Archbishop Patrick Kelly of Liverpool inaugurated two new parishes in Leigh, Greater Manchester, on Thursday, September 8.
The celebration at St Joseph’s church, Leigh, was attended by some 350 worshippers from all nine previous Catholic parishes in the Leigh Pastoral Area, covering the townships of Leigh, Atherton, Hindsford, Tyldesley, Astley and Boothstow. Worshippers came to celebrate this re-organisation of the local Church structure.
Young people from St Mary’s Catholic High School, Astley, and all eight Catholic primary schools in the area, had active roles in the celebration.
During the 7.30pm Mass the Archbishop presented the canonical decree that establishes the new parishes of St Edmund Arrowsmith and St Margaret Clitherow and handed over the new parish registers and parish seals to representatives of the new parishes.
All the parishes in the Leigh Pastoral Area have been working together for the last 10 years to establish the best way forward in the light of fewer priests, ageing congregations, population movements and increasingly expensive building costs. Priests and people together decided the best option was to reform into two parishes, sharing resources on a wider basis so as to be more effective and to ease the administrative burden on the four priests who minister in the area.
The archbishop said in his homily that he felt certain that other Catholic parishes would watch, learn and benefit from the work done by the Leigh parishes in planning and agreeing on the new, larger parish structure for the future.
Fr Stephen Cooper, the pastoral area leader, said: “This is an historic moment in the life of the Catholic Church within this area, marking the biggest change for many years.
“The Church’s charitable work in the area should be strengthened by the move. Schools will not be affected.”