Longdendale Catholic Churches




The meeting involved the churches of Immaculate Conception Broadbottom, St. Margaret’s  Gamesley and St. Charles Borromeo Hadfield.
42 parishioners signed the attendance sheet: 25 from St. Charles Borromeo, 14 from Immaculate conception and 3 from St. Margaret’s Mass centre.

Father Don opened the meeting by thanking all present for attending.   The Bishop stipulated the meeting should last for one and a half hours.    He then invited Deacon Owen to Chair the meeting and Sylvia Shaw to take the notes.

The meeting commenced with the Angelus.

Deacon Owen also welcomed parishioners on such a dismal rainy evening and reminded  everyone to sign the attendance sheet.
Setting the scene for the meeting Deacon Owen referred to the Bishop’s spiritual goals of  encounter with Christ, discipleship and missionary discipleship because he has asked when we consider the future of parishes we keep these goals in mind.

In October 2018 Bishop Patrick asked all the diocesan clergy to meet with one of the vicars general to discuss planning.   He wrote
1. The number of full-time diocesan priests dedicated to parish ministry is likely to drop from the current 85 (2018) to around to 60 in 2020.   That figure now looks optimistic as the diocese is losing on average 12 parish priests per year, mostly to illness or ageing.
2. We are relying on retired priests to prop up the normal routine.   This is unfair and unsustainable.    Priests in retirement may provide emergency, short-term or holiday cover, but they should not be tied to a regular commitment.
3. There must be greater emphasis on lay ministry and leadership, both volunteer and employed.
4) A priest should not ordinarily say more than three Sunday obligation Masses.
5. We cannot expect to get many priests from abroad to ease the need in our diocese.
6. We may need to cluster parishes and churches more or even to close places of worship.
7. We need to develop different ways of working as clergy.
8. Pastoral outreach and chaplaincies in schools, universities, hospitals, prisons, etc., are an integral part of our mission as a diocese.
9. We need to agree on a way forward by the end of 2019.

In February 2019 the questions asked of the  the High Peak Deanery were

1. Are all places of worship sustainable and necessary?   If not, which are vulnerable to closure?
2. What scope is there for the employing of lay chaplains to support schools?
3. What is the best support that can be offered to university chaplaincy?
4. Are both Glossop churches necessary and sustainable?

The above and other questions  should be discussed and a concrete proposal submitted by 19th April outlining how you will serve the needs of the people with three priests.

The proposals put forward by the clergy:

1. Three pastoral areas each served by one priest -
Buxton and Chapel-en-le-Frith with the priest resident at Buxton.
Broadbottom, New Mills, Marple Bridge with the priest resident at Marple.
Glossop and Hadfield with the priest resident at Glossop.
2. The Immaculate Heart of Mary at Tideswell has had no Masses at all for some years and the clergy wanted this to be recognised.
3.  St. Margaret’s at Gamesley should cease to have Sunday obligation Masses.
4.  Formation to be put in place for lay ministry and leadership.


High Peak Deanery




Places of Worship

Sunday ob Masses

Secondary schools

Primary schools


Other ministries









  1. 1 uni




pastoral areas






  1. 1 uni



Questions and actions
1. Please consult on the reorganisation into the the 3 pastoral areas and what impact this will have on all areas of parish life and pastoral ministry.
2. Please continue with the formal process to close and sell Tideswell and begin the process to formally close Gamesley as a Mass centre.
3. Please begin the process of Buxton serving Chapel.
4. Depending on the forthcoming Quinquennial inspection of St. Mary’s in Glossop please consider if the church is financially viable and whether parish time and resources are best spent working to preserve the building.
5. Identify ways in which the chaplaincy provision at Derby university (Buxton) can be enhanced as an area of mission and how ministry to young adults can be a focus in the deanery.
6. Begin conversations with St. Thomas Aquinas CMAT lead lay chaplain Joseph Hopkins and the schools of St Thomas More and St Philip Howard and the Buxton and Glossop parishes on the employment of a full-time lay chaplain for the two schools, possibly with some time each week dedicated to parish youth ministry.
7. Identify training leads for lay ministry and leadership and actions that can be taken at deanery level to provide this formation.    This will be discussed at diocesan level, but please consider solutions at the local level.
The question that the deanery raised about the replacement of Sunday obligation Masses with Services of Word and Communion is echoed from other places in the diocese and has been passed onto Bishop Patrick.

Deacon Owen (DO) made the point that existing communities are the most valuable resource the Church has in this area and we have to protect them and help them to survive.

Comments received prior to this meeting tonight:

1. Everything has been decided.
DO stressed that very little has been decided as yet. Lots of meetings will take place to decide the future and all comments will be put forward to the Bishop.
2. We need many meetings to reach a consensus.
DO Obviously true.
3. It will require a “significant” priest to mastermind the changes.   The priest needs to be a realist and not imbued by past traditions.
DO The Bishop does not have a supply of “significant” priests.   We need to manage the changes ourselves.
4. St Charles, apart from a few years, was always linked to Broadbottom.
DO True, but the communities are distinct.    iI there is to be a regular Sunday Mass at Broadbottom , this is possible if it is associated with New Mills, but not if it is associated with Glossop and Hadfield.
5. There needs to be a combined community lay mission established involving all age groups but without a a single parish focus.
DO This is an idea for discussion.
6. Will retired priests in the area have a role?
DO Yes, for short-term and emergency support but not for regular services.
7. How do services of Word and Communion replace the obligation of Sunday Mass?
DO The Bishop can, if he wishes, give permission for this.   It is the normal practice in other countries and he allows it now when there is an emergency or when no other cover can be arranged.
8. Decline in church attendance and lack of involvement by our catholic schools in the delivery of sacrament preparation has had a serious impact.   (The working group should be trying to boost church attendance and help support the schools.)
 9. Has though been given to the demographics of the area and to the large increase in house building which might lead us to expect an influx of new parishioners?
DO Would need an additional 700 parishioners for the Bishop to allocate another priest.  The Bishop will not have significant new resources for many years.
10. The school needs more involvement from the parish.

In response to comments about the links between the school and parish Mrs Bernie Quirke, head teacher of St Charles Catholic Academy Primary stated
The school and parish have very strong links, which both are keen to maintain and to develop further. Below please find examples of the strong links we share and other examples to how the parish supports our primary school community.
Opportunities to engage pupils and their families this year have included the following-
1. Welcome back assembly with Father Don blessing new reception pupils and all pupils.
2. Welcome back whole school mass.
3. Harvest Festival Service (in church), collecting food for local food banks in school and the parish.
4. Whole school mass to celebrate St Charles Borromeo Feast Day (4th November).
5. Remembrance Day service and prayers for the holy souls (in school).
6. Blessing of the Advent Wreaths Service for the beginning of Advent (in school).
7. Christmas Fair (in school)
8. Reconciliation in school for all Key Stage 2 pupils (Father Don, Deacon Owen and Father Daniel all involved)
9. Key Stage 1 Nativity (has been reintroduced).
10. Carol Service (in church)
11. Whole School Christmas Mass
12. Epiphany-whole school mass
13. Ash Wednesday Mass
14. Mini Vinnies Chaplaincy team –badges and certificates awarded by Father Don.
Cake sale by Mini Vinnies after mass.
15. Supporting Lent in fundraising opportunities this year included the Good Shepherd Appeal and CAFOD.
16. Holy Week Activities-pupils visiting and sketching the Stations of the Cross in church.
17. Reconciliation in school for Key Stage two pupils (Father Don, Deacon Owen and Father Daniel were involved).
May Procession
18. Year 3 and 4 pupils involved in the annual procession with their parents.
19. First Holy Communion for Year 3 pupils.
20. Key Stage 1 pupils visited the church to see and hear the newly restored organ-visits led by Father Daniel.
21. Year 6 leavers mass.
22. Year 6 leaver’s assembly.
The Headteacher attended 50th Anniversary Celebrations at St Mary’s Glossop and All Saints and St Margaret’s this year.
Planned INSET and staff meetings with both of the above schools in the new academic year 2019-2020 have been planned.
Sacramental Programme
This year the Sacramental Programme ran from November to July and involved a series of meetings held in school and attended by Father Don, Nuala Shepley (from the parish), the Headteacher and the deputy headteacher.
It takes place in school and includes pupils attending Sunday mass on several occasions in preparation for the Sacraments they will be receiving.
It has been agreed that the school’s involvement in the Sacramental Programme is essential in strengthening links with the parish and the school. The deputy head and Nuala Shepley work in partnership and lessons take place in school and include several visits to church. New brightly coloured and attractive books were purchased this year and the cost was split between the school and the parish.
An example of the school supporting the Sacramental Programme this year has led to one pupil choosing to be baptised.
Hymn Practice
Terry Walsh from the parish visits the school weekly and teaches the pupils traditional hymns as well as teaching the pupils how to play the tin whistle and the guitar. This has led to pupils supporting Holy Communion masses and playing at whole school mass celebrations. To honour this important and vital contribution, Terry was awarded with the St Ralph Sherwin Volunteers Award for long standing services to Catholic Education. Sean MacClafferty the CEO presented this award at a special assembly in July.
Family Support
This year the support of Father Don greatly impacted on one of our pupils who was confused and very sad over his mum being terminally ill. During reconciliation, the little boy opened up to Father Don, which proved to be a turning point in the little boy’s life. Sadly, soon after, the child’s mum passed away. However the support which was given by Father and other caring people enabled the child to make his Holy Communion at a time when all involved did not think this would happen. The support is ongoing and much appreciated by the family.
Support within the community
In the last three-year’s St Charles, primary school has undergone a process of change and renewal. It is a primary school, which is rapidly improving which has been acknowledged by the Academy Trust. Father Don and other parishioners have been supportive to the school within the community. This parish support has been warmly appreciated and has helped to ensure that 29 pupils are starting in the reception class in September. The school strongly believes that in order for the Catholic faith to be passed on and experienced children need to attend Catholic schools.
The impact of the St Ralph Sherwin Catholic Voluntary –CMAT
From September 2018 St Charles, All Saints and St Margaret’s, St Mary’s (Glossop), St Mary’s New Mills and St Mary’s Marple Bridge  and St Philip Howard all became part of the newly formed Catholic Multi Academy Trust.
We are now part of the St Ralph Sherwin Trust. It has been a positive experience and links between all the High Peak Catholic schools have been strengthened. There is a strong sense of family, working together and supporting the Catholic faith. We are all determined to ensure our schools thrive and are inclusive. St Charles currently has around 45% Catholics and we are passionate to ensure we give all pupils the opportunity to experience gospel values, the liturgy, scripture, collective worship and traditions of the Catholic faith. We know that Catholic schools alone offer these unique experiences as Christ is at the centre of everything we do.
On behalf of the school, staff and pupils, I would like to thank the parish for their continued support and I look forward to the year ahead where we will continue to develop our strong links. Finally look at our website where there are examples of the events mentioned and you can follow us on twitter, which can also be accessed, via the website.
Twitter link: @StCharlesHadfield

Where does this leave St Margaret’s school for pastoral care?   How would it work if the priest was in Marple Bridge?  If the Glossop based priest was responsible there would be some connection.
DO Not a problem if either Glossop or Marple Bridge wanted to provide sacramental formation.   Less concern about boundaries than in involving lay people.

Fr Don added there is less definition now that the priests are moving about covering duties at a number of churches and parishes.   We do have willing people  to catechise  and provide liturgy to children but  the children are not there.
  It is estimated that St Margaret’s will take only 20 extra children from September.

Nick Collins chair of the parish council at St Charles stated that the proposal had not been put before the parish council and he had only been made aware of the contents a couple of weeks ago.    There is need for discussion within the council to find a way to move forward.
The original proposed timescale is unmanageable.    Requested that comments/concerns from parishioners be put forward to the council to discuss and take forward.
Glossop and Hadfield parishes with three churches is a massive job.   The largest catholic community plus schools and hospitals.   We need to look at how we can help our priest to do the job which requires us to sit down and talk about the questions.

Have seen a massive decline  in the number of  priests and congregation since I first came in 1968.  We may ultimately end up with no priests at all.    This thing is not going to go away.   It is important to keep talking.
DO There were two new priests last year and two new priests this year; next year we have only one, and after that there are none in formation yet.
   Timetable not known for when the Bishop will move to three priests but there is a need to be organising people to relieve the pressures on the priests.

Salford diocese went through a similar process to this some 2-3 years ago and there were great concerns about what was going to happen at my mother’s church.   The outcome is that the church and people have been empowered and it is still open.

Concerned about losing the anchor holding us together Have given a lot to the school  and we have close links with Broadbottom.     

Already submitted suggestions.  There are close links between the two parishes.   Nothing heard so far from Broadbottom parishioners.

FD Noted the contribution retired priest already make to parish life. Paid tribute to Monseigneur Jonathan retired priest who goes over to Marple Bridge every Sunday and offers instruction and guidance to people whenever he can manage to do so.
Fr Sullivan now unwell.

Angela Cass chair of Immaculate Conception parish council made the following points:
3 churches =  1 parish. Concern re linked to New Mills and Marple Bridge, not good for Immaculate Conception.  Sought confirmation we will keep our parish.
Priest specialise in spiritual needs. Would a full-time  paId administer help the priests of the three parishes?  Recognition that funding would be an issue but if all parishes contribute towards paying it would assist.      A lot of us paid towards the sick and retired priests’ fund by monthly covenants. Some of these are coming to an end.   Would people be willing to continue their contributions  to fund an administrator/secretary?
Immaculate conception is a small family parish and attracts people from other areas because of the welcoming family atmosphere.
Local training required for laity - not at Nottingham.   within deanery.
More laity ministers needed - catechists, admin - funeral and weddings.
Priests must accept help and release control over non-spiritual oversee work.
Could we video and broadcast Masses - relay to Mass centres?
What difference will the changes make to St. Margaret’s school?

(DO) 6 hours training is offered on Saturday 12th October for parish administers.
Some parishes in our diocese do have paid admin staff, even one in our deanery.
Special trained laity have taken over responsibility for funerals not requiring Mass - operating in Liverpool.

Sought assurance over the independence of finances - centralised or shared. will we retain a say over how individual churches will control monies,  pay for heating and maintenance.
FD This area and New Mills and Marple Bridge coalesce but this is not the case with all churches as people tend to be protective about their own church.
Concern over the possible sale of property.   Do not want to see property or assets sold too quickly.   Once gone …
FD Any monies held by parishes should stay with parishes.

Definition of a parishioner is not someone within a particular boundary but within a particular church and community where their heart lies.

People are mobile and will chose where they want to worship not necessarily at the closest church.

Laity could do more to prepare for Mass and services so that the priest just has to perform his spiritual duties.

Fr Daniel
To deliver three Masses each Sunday the timings must be realistic.  The priest needs time to greet the people after Mass and proceed to the next in an unhurried manner.    This is because the priest is not there just to be a Mass celebrant but to be a pastor of the people.
Parishes need to have other events besides the Sunday celebration to foster a sense of community.

Need to get away from the idea  of a localised parishioner.    I have been involved with St Margaret’s and All Saints in playing the music and in confirmation preparation  of children.   Has led on to the setting up of a Glossop Catholic youth group with approval from all parishes.
We have got to work together to avoid isolation and share talent.

Moving to 3 pastoral areas.   Feel Immaculate Conception would become isolated moving to Marple Bridge as there are strong links with St Charles.

Proposals could have been advertised better. Use social media, modern communication.
Comment that the title’ Longdendale Catholics’ was a pretentious title.

Have we got a plan for how to move forward at grass roots level?   Want to get to a position where we can sustain our parishes.
(FD The Bishop has been advised we cannot complete our thinking and responses in the initial timescale given.

If we don’t have a Sunday mass at St Charles the place will close down with a short time.  1 priest = 3 Masses. Evening or Saturday night Masses will lead to closure within two years.

Dangers in having an evening Mass at Immaculate Conception because of traffic difficulties.

Talking about future generations - few young people present at this meeting.
Mention made of some young people being on holiday and the meeting coincides with bed times of young children prohibiting parent’s attending.

Look at this as an opportunity.   Young people want to be involved.   Need to allow them to develop their own service and participate more fully.

Will the minutes be published.
FD Yes and communicated as widely as possible.

Are we going to have a second parish meeting?
FD Yes, this is an ongoing process.

Father Daniel concluded the meeting with a prayer.