Thursday, 14 May 2009


Dear Parishioners,

Of one thing we can be sure, the Church is constantly changing, and that it true of both the Universal Church and the local Church as well, in dioceses, deaneries and parishes.

June this year will see some significant changes in our deanery. After 23 years as Parish Priest of St Joseph’s Bury, Fr Morrow is retiring. There are also changes in other parts of our deanery, but this letter only outlines the implications of the changes for the Bury, Tottington and Ramsbottom area.

With Fr Morrow’s retirement, the Bishop has decided to amalgamate the Parishes of St Marie’s Bury and St Joseph’s and St Bede’s Bury, therefore forming a new Parish out of these two parishes.

With all amalgamations, and any changes in parish life, the overall provision of pastoral care and the Sunday Mass are paramount in the decision-making process. However, the work of a priest in a parish involves a lot more than just the Sunday Mass, it entails being involved in various chaplaincy works, celebration of other sacraments and presiding at other liturgies as well as a lot of other aspects of pastoral care.

As I am sure most people are aware, the number of active priests in the Diocese has drastically reduced in the past few years. This is as a result of fewer ordinations (e.g. in the past five years there have only been seven ordinations to the priesthood for Salford Diocese) whilst at the same time many more priests have retired and sadly many have also died.

In light of the projections for the situation over the next few years the Bishop asked the priests in the parishes in the Bury area to look at the provision of Mass and pastoral care, and to plan accordingly for the next five to ten years. We started this process, and quickly realised it is not an easy task. In order to be able to serve the needs of the five churches in the Bury area with the number of priests available to us now and over the next few years, we had to suggest several changes to the Bishop.

We wanted to be able to ask the people in the parishes about what would be the best Mass times for their parish etc, but, because the times of Masses in each parish has implications for the other parishes if the priests are going to be able to cover for each other in emergency and at holiday times, we have had to make some difficult decisions.

Therefore, from the 7th June this year, the parishes of St Marie’s and St Joseph’s, Bury, will become one parish, and together with Guardian Angels Bury, St Hilda’s Tottington, and St Joseph’s Ramsbottom they will become a cluster of parishes. This means that the clergy of these four parishes will be working together and providing support and cover for each other.

We have thought long and hard over the various ‘permutations’ of Mass times and the actual number of Masses we are able to provide within the Bury Area. We have taken into consideration how we can cover for each other, aware of the fact that at times we could still be celebrating several Masses on Sundays, and having to hope that there are no traffic hold ups if we are travelling between Churches!

Change is always hard for everyone, and we have had no option but to bite the bullet and make changes and some reductions, in order to be able to provide Sunday Masses in each of the five churches (four parishes) in our cluster. The changes affect all of the churches, and in presenting the changes to you we are hoping for your understanding in this matter.

In an ideal world we would have been able to keep everything exactly the same, and everyone’s most convenient/favourite Mass time in their Parish would have remained unchanged. But within the diocese as a whole we have reached the point where this is no longer feasible.

There is some good news. Fr Robin Colpman, who is one of the younger priests in the diocese has been appointed by the Bishop as assistant priest into our deanery. His appointment is a little unusual. The Bishop has appointed him to me as Dean, but he will live at St Joseph’s Presbytery, Bury. His ministry will be at Fairfield Hospital and St Gabriel’s High School. Although he will live at St Joseph’s Presbytery, Fr Robin is not the assistant priest in the newly created parish of St Marie’s and St Joseph’s – Fr Francis Wadsworth is to take on the responsibility for the newly created parish, so all matters relating to either of the two churches of St Marie’s or St Joseph’s should be addressed to him.

The new Mass times which the Bishop has now approved, for the cluster of parishes detailed below will take effect from the weekend Saturday 6th June/Sunday 7th June.

On behalf of the Priest in the cluster,

Fr Paul J Cannon.
Dean of Mount Carmel Deanery.

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