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FEEDBACK ON THE FIRST FORMAL PROPOSAL FOR THE RENEWAL AND RESTRUCTURING OF OUR DIOCESE FROM ENGLISH MARTYRS DANBURY AND HOLY TRINITY SOUTH WOOODHAM FERRERS.


The following is based on 3 Parish Meetings, where there was a presentation followed by discussion. Additional discussion took place with small groups and individuals and the opportunity was provided to respond by email. In all 50 parishioners responded out of 300 regular Mass attenders.

Overall the key conclusion was that such a document is entirely necessary bearing in mind the reality of the dwindling supply of priests and the need to plan for a future that reflects this, at the same time we need to do it in such a way as to promote our Faith, not only with the existing Catholic Community but also to reach out beyond.


One parishioner wondered if a similar exercise was being carried out in all the Diocese of England and Wales. Are there a similar shortage of priests elsewhere in the country and if there is a surplus elsewhere can they be moved to where there is a need?

Within the parameters of our Catholic Faith, parishioners felt that it made the best of a difficult situation.


Renewal:

What is going to be feasible as far as Services are concerned if the priest is not available? In Danbury our experience of Eucharistic Services and laity led Stations of the Cross and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament has been good.


It is realised that as the Parish Priests workload increases the Laity are going to have to lead more Services and play a more important part in the organisation of the Parish. The Priest must devote his time to saying Mass, providing the additional Sacramental and pastoral provision that requires a Priest and overseeing the increased lay activities in the whole Parish. There is a need for much more thorough training of the Laity, which could be done through regular short courses in order to deepen our knowledge of our Faith.  Training may also be needed for Priests on how to delegate effectively without abdicating responsibility.


It was also felt that we need to train more Deacons as at present they are able to carry out far more duties than the Eucharistic Ministers. It would be good to see more lay led home groups, which could provide Eucharistic Services, Bible Study, Prayer and Discussion Groups. These could be extended to include other Faith Groups, who share our Christian beliefs. Where possible it would be good to have House Masses, which could include discussion of the days’ readings and socialising at the end of the service.


What part can modern technology play in providing access to Mass every Sunday? The use of streaming should only be Church based except for the house bound. We do not want to end up with a situation where people do not attend Church but stay at home accessing the Mass on their mobile phones. However technology can be useful particularly where a Priest has several Churches to serve over the course of a weekend. Mass could be streamed from one Church to other Mass centres, where Eucharistic Ministers are available to give out Communion.


Parishioners were very concerned about keeping our young people involved. At Primary School the Parish Priest is able to visit regularly and say Mass on a regular basis. The problem arises when they move on to Secondary School. Parish Priests do not have the same access and many teenagers do not attend Catholic Secondary Schools. This could be down to a number of factors: the 11+, peer pressure, distance and cost. If the latter could there not be a central fund to help parents with the cost of travel, particularly if they have large families.


We need to work at preserving our Catholic Ethos in our schools particularly if we are only allowed to take 50% Catholics. We need to recruit more Catholic teachers and compromises should not be made for other Faiths and non Church goers at the expense of our Catholic values.  After all parents are choosing to send their children to Catholic schools and must understand that they would be expected to attend Catholic Services and R.E. lessons.


We need to hold more Youth Masses in order that we keep our children interested in their Faith and hold discussion groups where they can air their views without ridicule. Social events like Catholic Youth clubs might also help to keep them on board.


Some Parishioners were concerned about finances. If spare Presbyteries are sold, who does the money go to the Parish or the Diocese? When our Parish is made up of 4 Churches what will happen to the weekly collection? Will an individual Church have any control over its parishioners’ donations or will it just go into one big pot?


Reorganisation:

The main concern here was the size of the area that one priest had to cover, particularly when you consider that the Dengie is a rural area. Roads are not wide,they bend a lot, they are not direct as they have to make their way around estuaries and inlets, so increasing the mileage and there is no lighting. What happens in winter when there is snow, ice and fog on the lanes.  Maybe this is another situation where technology could help.


All four centres are facing a large amount of house building, which is likely to impact on the size of our congregations. All four Churches are relatively small. How are we going to safely accommodate more people particularly at the major festivals of Christmas and Easter. In the Danbury Mass centre for example we already have regular Mass attendance at Easter in excess of 300 and a church that holds less than 200 at a single service.


 The proposed Hammonds Farm garden village development will also add 5000 new homes and double the population of the catchment area by 2035 further exacerbating the problem.  This will either need more Priests at such a time or a much larger church.  Is it worth looking at the possibility on these occasions of using larger Churches currently owned by other denominations such as St John’s in Danbury.


With only one priest for 4 Churches what happens if a priest is taken ill or goes on holiday? Is it possible to organise cover on a Deanery basis?


At the end of the report it is suggested that Kelvedon and Witham would be put with the 4 Dengie Churches in a Parish Group. Would that mean that beyond 2025 one priest would have to serve 6 Churches?  Or what else does the Parish Group mean?


Many parishioners feel that in view of the shortage of priests that this could be resolved if the Church were to sanction women priests and if men were allowed to marry, this might attract more men to the priesthood.


Pauline Spratt.

Steward of the Gospel.

Stewards of  the Gospel

Feed back on First Formal Proposal