This summer some eight priests , all aged 75 years or more, will retire. In addition the Benedictine Monks are leaving Bamber Bridge after 300 years. On Wednesday the Bishop met with the priests of the Deanery to discuss this situation and explore how best we may reconfigure our parishes to meet these challenges. We agreed positive proposals but since the Bishop still has to meet with other Deaneries he asked us not to discuss these until a recommended plan for the whole Diocese is released for consultation next month. We then agreed on the following statement.
As part of the ongoing diocesan consultation, the priests of the deanery met with Bishop John on Wednesday, to consider the best possible future sacramental and pastoral provision for the people of this deanery. The discussions were very positive and constructive – all were concerned that any changes should be considered as ‘pruning for future growth’. A proposal about the way forward was submitted to Bishop John by the priests of the deanery.
Included in this was a discussion about the provision of Sunday Masses, with an agreement that there is a need to reduce the number of Masses across the deanery. And so, a proposed schedule of Masses will be submitted to the Bishop which will provide Masses at a variety of times across the whole deanery, allowing priests to supply for one another in case of illness or absence.
It was thought important that our deanery proposals should not be considered in isolation but rather should wait until a comprehensive diocesan plan is offered for consultation. When all the other deaneries have submitted their own proposals, Bishop John will present his plan for the whole Diocese, hopefully in June, which will be open to everyone for comment and suggestions, before a final decision is made by the Bishop, and then gradually implemented over time.
As the planning by the eight deaneries continues, the Bishop asks that we continue to pray for our openness to mission as we grow in that sense of Discipleship to which Pope Francis is calling us.
Stay with us, Lord, on our journey.