A CHURCH is to close as part of a radical overhaul of Catholic parishes in Hartlepool.
St Teresa’s Church, in Braemar Road, will close on Sunday, July 26 next year.
And the future of St Mary’s, in Durham Street, on the Headland, looks uncertain while church chiefs weigh up the state of the building against the cost to restore it.
A host of other changes are planned for the town’s seven Catholic parishes, including cuts to the number of vigil masses.
Under the changes, from the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, all seven parishes in the town will become amalgamated to form one new parish.
St Cuthbert’s Church, in Stockton Road, has been saved from closure, but its associated buildings will close, and it will go down to one mass on a Sunday, losing its vigil mass.
St Thomas More’s Church, in Easington Road, will not close, but will lose a vigil mass, going down to one on a Sunday.
St Joseph’s Church, in St Paul’s Road, will provide a vigil mass to make up for the lost vigils.
The proposals are part of a new vision for the Catholic Church in Hartlepool in response to rising building costs, fewer parishioners and less priests.
The new parish would be created at the end of March or beginning of April next year.
The vigil mass changes would come into effect from Saturday, November 29.
The plans come after two years of consultation and were announced by Bishop Seamus Cunningham at a meeting at English Martyrs School earlier this month.
The Bishop said: “I have given a great deal of time and prayer to discern what I consider to be the best way forward at this time.
“We also need to bear in mind that a new three-year process has just begun in the diocese as we move forward together in hope and so all of us may find ourselves facing further changes in the future.”
He announced the changes, saying: “St Teresa’s, sad as it is, should close and I am informed by the subgroup that this is probably of no surprise.
“This has been on the cards for a long time.”
He said the suggestion of closing St Cuthbert’s as well as its buildings is “too much”.
The Bishop added: “I have a real problem with St Mary’s, on the Headland, due to the material condition of the building and the prohibitive cost to restore it.
“In all good conscience the diocese cannot be justified to spend vast amounts of money on churches that would leave a parish community crippled with debt.
“There are talks being held with English Heritage who are due to call out to the church to look at the site, but here no promises can be made.”
He stressed “that even if a church should close, the pastoral and spiritual care will be maintained”.
He also spoke of “a greater emphasis on the importance of spiritual formation — clergy and laity praying together and being formed together.
“A greater emphasis on the role of the lay people in the church encouraging them to accept more responsibility, to be more aware of their baptismal calling.”
A letter from the four current parish priests has been sent to Catholic parishioners, stating their intention to ensure everyone affected by the changes is listened to and given help in overcoming any difficulties they may face.