Christmas spirit was in short supply yesterday as Catholics in Preston celebrated the birth of Jesus still smarting from the shock closure of two popular churches.
Many worshippers from St Ignatius and St Augustine’s continued their boycott of the newly-formed Parish of Pope St John XXIII in protest at being made “homeless.”
And the anger directed at the diocesan hierarchy for their “crazy” restructuring of the church in inner-city Preston showed no sign of abating despite the season of peace and goodwill to all.
“None of us can comprehend the thinking behind it, other than money,” said Margaret Nelson, who admitted to having a tear in her eye when she passed St Ignatius on her way to Mass at another church outside the parish.
“Our congregation and those at St Augustine’s have all been split up now. The intention was that we would merge with English Martyrs, but most won’t go there. They are either trying other churches elsewhere, or not going to Mass at all. There has been no logic or common sense shown here. Feelings are running very high, although most people daren’t say anything after one man from St Augustine’s was threatened with legal action for speaking out recently.”
The closure of St Ignatius comes just three years after the Diocese of Lancaster moved Mass for a thriving Polish community from the church and relocated it to St Maria Goretti Church in Ribbleton.
“It’s had a big impact. There are a lot of people missing from the congregation now we are out in the sticks,” said a spokesperson for the community.
“We had up to 300 at Mass at St Ignatius, but now that’s down to under 200. We submitted a 350-name petition to the Bishop, but it achieved nothing. It was crazy to shut St Ignatius. It was central and easy to get to. We have been arguing until we are blue in the face, but it does no good.
“I gather that English Martyrs have only gained about 20 and about 10 have gone to St Joseph’s. So where have the rest of the 130 or 140 St Ignatius congregation gone?”
Campaigner Moira Cardwell added: “It hasn’t been a very happy Christmas and we won’t give up trying to get this decision reversed.”