Protest over mergers could affect new Catholic parish

Last Mass at St Ignatius
Last Mass at St Ignatius
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Worshippers are threatening to turn their backs on a new Catholic parish in Preston in protest at the controversial closure of two well-attended churches.

Regulars at both St Ignatius and St Augustine’s were in tears after Mass was said for the final time on Sunday.

But a Diocese request for the two congregations to switch to either English Martyrs or St Joseph’s as part of a merger into the new Parish of Pope John XXIII could fall on stony ground.

“I can’t see many people from here making the trip to English Martyrs at the weekend,” said church secretary Moira Cardwell, who is leading a campaign against the closure of historic St Ignatius.

And Ralph Cooper, a regular at St Augustine’s where worship has continued in a nearby school hall since demolition of the church building 30 years ago, predicts a similar boycott.

He said: “Over half will not be going to either of those two services.

“They will either stop going to church altogether, or find somewhere else.”

The final Masses were said to be “sad” occasions at both churches on Sunday.

At St Ignatius, the usual 140-strong congregation was swelled to almost double that.

“The turnout was absolutely wonderful and something the Diocese ought to ponder on,” said Mrs Cardwell.

“Lots of people who realised this could be the final Mass at St Ig’s after 178 years came along and the church was packed.

“Everyone was very sad and emotional, but they raised the roof with the hymns.

“There were some old people who have never known another church – one woman who was baptized there was distraught after 88 years of worship.

“We haven’t given up on keeping the place open, although the Doicese says it won’t be holding services there again.

“The mood is for us to carry on fighting and, hopefully, we kind find a way of persuading the powers that be to have a rethink. This church is very popular and is in great condition. It is full of history and there is no reason to shut it down.”