Letter from Fr. John and Fr. Bernard- 4th June 2020

Dear Parishioners of St Jerome’s and St Anne’s


This letter summarizes the information we have at this present moment concerning the potential for reopening Catholic Churches for private prayer in Formby and is a request for volunteers

The staged approach and Archbishop’s Permission

We are currently waiting for an announcement from the government and the Bishops’ Conference that the reopening of churches for private prayer is allowed.  During this waiting period the Archbishops’ Council and the Trustees have been meeting to prepare what we need to do to reopen selected churches. 

There is a staged response as far as church reopening is concerned:

  • Stage 1: the closure of our places of worship (we are at this stage)
  • Stage 2: will be the opening of a small number of churches for private prayer
  • Stage 3: will move us towards liturgical celebrations in the presence of small numbers, there may well be several other stages.

This letter is in preparation for stage 2, ‘a reopening of selected churches for private prayer’.

The Archbishop has set in place a clear procedure for this to happen. Only a small number of churches will be initially permitted to open.  The Archbishop will issue a document of permission indicating which churches can open and at what times. No other churches may be opened for any reason other than those so decreed.

Catholic Churches in Formby

Fr Bernard and Fr John have decided that in the Formby area, ONLY one church will reopen in stage 2 due to the number of volunteers required to safely manage and clean a church continuously when a church is open for private prayer.

They have decided the church to propose opening to the Archbishop is Our Lady Of Compassion for the following reasons:

  • The church is in the centre of Formby; it is the best located for access
  • The church is usually open during the day
  • The church is the largest of the Catholic Churches in Formby and for the same number of volunteers there can be more capacity in the church for private prayer

Volunteer Teams

For the time the church is open for private prayer there needs to be a volunteer team comprising of 5 people; which are 4 ushers (1 each on the entry and exit with 2 inside the church to guide/manage people in church and around the single direction circuit), and 1 cleaner to sanitise the church before and after the set opening/closing times as well as the seat after each person leaves and before the next uses the seat to pray) – (the cleaner will use PPE).  Volunteers must be below the age of 70 years and must not fall into the Government shielded category no matter what age – more information and exemptions at gov.uk/coronavirus. 

The Diocese will provide centrally all that is needed; signage, sanitisation and cleaning equipment, posters and information to use and adapt to circumstances. The central provision will also make available the necessary training for volunteers.

So what next?

  1. Volunteers are required to act as ushers and cleaners.  Please forward your name, number of hours you can commit to volunteering per week and the days and times you are available to parish offices via email.  If you can form a team please forward the names of all team members.  
  2. From the individual names, teams will be formed.  Each team will be responsible for a specific day & time slot.
  3. Once the number of teams is known the hours that the church can be opened safely can be determined  
  4. Initially, as a pilot it is thought that the aim should be that the church should open around lunch time on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  (The volunteering list and opening hours will form the basis of the request for reopening.)
  5. Training will be provided and must be attended by all volunteers – it is hoped that this will be on-line training
  6. A risk assessment will be carried out when the criteria is known.  

Once all the Formby information is collated Fr Bernard and Fr John will review it. They will then make a final decision if the information pack conforms to the archdiocesan safety criteria, has merit and will be forwarded to the Dean for inclusion in the Pastoral Area’s submission.  The Archbishop will then decide if he will issue a document of permission for Our Lady Of Compassion church to reopen in stage 2.

When we know more, we will communicate the information and any detailed guidance notes.

Thank you for your support.

From Fr Bernard and Fr John