Benedictine monks have formally handed over a Bamber Bridge church to the Diocese of Salford, bringing the curtain down on more than 300 years of service in Central Lancashire.
New diocesan parish priest Fr Mark Harold was inducted at St Mary’s Brownedge RC Church by Bishop John Arnold in a service attended by a number of previous incumbents from the Benedictine Order at Ampleforth Abbey.
The Mass signalled a new chapter in the history of the parish which was founded by the monks in 1780.
A spokesman for St Mary’s said: “It was a day of mixed emotions. Sadness at bidding farewell to the Ampleforth Benedictines who have served the parish since its founding, but who have been active in the area as far back as circa 1690. And a sense of looking forward to the future.”
Fr Frank, who has now taken up his post in Bamber Bridge, has returned to the Salford Diocese after eight years in Rome as pastoral director and vice-rector of the Venerable English College.
The Benedictines announced in May that they were planning to pull out of the area due to staffing problems. The Order has suffered a major decline in numbers and held crisis talks earlier this year to discuss how to run its 13 abbeys as well as providing priests for parishes like St Mary’s.
“Withdrawing from the parish has not been an easy decision for the monastic community,” said the Abbott of Ampleforth.
St Mary’s has been without a parish priest since August 31 when Fr George Corrie left to take up a new appointment. It was administered by Fr Colin Battell, assisted by Fr Bernard McInulty. Fr Colin will remain as assistant priest for at least 12 months to help with continuity.