Archbishop Patrick Kelly inaugurated two new Catholic parishes in Leigh, Greater Manchester, on Thursday 8th September. The celebration at St Joseph’s church, Leigh was attended by some 350 worshippers from all nine previous parishes in the Leigh Pastoral Area, covering the townships of Leigh, Atherton, Hindsford, Tyldesley, Astley and Boothstown, who came to celebrate this forward-looking re-organisation of the local Catholic 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 7.30 pm 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 ten 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 commented 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.
Father Stephen Cooper, the Pastoral Area Leader said: “This is a 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.”
The new parish of St Edmund Arrowsmith covers the whole town of Leigh and incorporates the church communities of Our Lady of the Rosary, Sacred Heart (Leigh), St Joseph’s, and Twelve Apostles. The new parish of St Margaret Clitherow covers the church communities of St Ambrose Barlow (Astley), St Gabriel’s (Higher Folds), Holy Family (Boothstown), St Richard’s (Atherton) and Sacred Heart (Hindsford).
The four joint parish priests of the area, who form the Leigh Pastoral Area Team, are: Father Paul Seddon (based at St Richard’s), Father James Preston (based at Sacred Heart, Leigh), Father Dave Heywood (based at Holy Family) and Father Stephen Cooper (based at St. Joseph’s).
Pictures courtesy of Kaylie Wibberley.