Shocked parishioners have reacted angrily to news that their historic city centre church is to close.
Worshippers at St Ignatius’ RC in Preston were stunned when plans to shut the 180-year-old Grade II Listed building in a month were announced from the pulpit.
In future members of the congregation will have travel to their sister church English Martyrs in Garstang Road.
“It’s disgusting,” said one elderly regular who has been worshipping at St Ignatius for more than half a century and has even written to the Pope for help. “We are being swallowed up by English Martyrs. But the majority of us won’t be going there.”
The diocese has decided to shut St Ignatius’ and merge congregations with English Martyrs because of a shortage of priests. The two churches were paired in 2011 to form one parish, although “St Ig’s” as it is known locally, has continued to attract around 130 people to its Sunday morning Mass. It was during the latest service that the congregation heard the closure news.
“There had been rumours for a while, but it was still a shock to hear it confirmed,” said the parishioner who asked not to be named.
“As soon as we were told I was so angry I stood up in the aisle and shouted: ‘This is disgraceful.’ It is awful news because many of the older worshippers here are just not able to get down to English Martyrs, even if they wanted to.
“So they just won’t have anywhere to go. It’s terrible that after a lifetime supporting St Ig’s the Catholic Church is turning its back on them.”
Congregation members have now launched a petition calling on the Bishop of Lancaster to rethink the closure plan which is due to come into force at the end of November.
In a statement Bishop Michael Campbell said it was a “bold” decision which he hoped would help to create a new parish community. “I know it will not be easy at first and there will be some sorrow in this decision, but I’m relying on the goodwill, sacrifice and co-operation of everyone in the parish to make the new arrangement work.”