Pressures facing Catholic church

SOME Catholic churches in Hartlepool could close as the church decides how to deal with pressures facing it.

Rising maintenance costs and fewer priests being ordained has prompted the Catholic church in Hartlepool to carry out a wide-ranging review of how they operate.

An initial meeting to look at the challenges and give Roman Catholics a chance to have their say has been called for tomorrow.

The review has been requested by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, the Right Reverend Seamus Cunningham.

Hartlepool currently has seven Roman Catholic churches.

Father Adrian Tuckwell, of St Patrick’s and St Teresa’s churches, both in Owton Manor, Hartlepool, said: “Like a lot of organisations the Catholic church is facing challenging times.

“We have been aware that change is coming to the church in Hartlepool, and this is about preparing for those changes.

“There probably will be less priests in town in the next few years which really does look at how we organise our parishes.

“There will be organisational changes, but we are not sure yet what they will be.

“It is a possibility that some churches may close, but no decisions have been made yet.

“It’s important that people make known their views and those will be collated and a new vision prepared which may mean that all the churches can stay open.

“The whole thing is about looking towards a more positive renewed church but there may be some changes which may be difficult for some people to grasp at first.”

All of Hartlepool’s Roman Catholics are encouraged to attend tomorrow’s three-hour meeting in the Sixth Form Building at English Martyrs School, Catcote Road, starting at 10am.

It will look at how the church can best serve the community and what shape and presence it should have in town.

Parishioners may get to take on more responsibility and have a greater say in their church under the new vision, added Fr Tuckwell.

Bishop Cunningham has been invited to address the gathering which is being run by professional independent facilitators.

Opinions from the meeting will be reviewed by a 14-strong working party and followed by a further round of written consultation in parishes next month.

The aim is to present a co-ordinated vision to Bishop Cunningham at the end of May, who will then consult the Diocesan Episcopal Council later in the year.

Hartlepool’s seven Catholic churches are St Mary’s on the Headland, St Thomas More on Easington Road, St John Vianney at West View, St Cuthbert’s in Stockton Road, St Joseph’s in the town centre, and St Patrick’s and St Teresa’s at Owton Manor.