During the course of four meetings, two in each parish, parishioners were acquainted with the contents of the diocesan document circulated to all parishes on the 13th June 2019 by Bishop Patrick. At the initial meetings, following a general invitation to all parishioners but specifically requesting the attendance of Parish Councillors, Finance Committee members, Headteachers, Catechists and all playing an active role in the day-to-day activities of the parishes, the matters pertaining to each parish were discussed in full with the questions and answers occasionally drifting beyond the remit of the meetings. These initial meetings were very well attended an those present were asked to discuss the matters with parishioners who were not in attend and to come back to the following meeting with any additional thoughts, concerns and suggestions not discussed at the initial meetings.
What follows is a summary of the two consultations in the two parishes plus a brief outline of additional opinions expressed verbally and emails sent to me.
St Mary’s, Marple Bridge & The Annunciation, New Mills
Whilst the parish was made aware in general terms of all the planning document contained, they were asked to concentrate their deliberations on the single topic of proposed pastoral area of New Mills, Marple Bridge and Broadbottom.
- The Parish would warmly welcome a merge with Broadbottom and looks forward to working with new ideas, new opportunities and new gifts and talents.
- The model of three churches within one Parish works well and benefits all churches (based on the previous amalgamation of Marple Bridge and New Mills); perhaps the Parish could have a Marian title, representative of all three churches.
- That each of the three churches has an elected church committee, identifiable by photos at the back of church, each person serving for five years, after which time they are up for re-election.
A number of other suggestions were made but their relevance to what is essentially initial planning brings their relevance at this time into some doubt. They would probably be better addressed by the Parish Priest and his committees nearer the time when any amalgamation is has been announced and the facts are known.
Ss. John Fisher & Thomas More, Chapel-en-le-Frith (including Tideswell)
The parish had two questions to consider:
- The disposal of The Immaculate Heart of Mary church in Tideswell, and
- Begin the process of Buxton serving Chapel
Both matters had been anticipated for some years by the parish and whilst not welcomed, the necessity of the proposals was accepted.
I was not present for much of the second meeting which was very poorly attended so as to allow full discussion. The submitted conclusions submitted are diametrically opposed to two previous meeting which were well attended. I promised that their conclusions would be submitted. Two attendees have since have since approached me to say they felt pressured into accepting the conclusions.
Concerning the disposal of The Immaculate Heart of Mary at Tideswell
I will be in contact with the curial offices in Nottingham to establish what procedures need to be followed and so set them in motion.
The last meeting held … unanimous suggested that disposal should include ...
• a covenant to maintain the cemetery;
• they would prefer to sell to a buyer who wishes to maintain the Christian character of the building; and
• If issues with cemetery can be overcome and no buyer who will maintain the Christian character is forthcoming that the proceeds of the sale be primarily used to assist with evangelisation but with substantial portion for the benefit of St John Fisher and St Thomas More Chapel-en-le frith
Following conversations in the parish, I received an email from a parishioner (prior to the final meeting) who for some years has been looking after the church at Tideswell and has accomplished much in maintaining the church and grounds to a very high standard at his own expense even though the Blessed Sacrament has not been reserved there for some time.
He is a relatively young, a devout man who contributes much to the life of the parish and I promised to put his proposals forward even though I have a number of strong reservations concerning their being implemented.
“I spoke with Deacon Don after mass yesterday who mentioned sadly (but unsurprisingly) that Tideswell Church is likely to be closed/sold during the diocese restructuring.
I was just wondering if there might be any opportunity to keep the church open as a Catholic place of worship - Is there any mechanism to sell the building privately, but for it to remain as a catholic chapel/oratory?
If so, depending on cost, relevant cannon laws etc. I'd be interested in exploring the possibility of buying the church and subsequently maintaining it. The purpose would for it remain as a church and any covenants required to ensure this would of course be fine.”
The amalgamation with St Anne’s Buxton
The unanimous decision of the final meeting (at which only four parishioners were present) was to join with Buxton on the basis of a two council model. They continued …
- We wish to maintain the unique identity of the Eucharistic community in the parish of SS John Fisher and Thomas More. This we feel would be best achieved on a two-council model (possibly on a 2 church committees and an overarching council with equitable representation from each community);
- If only one mass is available at SS John Fisher and Thomas More, that it be a Sunday mass at a time when children can have their own liturgy;
- We can organise our own affairs; and
- That, the name of the Church in Chapel-en-le-Frith to be retained.
The parish is as prepared as it ever will be for amalgamation with Buxton. It is an event long anticipated but not desired.
I will commence preparatory discussions with Fr. Gerry Murphy at Buxton and await further instructions.
Fr. John K Gradwell