Fr John’s Letter – Church Openings

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

The cautious reopening of churches

In the last few days, the Prime Minister announced that he was permitting the resumption of acts of worship with a reduced number of people. The Archbishops of England and Wales welcomed this news and addressed the Catholic community. They authorised the resumption of public Masses from July 6th, whilst laying out a comprehensive list of requirements for each church building. They made it clear that this represents a cautious return to worship, whilst also keeping an eye on the infection rate in the country. They also acknowledged that some churches would be unable to open at the moment because of the strict requirements.

Our first duty is to thank God that the long Eucharistic fast is beginning to come to an end. There is finally light at the end of the tunnel. My principal concern is to manage our expectations carefully and to move forward slowly. I think all of us would expect that. 

So what happens now? Archbishop Malcolm has issued his own guidelines for our diocese. Churches in the Archdiocese are authorised to open for Mass from July 6th, but it is clear that only those churches already open for personal prayer will meet this deadline.

Here in Formby we have three churches. The Archbishop has asked that in those situations where a priest is responsible for two churches, that he should only open one of them for the time being. This makes sense, since the effort required to prepare each church is very considerable. 

Father Bernard and I have spoken about the best way forward and then consulted with the Dean. We have agreed that this is how we will move forward.

Our Lady’s and St Jerome’s will reopen for public Masses on the weekend of 25th/26th July. By that time, Father Bernard will be moving out of his shielding period and will be able to celebrate public Masses again. We wanted to move forward together. St.Anne’s will remain closed for the time being. Both churches have been closed for over three months and will need cleaning and preparation. We then have a long list of requirements to meet, a risk assessment to complete and a final approval from the Dean to open. 

We have a lot of work to get through in the next four weeks. I am confident that we can do it. In the next couple of weeks, I shall be laying out the arrangements for Masses and the requirements for those attending. There is also the question of how we decide who is able to attend, since we will be able to cater for fewer people. But this has yet to be worked out.

We will also need volunteers to help with stewarding duties when the time comes. More of that in due course. For now, I would like to invite us all to pray that the preparations can be completed smoothly, so that we can return to Mass safely.

I know that there will be many questions in our minds about what will happen. This is all we know for now. Over the next couple of weeks, things will become clearer. Until then, watch this space and I will let you know as soon as we learn more.

God bless you all.

Father John