62 Headingley Lane,
LEEDS, LS6 2BX
Tel: 0113 261 8023
Fax: 0113 261 8035
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Nearly two years have passed since I initiated the formal process of consultation regarding future parish structures in the Leeds area. You may recall my first DVD presentation, (circulated in the autumn of 2008) in which I outlined the history of the parishes in the Leeds area and spoke of the challenges which face us at this time. At that point I invited you to share with me your own insights and suggestions for addressing these challenges. Then, last autumn, I distributed a second DVD in which I shared with you a selection of the responses I had received from parishes and individuals and, following further reflection, I put to you a proposal for reshaping the parish structures of the Leeds area. Once again, I invited you to meet together and discuss these proposals and I appointed Convenors in each area to assist the process of bringing people together across parish boundaries. I ended by saying: "I ask you to consider what I have shared with you very carefully, and if you have any further suggestions which improve it, then let me know, or if you have alternative proposals which would serve us better, then let me know these too. If you feel that what I have proposed is workable, then continue the work of developing the proposal - of dotting the "i"s and crossing the "t"s."
The responses to this last invitation have made it evident to me that very many of you contributed to this process and that you did so in a highly constructive spirit. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to you and acknowledge the many wise insights that you brought forward and which have helped me yet again to shape my own conclusions. Through this pastoral letter I would also like to express a very special word of thanks to the six Convenors who so willingly entered into this unchartered territory and so ably facilitated the local meetings across parish boundaries. I also take this opportunity to express my deep thanks to those who have kept the whole process of consultation in their prayers, not least the sick and the housebound in our communities.
The proposals I put to you last autumn spoke of six new pastoral areas. This approach has certainly enabled us to think afresh about our structures and it is clear to me that the groupings I proposed are, in the main, appropriate. However, the term "pastoral area" is an unfamiliar one and some have raised questions about the canonical status of such an area and the relationships of the priests who would serve within it. I believe that the concept of a "pastoral area" has been a useful tool to aid our thinking and encourage our debate but it is clear that the familiar structures of "deaneries", "parishes", "parish priests" and "assistant priests" are more readily understood and so the decisions I am about to set before you are set in these more familiar terms.
New Deaneries & Parishes
The first change I am going to make is to reduce the present four deaneries in Leeds to three. There will be a deanery for North Leeds; one for East Leeds; and one for South-West Leeds. The parishes within these new deaneries will be as follows:
1. The North Leeds Deanery will be made up of four new parishes:
• The parishes of the Cathedral and of the Holy Rosary will be amalgamated into one new parish. The Cathedral, the mother church of the Holy Rosary and indeed of the whole diocese, will be the parish church and the Holy Rosary will be its chapel of ease. While the clergy who serve this new parish will reside at the Cathedral the former presbytery of the Holy Rosary will be used to house a religious community. This new parish already has a primary school in common.
• A second new parish will be established by the amalgamation of the parishes of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Urban. The church of St. Urban will become the parish church and a chapel of ease established in the hall of Our Lady of Lourdes. We will continue to use the church of Our Lady of Lourdes until this provision is established. When the hall is ready and the church and former presbytery are vacated the remainder of this site will be disposed of
• A third new parish will be created by amalgamating the parishes of Immaculate Heart and St. Paul's. Two priests will serve this parish and will reside at the Immaculate Heart presbytery. The presbytery of St. Paul's could be used by a priest engaged in a non parochial ministry such as hospital or prison chaplaincy or an alternative use will be found for it.
• The fourth new parish in this deanery will be created by amalgamating the parishes of St. Mary, the Holy Name and the Assumption. A parish priest and an assistant priest will be appointed to serve this new parish. Further consideration will be given to the use of the two presbyteries. It seems to me that my initial proposal for this area took many by surprise but I have been impressed by the degree of collaboration achieved by members of the three parishes in their own deliberations. I believe it is important to maintain the momentum of this collaboration in order to establish among the three congregations a sense of having an equal stake in the future parish provision and my decision is intended to assist this development.
These new parishes will be created by Canonical Decrees which I will issue in the next few weeks. The amalgamation of the Cathedral and the Holy Rosary, however, will only be fully implemented upon the retirement of the present Parish priest of the Holy Rosary.
2. Let us now look at the East Leeds Deanery. For the time being, this will consist of five parishes.
• The parish of St. Benedict in Garforth will be unaffected by these changes although I may place the parish within another deanery to align it more closely with the Castleford area. This view was clearly shared by some who wrote to me during this current consultation.
• Closer to the city centre the two parishes of St. Augustine and St. Patrick will also remain unaffected by the changes and will remain as separate parishes. I am aware, however, of the changing nature of the population in these areas and the fluctuations in the number of immigrant peoples who are a valued part of our community. It will, therefore, be necessary to keep our structures in these areas under review.
• A new parish will be established by amalgamating the parishes of St. Nicholas and Our Lady of Good Counsel. St. Nicholas' will become the parish church of the new parish and Our Lady of Good Counsel will become a chapel of ease. The parish priest will reside at St. Nicholas' and the presbytery at Our Lady of Good Counsel will be put to alternative use or disposed of. It is my intention to create this new parish immediately and I will bring forward the necessary Canonical Decree within the next few weeks.
• Finally, a new parish will be created by amalgamating of the parishes of St. Gregory, St. Theresa and Corpus Christi. Eventually, this parish will be served by two priests, a parish priest and an assistant together with additional priestly support at the weekend from a priest elsewhere. It is not my intention to make this change immediately. For the time being, I shall leave the present three priests in post. However, I am mandating Monsignor Philip Holroyd to initiate a process to bring these three parishes closer together and to reduce the present number of Sunday Masses. To assist this reduction of Sunday Masses the chapel of St. John's, Halton, will close for worship this summer and the Sunday Mass presently celebrated at the Anglican Church in Barwick in Elmett will cease at the same time. When the plan for this area is finally implemented the church of St. Theresa's will be designated the parish church of the new parish and the remaining churches will become chapels of ease. You will recall that I also consulted you on the possibility and desirability of Corpus Christi parish and church becoming a centre for our young people in the diocese but I received a good many responses advising against this not only from east Leeds but also from around the city and so I shall not proceed with this proposal.
3. The South-West Leeds Deanery of Leeds will be made up of seven parishes, for the time being:
• The parish of St. Mary in Rothwell will be unaffected by these changes for the foreseeable future. However, I shall give further consideration to the parish being aligned to the deanery of the Castleford and Wakefield areas rather than in South Leeds. It is interesting that a number of responses to the current consultation also expressed this view.
• A new parish will be established in the Holbeck and Beeston areas by amalgamating the parishes of St. Anthony and St. Francis of Assisi. St. Anthony's will be designated as the parish church and the parish priest will live in the presbytery there. St. Francis of Assisi's will serve as a chapel of ease within the parish. (Monsignor Robinson, however, will continue to reside in St Francis' presbytery in retirement.) I intend to create this new parish immediately and I will bring forward the necessary Canonical Decree within the next few weeks.
• A new parish will be created by the amalgamation of the present parishes of St. Philip and St Peter and St Joseph. St. Peter's will be designated as the parish church and the parish priest will live there St. Philip's will become a chapel of ease within the parish and, while the need remains, St. Joseph's school will be retained as a Mass centre. However, the number of Sunday Masses celebrated in the area must be reduced from four to three and I suggest that the Saturday evening Vigil Mass is celebrated in the centrally-sited church of St. Peter and a Sunday morning Mass be celebrated in the church of St. Philip and in St. Joseph's school. It is my intention to create this new parish immediately and I will bring forward the necessary Canonical Decree within the next few weeks.
• A new parish will be created by amalgamating the present parishes of St Francis Morley and St. Brigid's Churwell. This parish will be served by one priest at one church. I recognise that the two communities of St. Brigid's and Our Lady of the Nativity, Ardsley, have worked hard to persuade me to retain their provision and that many of those who attend Sunday Mass at these two churches have great bonds with what they presently know. However, with the greatest respect, this is not realistically possible for one priest, nor is it possible to sustain all these properties in good repair for a long-term future. St. Brigid's and Our Lady of the Nativity will therefore close. I realise how painful this news will be for some of you, but I urge you all to bring all your gifts and energies to work for the good of the new community and to collaborate together in building something new by consolidating these former communities into one. It is my intention to create this new parish immediately and I will bring forward the necessary Canonical Decree within the next few weeks.
• A new parish will be created by amalgamating the present parishes of the Holy Family and St. Wilfrid. It will eventually be served by only one priest. The church of the Holy Family will be the parish church (and the parish priest will reside there). A chapel of ease will be retained at St. Wilfird's. It is not my intention to make this change immediately, but I shall instruct the Diocesan Trustees to work with the present parish priest and parishioners of St. Wilfrid's to make sensible plans to rationalise the property on that site. At the very least the present church should be adapted to meet the area's needs and the remaining property be disposed of. (It may be that a more appropriate building could be found or built to accommodate our present needs in conjunction with the future development of land. This will need careful thought.)
• The parish of Christ the King will continue to serve the Bramley and Stanningley districts as at present. In order to safeguard our property for long term use it is necessary to rationalise our properties and the time has now come for us to dispose of the Holy Spirit chapel of ease at Stanningley. However, in response to the request of the congregation there I am happy for the church to remain in use until it is disposed of providing that this is economically viable to do so.
• The only change to the parish of St. Joseph in Pudsey is that it now becomes part of a new deanery
Many of those who responded during the course of the recent consultation highlighted the need for greater collaboration between priests and people and for greater lay formation I wholeheartedly acknowledge this need and I ask those who will be charged as parish priests in these new deaneries to work with the Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation to meet these needs.
In last autumn's DVD I invited you to reflect "on two issues that will need to be discussed further if changes are to be successful; namely, the timing of Sunday masses and the pooling of financial resources." The responses that I received indicate that in some areas consideration was given to the timings of Sunday Mass but I have received little to indicate that the pooling of financial resources figured in your deliberations! Therefore, the Canonical changes which I have outlined in these new deaneries give greater clarity to how financial resources will be handled, namely by each new parish.
It is never easy to announce the closures of either churches or chapels and I have much sympathy with those who have invested so much of their lives for their upkeep. Many of you will associate wonderful and profound things with these buildings. But the Church is not a building; it is you, the living stones who make the face of Christ visible in our society. So while I acknowledge, indeed share with you, some of the hurt and pain of closure, I also encourage you to have that pioneering and missionary spirit of our forebears. The operational and congregational structures of the Church need to be on a firmer footing than they are presently if we are to meet conscientiously the missionary needs both of the present day and of the years to come. In particular, I ask all of you to be aware at this time of change of the needs of those without transport who may find it a little more difficult to travel to Mass on Sunday
During the course of the next few weeks priests and parishioners will need to work closely together to prepare for these changes and, where required, to make new arrangements especially for the times of Sunday Masses. It will be very important to establish new Finance Committees and Pastoral Councils in these newly formed parishes so that all aspects of concern are covered at local level. And, as I indicated earlier, the Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation, Father John Wilson, will be only too willing to assist in the furtherance of lay formation within the new deaneries. I encourage everyone involved in this process to work with generosity and in a spirit of charity which, above all, is the hallmark of a Christian community.
Finally, I wish to acknowledge, above all, gratitude to God for the gift of our faith and for the graces He has given to you and me during these last two years. From all of the responses to this consultation that I have received it is clear that you have striven to discern the future under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and with the prayers of Our Lady of Unfailing Help. As the fascinating and remarkable history which I presented in my first DVD of the consultation period reveals the Church has weathered many challenges throughout her history. Our forebears rose to those challenges; now it is our turn. Have faith and be of good heart and let us desire to hand on to future generations something that will support them in their day as we have been supported in ours.
With the assurance of my prayers, my support and my blessing.
Devotedly yours in Christ,
Bishop of Leeds
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