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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Falling congregations prompt churches shake-up

Falling numbers of Catholics and fewer priests have resulted in a major shake-up at three churches.

Andrew Broster photo
Father Andrew Broster

Plans have been revealed to increase the size of parishes in the Diocese of Lancaster which will ease pressure on serving priests.

Parishioners of Our Lady and St Patrick’s in Maryport; St Cuthbert’s at Wigton and Our Lady of the Assumption at Silloth have been told about the changes which will start in two weeks’ time.

The first step will be to merge St Cuthbert and Our Lady of the Assumption which will take on the new name – Our Lady of the Assumption and St Cuthbert.

And at the end of August, Father Tom Butler will be brought in to serve the merged parish as well as taking on the position at the Maryport church.

The current priests at Maryport and Wigton, Fathers Andrew Broster and Michael Murphy will leave their churches and be appointed elsewhere in the Diocese of Lancaster.

The Bishop of Lancaster, the Right Rev Michael Campbell, has announced the changes which he said should not come as a shock.

“You will be aware that our diocese, in common with most others in this country, in Western Europe and the US, has far fewer priests and much smaller numbers of practising Catholics at Mass than in days of old,” he said in a pastoral message.

“Given this reality the size of parishes and pastoral areas of the future, in the care of a priest, will increasingly have to be much bigger than they have been.

“At the same time I must have a care, too, for the health and well-being of our priests who simply cannot be expected to keep every church building open and provide the current level of masses for our small numbers.”

He added that Father Butler was an “experienced and gifted” priest who would “work hard” and “enthusiastically”.

The changes are a result of a consultation, called Fit for Mission, which was carried out in the 95 parishes in the Diocese of Lancaster five years ago.

As part of the plans to ease pressure on priests, lay people will also have to be “much more involved” in the practical running of parishes.

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