Fr John’s letter – 9th September 2020

Dear Parishioners of Our Ladys, St Anne’s and St Jerome’s,

As I write this letter to you, it has just been announced that the number of people allowed to meet indoors is to be reduced from 30 to 6. This represents a dramatic drop. Weddings and funerals are exempted and I presume the celebration of Mass also. However, it is clear that the infection rate and the death rate are climbing again. We are moving towards the winter. I think we all realise that a potentially difficult time lies ahead.

I am apprehensive about what this might mean for public Masses in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we need to look carefully again at the number of people we are permitted to accommodate safely in our churches. This number has been growing recently and some of you have been turned away. This is very difficult and cuts totally against the grain for us. However, safety is paramount, especially in an older community. Therefore we have to be stringent about the numbers we allow into church at any one time. I will keep you all informed of developments as they happen.

In my last letter, I spoke of my intention to improve communication across our Catholic community. Since then, we have been pulling together some new solutions. Here they are;

From this weekend, all Sunday Masses and all Requiem Masses will be live streamed from Our Lady’s and St Jerome’s. Details of how to access the live streaming will follow this letter. 

From this weekend, a new website will be launched for the Formby Catholic community. Presently we have a website for St Jerome’s and St Anne’s and a website for Our Ladys. When you access these websites, you will be redirected to the new website. Eventually, the old websites will go.
Again, details of how to access the new website will follow this letter.

From this weekend, we are producing a new printed newsletter. It will look different to previous parish newsletters which published details of meetings and events which are no longer happening. This newsletter will carry simple news items and information. It is primarily intended for those who cannot access the internet. Perhaps you would be good enough to post one through the door of those who need it? The newsletters will be available to you as you leave church. 

The Formby Catholic Community Facebook page is also up and running for those of you who use social media. The St Jerome’s Facebook page will be taken down soon.

All these initiatives, whilst effective in their own way, cannot replace phone calls and conversations. In large part, we are a well connected community. Perhaps we can consider spreading church news in our conversations. It is a good way of covering all the bases. 

Just to say a big ‘thank you’ to all who have been working behind the scenes to improve our communication outreach. Your efforts are much appreciated by us all.

In the meantime, keep safe and well!

God bless you all,

Father John


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

Foodbank:- With the return to church and a relaxing of the lockdown the Foodbank has seen a drop off in donations. Unfortunately donations cannot be taken at the church but thankfully donations can still be dropped off at Alice and Paddy Joyce’s home at 35 Freshfield Road, but they need to be there before 1pm on a Friday. The Foodbank is always in need of the usual things that you give but also toiletries, jams and spreads for sliced bread would be greatly appreciated. Donations can also be left at Waitrose , Tesco and the One Stop shop opposite the Cross House pub.

Men’s Society:- There is a men’s society meeting at the St Jerome’s parish centre this Wednesday 2nd September at 9pm.

Line Dancing:- Line dancing begins again this Thursday 3rd September at St Jerome’s parish centre, please contact the organisers of this event if you are wanting to attend.

Finally can we all continue to remember and pray for the sick members of our community and for all who at this time are unable to get out of their homes

Thank you and God Bless

Fr John’s Letter – 25/8/20

Dear Parishioners of Our Lady’s, St Anne’s and St Jerome’s.
In the weeks since some of our churches reopened for the public celebration of Mass, we have been confronted with a new reality; contact tracing, limited numbers, face coverings and no singing. It is a very difficult and challenging situation for us all. There have been many questions, not all of which have an answer. So I thought that now might be a good time to condense all the questions that have been raised and attempt to offer an answer, or at least some guidance. It might be more helpful in a question and answer format.
The celebration of Mass is very strange now. There is little social contact between us and the church seems empty and strangely quiet. When will we get back to normal?
We all watch or read the news. There is little comfort at the moment; infection rates are climbing again across Europe, a timeline for a vaccine seems to be slipping further away and the head of the World Health Authority has indicated that the pandemic will persist for at least another two years. We will all have our own opinion about the pandemic, but the indications are that we have a long way to go. Sadly, I think that the way we now celebrate Mass is not a temporary blip, but the new normal.
So many people have been involved in the liturgical life of our churches; readers, extraordinary ministers, singers, children’s liturgy, funeral ministers. When can we all get back to doing what we did previously?
Across all our churches, we have been richly blessed with many people who generously give of their time to serve the community in the celebration of the liturgy. These ministries are not optional extras, but are essential to create a welcoming atmosphere and to ensure that our parish Masses are celebrated worthily and well. It is here that the tragedy of this pandemic has struck deeply. Our parish Masses have been stripped back to the bare minimum to ensure social distancing and a safe environment. The two deacons who have now been appointed to serve all three parishes in Formby have taken responsibility for the simple preparation of all the liturgies, but even they are not able to fulfil their ordained ministry at the present time. The priest must remain alone in the sanctuary without servers or deacons. So the simple answer is that I do not know when these ministries can begin again. So much will depend on the course of the pandemic and the official guidance.However, behind the scenes many people are working hard to enable our Masses to be celebrated safely; stewards, cleaners, florists and others involved in electronic outreach. Much of this work is carried out away from the public eye and I want to thank each one of them for their generous service in very difficult circumstances.
Iarrived at church only to be told that the maximum number had been reached and that I could not come in. How can this happen?As I shared with all of you who were at Mass last Sunday, this is the hardest thing of all in this new reality. Each church has a maximum number of worshippers which has been approved by the Archdiocese, which must not be exceeded. Our most recent weekend Masses at Our Lady’s and St Jerome’s have been at the limit. The first guiding principle here is not the right of people to attend Mass, but the right of those who are there to be kept safe. I know this cuts against the grain for us, but this is the reality of our situation. We have seen in recent weeks that the civil authorities will not hesitate to close any public venue that poses a risk to public health. Churches are very vulnerable. So we cannot take any risks that might lead to the closure of our churches. I want to reiterate here what the various authorities of church and state have been saying for some time. If you are feeling unwell, please do not put yourself or others at risk by coming to church. Again, this cuts against the grain for us, but it is of great importance. So please bear with us and to those of you who might be turned away, I am sorry and I hope you will understand why this has happened.On a slightly brighter note, I am happy to tell you all that a new live streaming system is being installed at Our Lady’s and will be up and running within the next two weeks. There is a new system already running at St Jerome’s. All the details will be made known soon.
What about the social life of our parishes? When can we get back together again?I think that all I have written above answers this question. Our getting together is the lifeblood of our parishes and the pandemic has hit us hard. One day, we will be able to get together again. We don’t know when that will be. But the life of the church goes on; our celebration of Mass, our prayer, our outreach to each other. I have resolved to make communication a priority across our Catholic community in this crisis. A new website is being created, our new Facebook page is up and running, our You Tube page is up and running where you can access the live streaming of St Jerome’s Mass on Saturday evenings and shortly the two Sunday Masses at Our Lady’s. I shall also be writing to you all weekly to keep you up to date with what is happening in our community.
I hope that these questions and answers are helpful. This is an exceptionally difficult time for us all, and I suspect that with the approach of the autumn and winter, the challenges will increase. But first and foremost, we are the bearers of the light and joy of Jesus Christ. He is our guide, our friend and our Saviour. If we remain close to him and to each other, we shall not fail.
God bless you all and those whom you love,
Father John

Fr John’s Letter – 6th August 2020

I have taken Fr. John’s letter from Formby Catholic Community Facebook page where you will find all of the new updates, the letter is below. I am sending this out as I realise some of you do not have Facebook nor do some of you want to have Facebook so I hope this helps. For the time being I will also update the parishes’ website.
Also, please note the change of email address for both St. Anne’s and St. Jerome’s, it is
Thank you and God Bless,
Dear Parishioners of Our Lady’s, St Anne’s and St Jerome’s,
This is the first time that I have written to you all since Archbishop Mc Mahon appointed me as Parish Priest of Our Lady’s on July 20th. The sharp eyed among you will notice that I have greeted each parish in the order of the seniority of its foundation. The best way to do it I think!
Now that just one Parish Priest is serving the three parishes of our town, I wanted to create a single means of information for us all, so that there will be as little confusion as possible. We now have a single Facebook page with a new title ‘Formby Catholic Community’. The title speaks for itself and underlines the need for us all to begin working more closely together. I want to thank Siobhan and Karen for previously taking care of the Our Lady’s and St Jerome’s Facebook pages which will now be gradually phased out. I am grateful to Siobhan for agreeing to take the new page forward. Information about how to get in contact and how to share information will appear shortly. I am aware that not everyone is on Facebook and so I am looking at other ways to reach out to as many people as possible electronically. If you have any suggestions about the best way to do this, then please get in touch.
Let me begin by speaking to the parishioners of my new parish of Our Lady’s. Thank you very much for your kind welcome before and after my first Masses last weekend. It was reassuring to see some familiar faces! Although I have been just an occasional visitor to Our Lady’s in the past, I know that the parish has a long and distinguished history, and that the community there is blest with wonderful people. I want to repeat once again my grateful thanks to Father Bernard for his 22 years of dedicated and generous ministry. I am greatly impressed by the beautiful church of Our Lady’s and look forward to ministering there to all of you.
The parishes of St Anne’s and St Jerome’s have been receiving a weekly letter from me since March, sometimes more than weekly. Both parishes are wonderful communities and it has been my joy and privilege to serve both; St Jerome’s for 8 years and St Anne’s for 4 years.
Allow me to say some words to the parishioners of St Anne’s. Thank you for your great patience! You are a wonderful community and I know it has not been easy seeing the other two churches in Formby reopen and St Anne’s remain closed. Parish Priests with more than one church were asked to open just one for the time being. Added to this is the problem we have of being able to accommodate suitable numbers for Mass with COVID restrictions. I am very sensitive to this situation. We must now wait until the Archdiocese gives us further direction. In the meantime, I thank you for your example of patience and forebearance.
What of the future for our three parishes? The pandemic has impacted deeply on parish life. So many familiar things have been taken away from us. We are only now able to gather for Mass again, but even this is a strange and difficult experience. Most experts seem to believe that we are in this for the long haul and the daily news offers little comfort. So our social interaction is likely to be restricted for some time to come. Planning for the future is very difficult. I have been saying for some time that Formby is likely to see three parishes become one at some point in the future. I think that the pandemic is bringing that future to us more quickly than we might have imagined. No one expects that one priest can take care of three parishes, least of all myself! So we can expect to hear more about this in the near future. But for now the summer holidays are keeping everything quiet.
Regardless of what lies ahead, I believe that we are being asked to hold on to, and believe deeply in, the one who always stands at the heart of the Mass and each one of our communities; Jesus. The life and work of each one of our parishes serve him. So let us hold on to him and do our best to take care of each other. I ask for your prayers. But I am greatly encouraged by the wonderful and faithful people of our three parish communities. I ask for your patience in these coming weeks and months and ask you to bear with me as I try my best to serve you well and lead us forward into a very uncertain future.
God bless you all,
Father John

Fr John’s Letter – 1st August 2020

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

I hope that you and all your loved ones are keeping safe and well. Formby finally returned to public Masses last weekend. The numbers were reasonable and I want to thank our volunteers whose generosity has ensured that the Masses can take place.

Since my last letter to you, I have officially taken responsibility for another parish! As I have previously mentioned, Father Bernard has now retired as Parish Priest of Our Lady’s and I have succeeded him. My first public Masses as Parish Priest of Our Lady’s will take place on Sunday. Once again, our prayers and thanks to Father Bernard and best wishes for a happy retirement. 

Now that I have three parishes to care for, this will be my last letter to you in its current form. I shall be looking for a new way of communicating with all three parishes. I see that since the middle of March, when the lockdown began, I have written 34 letters to you! Although we are very much in the middle of the pandemic, a new chapter is beginning. It is not the ideal time to take on a new responsibility, so I ask your prayers that we can all continue this journey in closer union with one another.

Just a reminder of Mass times in our town; Mass at St Jerome’s on Saturday evening at 6.00pm. Mass at Our Lady’s on Sunday morning at 9.00am and 11.00am. There will be a Mass at Our Lady’s on Wednesday at 12 Noon this week. All our Masses are subject to change. Just a glance at what is happening to our near neighbours in Greater Manchester reminds us that the virus is never far away. We must all be careful and vigilant.

Thank you for all you are doing to care for your families and loved ones. In particular, let us remember those who have died and their families and those who are sick. 

I ask especially for your prayers at this time,

God bless you all,

Father John

News Items – 227th July 2020

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

The following message was asked to be given out by Marie Cooper, ‘ Thank you everybody, you sent cards (185), Mass cards (20), flowers, plants but most of all I thank you for everyone’s support to me and the family during Tony’s illness. It was all very much appreciated and so very much the community of St.Jeromes Tony and l have experienced during our years in Formby.’ 
Stuart Henderson has informed us that Joan Moore has died aged 86 after a long illness and her family funeral takes place at Sacred Heart cemetery Ainsdale next Friday. She used to be a member of St Jerome’s Parish with her late husband Bill. She had lived in Southport for a number of years and would often go on the ladies’ retreats.
Deans are handling her funeral arrangements and donations are being accepted for Cancer Research UK.
We keep Marie Cooper and Joan Moore and her family in our prayers along with everyone who has passed away during this time of the pandemic.
The Foodbank donations have been down a bit in recent few weeks with easing of lockdown. It maybe that the drop off points at Waitrose and Tesco etc. are being used more, however, we have been reminded that the need for donations continues to grow. Please if you can continue to donate goods and in addition to routine non perishable foods, the Foodbank particularly need toothbrushes, shampoos, conditioners and any household cleaning products except bleach. 
Finally, I would like to thank you all for your prayers, cards, gifts and best wishes prior to and following my ordination. I pray that I can always serve you all to the best of my ability. Undoubtedly the greatest job of all once we are free of Covid 19 is to bring us all back together as one big community and more than that, to go out and find those who have become more distant from Jesus Christ and his Church and help and guide them back into His fold.
God Bless you all

Fr John’s Letter – 25th July 2020

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

This weekend marks the reopening of two of our churches in Formby for public Mass. It has been 132 days, or 19 weeks since the last public Mass was offered in our churches. What stories could be told of those days by us all!

Of course, we are still in the middle of the pandemic. I say this because our return to church is not a triumphant moment when we dust ourselves down and say, well that was that, now let’s get back to normal! The Prime Minister remarked yesterday that it would take until the middle of next year before our country would be well past this crisis. That sounds right.

When those of you coming to Mass this weekend at St Jerome’s enter our church, you will notice an immediate change. Some of the benches have been removed to accommodate the safe number of worshippers and to create more space for people to move safely. It reminds us that things are no longer the same. All the instructions for attending Mass safely have already been sent to you. Please read them carefully and remember to bring your face covering with you.

Speaking of change, this weekend marks the end of Father Bernard’s ministry as Parish Priest of Our Lady’s. We have so many reasons to be grateful to him, especially here at St Jerome’s, which he served faithfully for 10 years. I am delighted that he will be remaining in the community. Father Bernard will move into the clergy retirement apartments in the Old Rectory next to Our Lady’s church in the coming weeks. With the Archbishop’s encouragement and approval, I shall then move into Our Lady’s Presbytery to make my new home there, in the centre of our town.

The care of three parishes is a daunting challenge, and no one will be surprised to hear me say that it is not sustainable for very long. There will be changes of course, but it is going to take some time to see how these changes will happen. This is all happening in the middle of a pandemic which is likely to be with us for a long time to come. So much patience and understanding is needed.

A word of congratulation to our new deacon, John Mc Carthy, who was ordained deacon last Sunday. The Archbishop has appointed John to serve the Catholic community in Formby. Deacon Joe Moreland has also received the same appointment. John has now stepped down as Parish Administrator of St Jerome’s and St Anne’s parishes to take up his new role as deacon. I want to thank him for four years of excellent service to our communities in that role. A new Parish Administrator will be appointed in due course, but not until it becomes clear what the needs of the new reality in Formby are. I am very grateful to Deacon Joe who has agreed to continue to assist me in other administrative matters.

So let us fix our eyes on Jesus. We are here because of him and for him. Every brick, every pane of glass, every door of our churches and buildings were put there for him. To enable his message to be preached and heard and shared. But of far greater value than these bricks and mortar, precious though they are, are the people who gather in them. The true treasure is each and every disciple of Jesus who forms his body. We are the true temples of God, because His Spirit lives in us and glorifies the Father and the Son in us. Whatever happens in the time ahead, let us remain close to each other and work to build up the unity of the body of Jesus. Remember the final words of Jesus to his disciples;  ‘… and behold I am with you, yes, to the very end of time.’

Please pray for me.

God bless you,

Father John