First a word of gratitude to all, too many to mention by name, who worked so hard to prepare the Church for Holy Week and all who participated in the ceremonies. Attendances were really good and it was great to welcome so many parishioners from St Hubert’s.
As you are aware Bishop John has asked each parish to consider how we can best undertake the mission of the Church in Salfoed Diocese in these changing times. This means identifying our resources and how we might best reorganise ourselves.
In February, the Bishop met over two day meetings with almost all of the priests in the diocese to begin this reflection. He stressed that, at this point, we are concerned with determining and agreeing “what” we must do in order to face the present and future needs of the diocese. The “how” we do it will be for a later stage of discussion over the coming summer months.
Now he invites parishes to meet individually, not so much to get into the details of parish amalgamations or church closures, though they will touch on that briefly towards the end of the meeting. Those detailed discussions will be for a later date. This meeting is about us, as a parish, accepting that there is a need for change and being open to being part of that change.
Why change? Back in 2000 we had 191 parishes, containing 206 churches and served by 210 priests. Now we have 150 parishes, containing 185 churches and served by 155 priests. Of the 155 priests currently serving our parishes, 124 are diocesan priests but only 106 of those diocesan priests are under the age of 75. In the next five years, that number will drop to 93 (assuming that they all are able to continue in parish ministry until retirement at 75 and that the present 8 seminarians get ordained).
Change and adaptation is not an option.
More important is Pope Francis’ challenge that “the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet managed to make them environments of living communion and participation and to make them completely mission orientated.”
So as a parish we shall meet on Wednesday evening in Clitheroe to respond to the challenge of both Pope and Bishop and consider what a modern missionary parish in North Lancashire should look like and be about in the 21st Century.
I urge our three communities based on Dunsop Bridge, Clitheroe and Sabden to COME, answer the call at 7.30pm in the Clitheroe Parish Hall, this Wednesday.