people if they don’t have transport for the Cluster Parishes. Priests would have to work together on this one.

With reference to discussion paper 6

Bring as in Lent a Monthly Deanery Mass, to bring people together, so they get used to visiting other Parishes within the Cluster, they always seem to bring people together, but it is the same one’s year after year.  Our Priest could lead by example here, and put a little bit more effort in to encourage this. 

 With reference to discussion paper 7

I think it starts with Baptism if we all do it right in the first place (with preparation) not like some Priest are doing.  Just giving a paper to fill in and turn up on such a date.  If our Priests do not have time to prep Parents. Form a group from the Cluster Parishes so with training they could have the group Baptism sessions.  It is such an important Sacrament.   Young Parents need to be made aware of this, it could be in a different Parish each week they would make new friends, and we would hopefully get New Attendance at Parishes.


These are all the responses received to date 27.06.10