AN historic Preston church has been saved - but only for Indian Catholics.
Grade II listed St Ignatius’ RC has been closed since December 2 because of a shortage of priests, and stunned worshippers have been asked to travel to their sister church English Martyrs in Garstang Road.
Now the Bishop and Lancaster has announced a deal for the building has been struck following a request from Indian Cardinal for a church and presbytery in Preston.
An statement from the Diocese said: “On 31 December 2014, Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster, was delighted to receive a letter from the Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry requesting a church and presbytery in
Preston for the particular and exclusive use of the Syro-Malabar Catholic community and under the charge of his appointed priest Father Mathew Jacob Choorapoikayil.
“Bishop Campbell has subsequently indicated that he – together with local Parish Priest Canon Anthony Walsh - would be pleased, in principle, to offer St Ignatius church and presbytery, Preston for this purpose and the Cardinal Major Archbishop has subsequently accepted.
“News of this development builds upon the close collaborative work of the Diocese and Syro-Malabar priests and people over the last decade.”
The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has now more than four million members worldwide and traces its origin to St Thomas the Apostle, who is said to have reached the shore of Kerala in 52AD.
The Syro-Malabar chaplaincy in the Diocese of Lancaster originated in 2004, at the invitation of Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, and has until this point relied on various Catholic parishes in Preston and further afield, to host their liturgies, social gatherings, meetings and prayer services.
Currently there are 107 Syro-Malabar young families involved in the Syro-Malabar community in Preston, 92 youngsters attend regular Sunday school catechist classes. There were 12 First Communions in 2014 and 10 Confirmations in 2013. Recently eight family units have been formed as basic Christian communities to support prayer and faith formation in the family.
The statement continues: “Bishop Campbell hopes that Catholics of the Diocese of Lancaster in the Preston area will be encouraged and excited by this development. He is thrilled to have been able to save a beautiful and historic church for Catholic worship, pastoral care and evangelization in the city of Preston just as he has for St Walburge’s last year – also in the city of Preston.”