AROUND 200 followers flocked to a meeting to discuss the future of the Roman Catholic Church in Hartlepool.
Some of the town’s seven Catholic churches could close because of high running costs and a lack of new priests, as revealed in the Mail last week.
A meeting to kick-start a consultation with Hartlepool’s Catholic followers was well attended at English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College.
Father Adrian Tuckwell, of the Owton Manor’s St Patrick’s and St Teresa’s churches, said: “It was a good meeting and about 200 people came along.
“All sorts of concerns were raised by people around declining numbers attending mass and declining involvement in community life.
“Obviously there were concerns about whether churches will close.
“Concerns about the situation were expressed, but as we looked at the current reality with people, there was a greater understanding of the situation, and I think a recognition that we need to move towards some changes.
“That was really the idea of the meeting, to present information and listen to what they felt about it by working in small groups.”
In Hartlepool there are currently seven Roman Catholic churches.
As well as St Patrick’s and St Teresa’s, there is St Mary’s, on the Headland, St Thomas More, in Easington Road, St John Vianney, at West View, St Cuthbert’s, in Stockton Road, and St Joseph’s, close to the town centre.
Father Adrian said the Church needs to come up with a new vision for how it serves its followers in response to fewer new priests coming forward to replace the older generation.
Rising maintenance costs have also forced the church to consider how it operates in the future.
The proposals will be subject to further consultation, when parishioners will be able to put their views in writing.
The review was requested by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, the Right Reverend Seamus Cunningham, to present him with a new co-ordinated vision for Hartlepool by the end of May before consulting with the Diocesan Episcopal Council.