THE future of Hartlepool’s Catholic churches is still uncertain following mixed responses to proposals made by the diocese.
As previously reported by the Mail, due to a combination of financial difficulties, fewer people attending and less clergy being ordained, some of the town’s churches could be reorganised or even closed.
The responses to the proposals will be given to The Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle Diocese, the Right Reverend Seamus Cunningham, who organised the review back in March.
Father Adrian Tuckwell, of St Patrick’s and St Teresa’s churches, in Owton Manor, said: “Over the last few months we have tried to assure people that while we await response from the Bishop, no major changes will be made until the needs of the community are sure to be met.
“Following proposals being made available to the public, we have received numerous positive responses which we are going to pass on to the Bishop next.”
Fr Tuckwell stressed that the churches are not going to close over Christmas and wants to make it clear that there is no definite outcome already established.
He added: “Whatever happens, we will work together with the Catholic community and we will make sure the fewest amount of people are inconvenienced.”
The two consultation papers received 850 responses from the public and the responses were mixed.
The most popular proposal was relating to the youth work which the churches did with the local community.
He added: “The proposal relating to buildings closing was the least popular option for those who responded.
“When you’re talking about closing churches, you have to take into account that some people have a lifetime of experiences with communities and churches. It is a difficult decision.
“The process is a long one, and could well go on for much longer, as the first response from the Bishop is not due until the beginning of the new year.
“Nobody in Hartlepool can make any of the decisions, and the fate of the churches are within the hands of the Bishop.”
Hartlepool’s seven Catholic churches are St Mary’s, on the Headland, St Thomas More, in Easington Road, St John Vianney, at West View, St Cuthbert’s, in Stockton Road, St Josephs’s, in the town centre, and St Patrick’s and St Teresa’s at Owton Manor.