St Mary’s, Fernyhalgh and the Ladyewell Shrine will be run by two priests from the Institute of the Holy Family Fathers and Brothers of the Youth

The Diocese of Lancaster’s official shrine is to be taken over by priests from a recently-established Nigerian religious order.

Bishop Michael Campbell announced yesterday that St Mary’s, Fernyhalgh and the Ladyewell Shrine would be run by two young priests from the Institute of the Holy Family Fathers and Brothers of the Youth, which was founded in Nigeria in 2002.

Devotion to Our Lady of Fernyhalgh dates to the 11th century and the shrine also houses relics of St Thomas Becket. It faced an uncertain future after the retirement of parish priest and shrine director Fr Tom Hoole was announced recently.

Bishop Campbell said: “Thankfully, my decision to ask the Institute of the Holy Family Fathers and Brothers of the Youth to assist us here in the Diocese means St Mary’s, Fernyhalgh and Ladyewell Shrine is secured and safeguarded for the future.”

Bishop Campbell added that the parish and shrine will remain open daily for prayer and to receive pilgrims. The shrine is located four miles from Preston and is also frequented by Anglican and Orthodox pilgrims.

A diocesan spokesman said: “The Bishop has again ‘looked to the peripheries’ and found a new, vibrant and skilled religious community to ensure the future sustainability and patrimony of St Mary’s Fernyhalgh and Ladyewell Shrine; so precious to local Catholics, the wider Diocese and to the pilgrims from other parts of the UK.”

In January this year, another church in the Diocese of Lancaster, St Ignatius Church in Preston, was taken over by the Syro-Malabar Catholic community after it was closed for two months due to a shortage of priests.