News Letters

Fr John’s Letter – 4th July 2020

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

Last week I wrote to tell you that the churches of our Archdiocese are being gradually reopened for public Mass in the coming weeks. I also told you that Our Lady’s and St Jerome’s will open on July 26th. Since I wrote to you, we have been working closely with the Archdiocese to prepare our church and put into place all the safety requirements. It is going to take time, but we are already making progress. Decisions still have to be made about how we work out who is able to come to Mass, the timings of Masses etc. But our first concern is to get all the preparations, materials and directives in place. Please continue to watch this space as we move nearer to the time of our reopening.

I am now delighted to announce that the Archbishop has decided to ordain John Mc Carthy to the Diaconate on Sunday, July 19th at 3.00pm at St Jerome’s. I am sure that we all share John’s joy and that of his family as he approaches this great day. Given the current restrictions, we understand that it will only be possible to have John’s family present in the church for the Ordination. It will be very simple. But the good news is that, hopefully, the Ordination will be live streamed, and so it will be possible for the parish family to share in the occasion electronically.

I know that several parishes have been able to live stream Mass regularly over these past months. Installing a professional system is costly. We have been without any collection income for over three months now, apart from those of you who kindly give by monthly direct debit. So our few resources have had to stretch to other needs. But when it became clear that we shall only be able to admit a smaller number of parishioners into the church for Sunday Mass, I felt it was time to get a system up and running, starting with St Jerome’s. Once our parish Masses begin again, I think it will be of crucial importance for those unable to attend to be able to join in our Mass from home.

So we have been working on making this a reality, and the hope is that we can make this happen in time for John’s Ordination.

Once again, I ask your prayers for all the preparations that are ongoing and for John as he approaches his Ordination. I also want to thank those who are working very hard at the moment behind the scenes to get everything ready for us. My sincere and grateful thanks to them.

May God bless you all,

Father John

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

Fr John’s Letter – 21st June 2020

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

‘Do not be afraid’

These words of Jesus are found at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading. Did you know that these same words are found about 365 times in the Bible? This is worth reflecting on. 

Jesus is speaking to his disciples. We know from reading the Gospel accounts that the disciples were fearful on many occasions. This is normal human behaviour. But fear has a way of working its way into the depths of our minds and hearts. We can find ourselves being fearful of fear. 

But was Jesus speaking about fear in general, or about a particular kind of fear? I think there is a deeper teaching here. At the root of a healthy Christian life is a deep sense of the love of God; unconditional, unchanging, eternal. To recognise it, to be convinced of it, is often a lifelong process. No words can describe those moments when we sense within us, however briefly, that we are loved by God. Someone once called it a ‘resurrection moment’. In these moments, we realise that this is what eternal happiness is; to bask in the love of God.

But there are also moments, perhaps too many, when we convince ourselves that we are not worthy of love, that God does not love me. I am not speaking about moments of sadness or depression, but that deep, gnawing fear that I somehow don’t make the grade, that I am simply not good enough, that I am not going to make it. In short, I am not lovable.

It is this dark shadow that Jesus speaks of; ‘Do not be afraid’. Words may not be enough to reassure us. No wonder these words are repeated so many times in the Scriptures! But if we allow ourselves to hear these words of Jesus time and time again, then slowly we begin to move towards the light. What is the light telling us? That we are loved unconditionally. We are not required to earn it, make ourselves worthy of it. We are asked simply to receive it and believe it.

The next time we find ourselves under this shadow, let us repeat these words of Jesus gently; ‘Do not be afraid’. We are loved, cherished and precious to our Father God. In the end, this is all that matters.

God bless you all,

Father John

Fr John’s Letter – 15th June 2020

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

Yesterday we celebrated the great Feast of Corpus Christi. In my weekly letter, I invited us all to reflect upon our profound connectedness with ourselves, with one another, with nature and with God. The highest form of connectedness, or union, with God in this life is the Most Blessed Eucharist. We cannot be closer to God than at that moment when we receive the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ.

Some of you wrote to me this weekend, sharing your pain and suffering at not being able to receive the Eucharist at this time. When something or someone precious is taken away from us, we grieve, suffer and yearn to see them again. 

I have been reflecting on this a great deal over the past days. So this morning, I wanted to simply invite us all to take hold of that yearning and grieving, and allow it to be transformed into a deep and gradual preparation for the moment we will receive the Eucharist again, for that moment is surely coming! 

Dare I suggest that it will be something similar to our First Holy Communion? The anticipation, the excitement, the waiting? Jesus wants to come to us again. He longs to be with us. Now is our time to prepare for that moment, to reflect on all these occasions when we have received Him as a regular habit, perhaps a little indifferently, even a little coldly. Are we able and willing to prepare a loving heart, a more open heart for him? We certainly can if we want to. 

Finally, let us remind ourselves that we do not receive the Eucharist just for ourselves. The temptation is to think that it is just about me and Jesus! Nothing else really matters! That would be a serious mistake. Jesus wants to become one with me in order to teach me that I must become one with others. This might sound obvious, but it is often forgotten. That is why building Christian communities is so demanding. Until we get this right, until we understand that our oneness with Jesus is crucial, then we will never see each other for who we really are; but just neighbours, or people who happen to see things the way I do. But part of me and worthy of my love, my time and my attention.

Pope Francis preached a beautiful homily for Corpus Christi yesterday. I have attached it below and it will appear on our website later together with its link. 

 
Until then, let us thank the Lord who has given us the greatest gift he possibly could; Himself!

God bless you all,

Fr John
 
Pope Francis’ Homily
 

“Remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you” (Deut 8:2). Today’s Scripture readings begin with this command of Moses: Remember! Shortly afterwards Moses reiterates: “Do not forget the Lord, your God” (v.14). Scripture has been given to us that we might overcome our forgetfulness of God. How important it is to remember this when we pray! As one of the Psalms teaches: “I will call to mind the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old” (77:11). But all those wonders too, that the Lord has worked in our own lives.

It is vital to remember the good we have received. If we do not remember it, we become strangers to ourselves, “passers-by” of existence. Without memory, we uproot ourselves from the soil that nourishes us and allow ourselves to be carried away like leaves in the wind. If we do remember, however, we bind ourselves afresh to the strongest of ties; we feel part of a living history, the living experience of a people. Memory is not something private; it is the path that unites us to God and to others. This is why in the Bible the memory of the Lord must be passed on from generation to generation. Fathers are commanded to tell the story to their sons, as we read in a beautiful passage. “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord our God has commanded you?’, then you shall say to your son, ‘We were slaves… [think of the whole history of slavery!], and the Lord showed signs and wonders… before our eyes’” (Deut 6:20-22). You shall hand down this memory to your son.

But there is a problem: what if the chain of transmission of memories is interrupted? And how can we remember what we have only heard, unless we have also experienced it? God knows how difficult it is, he knows how weak our memory is, and he has done something remarkable: he left us a memorial. He did not just leave us words, for it is easy to forget what we hear. He did not just leave us the Scriptures, for it is easy to forget what we read. He did not just leave us signs, for we can forget even what we see. He gave us Food, for it is not easy to forget something we have actually tasted. He left us Bread in which he is truly present, alive and true, with all the flavour of his love. Receiving him we can say: “He is the Lord; he remembers me!” That is why Jesus told us: “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24). Do! The Eucharist is not simply an act of remembrance; it is a fact: the Lord’s Passover is made present once again for us. In Mass the death and resurrection of Jesus are set before us. Do this in remembrance of me: come together and celebrate the Eucharist as a community, as a people, as a family, in order to remember me. We cannot do without the Eucharist, for it is God’s memorial. And it heals our wounded memory.

The Eucharist first heals our orphaned memory. We are living at a time of great orphanage. The Eucharist heals orphaned memory. So many people have memories marked by a lack of affection and bitter disappointments caused by those who should have given them love and instead orphaned their hearts. We would like to go back and change the past, but we cannot. God, however, can heal these wounds by placing within our memory a greater love: his own love. The Eucharist brings us the Father’s faithful love, which heals our sense of being orphans. It gives us Jesus’ love, which transformed a tomb from an end to a beginning, and in the same way can transform our lives. It fills our hearts with the consoling love of the Holy Spirit, who never leaves us alone and always heals our wounds.

Through the Eucharist, the Lord also heals our negative memory, that negativity which seeps so often into our hearts. The Lord heals this negative memory, which drags to the surface things that have gone wrong and leaves us with the sorry notion that we are useless, that we only make mistakes, that we are ourselves a mistake. Jesus comes to tell us that this is not so. He wants to be close to us. Every time we receive him, he reminds us that we are precious, that we are guests he has invited to his banquet, friends with whom he wants to dine. And not only because he is generous, but because he is truly in love with us. He sees and loves the beauty and goodness that we are. The Lord knows that evil and sins do not define us; they are diseases, infections. And he comes to heal them with the Eucharist, which contains the antibodies to our negative memory. With Jesus, we can become immune to sadness. We will always remember our failures, troubles, problems at home and at work, our unrealized dreams. But their weight will not crush us because Jesus is present even more deeply, encouraging us with his love. This is the strength of the Eucharist, which transforms us into bringers of God, bringers of joy, not negativity. We who go to Mass can ask: What is it that we bring to the world? Is it our sadness and bitterness, or the joy of the Lord? Do we receive Holy Communion and then carry on complaining, criticizing and feeling sorry for ourselves? This does not improve anything, whereas the joy of the Lord can change lives.

Finally, the Eucharist heals our closed memory. The wounds we keep inside create problems not only for us, but also for others. They make us fearful and suspicious. We start with being closed, and end up cynical and indifferent. Our wounds can lead us to react to others with detachment and arrogance, in the illusion that in this way we can control situations. Yet that is indeed an illusion, for only love can heal fear at its root and free us from the self-centeredness that imprisons us. And that is what Jesus does. He approaches us gently, in the disarming simplicity of the Host. He comes as Bread broken in order to break open the shells of our selfishness. He gives of himself in order to teach us that only by opening our hearts can we be set free from our interior barriers, from the paralysis of the heart.

The Lord, offering himself to us in the simplicity of bread, also invites us not to waste our lives in chasing the myriad illusions that we think we cannot do without, yet that leave us empty within. The Eucharist satisfies our hunger for material things and kindles our desire to serve. It raises us from our comfortable and lazy lifestyle and reminds us that we are not only mouths to be fed, but also his hands, to be used to help feed others. It is especially urgent now to take care of those who hunger for food and for dignity, of those without work and those who struggle to carry on. And this we must do in a real way, as real as the Bread that Jesus gives us. Genuine closeness is needed, as are true bonds of solidarity. In the Eucharist, Jesus draws close to us: let us not turn away from those around us.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us continue our celebration of Holy Mass: the Memorial that heals our memory. Let us never forget: the Mass is the Memorial that heals memory, the memory of the heart. The Mass is the treasure that should be foremost both in the Church and in our lives. And let us also rediscover Eucharistic adoration, which continues the work of the Mass within us. This will do us much good, for it heals us within. Especially now, when our need is so great.

 

Fr John’s Letter – 13th June 2020

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

‘Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever.’

I read a news article yesterday entitled ‘How our country has changed after 80 days of lockdown’. A piece could also be written on ‘how the Church has changed’ or more interestingly, ‘how we have changed’. So I want to share some thoughts about how the last 84 days since our churches were closed have affected us. It is a personal perspective, of course, but I hope it might resonate with some of you. Perhaps we might obtain a deeper insight into today’s beautiful Feast: ‘The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ’.

Time and again during these difficult days, we have been reminded of the crucial importance of ‘connectedness’ ; to ourselves, to each other, to nature and our environment, to God. The recent demonstrations and civil unrest surrounding the tragic death of George Floyd show us how quickly disintegration can take place. To say that we need to feel a deep sense of being connected, of not feeling that we are alone, is an understatement.

The restrictions we have been living under for so long are now lifting. I don’t sense that there will be a great rush back to the streets. There is still uncertainty and nervousness. Many are having to return to work. But, on reflection, I think that the most challenging days could still be ahead of us. I am not speaking of ‘second waves’, but of the reality that is now beginning to emerge. Most things look the same as they did before the pandemic struck. But the reality behind these appearances has changed. Even if we don’t understand this, we can at least sense it.

There is no shortage of speculation about what this new reality will look like. Suffice to say that we will all need time to adjust. But it seems to me that we have arrived at a deeply significant crossroads. We are being offered a choice. We can move into a mentality of ‘picking up the pieces’, of trying to retrieve what we can. Some of that will be necessary. But the alternative is far more inspiring. We come to realise that the pieces we see around us are exactly that; just pieces. They have gone. Now we are offered something new. A new way of doing things, a new approach to our lives.

This something ‘new’ is not primarily a list of things we need to ‘do’. It goes deeper. It touches on the very heart of our existence; our relationship with God, our image of God, our understanding of God. Where has God been in the last 84 days? Remote? Disinterested? Locked in the church? Most certainly not! He has been in the very stuff of these days, in the fear, the anxiety, the confusion, the tragedy. In each passing moment, He has been whispering to us, inviting us to a deeper connection with Him and with one another.

The Spirit of God has been moving in extraordinary ways in these days. Every human being and every created thing belongs to Him. God is not limited by pandemics or by locked churches. He is knocking at my door in those thoughts that linger in my mind, that ringing phone, those emails, that elderly person sitting at their window, those people passing on the street looking for a friendly smile. He has led us all into an 84 day retreat of reflection!

Our first instinct might now be; well, let’s start planning, let’s look to the future and start imagining and getting things into place. Let’s get ‘busy’. This has certainly been my first reaction and the time will come when it will be necessary.  But here is the heart of the challenge I mentioned earlier. We take a long time as human beings to absorb, learn, listen. God knows this. 84 days is not long in the grand scheme of things. But it has been long enough to make us stop and think!

Could it be that God is inviting us to value the present moment, today? Could it be that the purpose of these days is to help us see and treasure our connectedness to everything around us, our place in it, our being with each other, our deep connection to God? How easy it would be to get lost again in the avalanche of busyness and planning! Surely this is the heart of the crossroads moment; to recover again what lies at the heart of my life, my belief, my relationships; or more precisely, Who?

It is this realisation of our deep connectedness that brings new perspectives and possibilities, of my place in things, of the realisation that I am loved, treasured, precious that gives me new heart and makes me smile. It is that reassurance of my profound connection to all around me that helps me to see others as brothers and sisters, not as enemies or as a threat. It is God, who is at the heart of every person and every created thing, who offers me a new way of seeing, hearing and loving. If we can sense this, or simply just desire it, then these 84 days will not have been wasted.

The churches remain locked. But the Church is alive in us! The Spirit of God is teaching us through so many examples of selflessness and service, that we belong to each other and to all created things. Above all, the Holy Spirit is leading us to Jesus, ‘the pioneer of our faith’. At the heart of the Eucharist of Jesus lies this profound promise of eternal connectedness to God and to one another. His body and blood were handed over for love of each one of us, to help us see that we are one body in Him. Not little islands, not isolated, but connected in every way.

Just think of what those future celebrations of the Eucharist of Jesus in our communities could be like with newly opened eyes, ears, hearts! Let us make good use of these days to learn, listen and ponder. Then surely, the new paths that God is showing us will be seen more clearly. May it be so!

God bless you all!

Father John

Fr John’s Letter – 11th June 2020

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

I hope that you and all your loved ones are safe and well. Recently, I wrote to let you know that moves were being made to open some of our churches for private prayer. Parish priests were asked to nominate churches they believed could be safely opened. Father Bernard and I discussed the matter at length and decided that we could safely nominate Our Lady’s as a start. We both put requests out for volunteers to act as stewards and cleaners, to ensure that we could comply with the regulations. Thank you to all who volunteered their services.

The Archbishop wrote to us a few days ago to say that he wanted to take a cautious approach to church reopening at this time and that he would give permission for only two churches in each Pastoral Area to open. This morning we have been informed that in our Pastoral Area, the churches that have been given permission to open are Star of the Sea in Seaforth and St Helen’s in Crosby. The days and hours of opening are;

 
Star of the Sea, Seaforth from 22nd June.
Tuesday’s 5.pm till 7 pm.
Saturday’s 11.am till 1 pm

 

St Helen’s, Crosby from 22nd June
Monday’s 10.am till 12 noon
Wednesday’s 1.pm till 3 pm
Saturday’s 11.am till 1 pm

So our churches will remain closed for the time being. In thanking those of you who volunteered to help, I want to ask that you hold yourselves in reserve for the time being. Once the Archbishop decides to consider further churches for reopening, then we shall need your help. At the moment, there is no indication of when this will be. Likewise, there is no indication of when the celebration of public Masses will be restored. The caution surrounding the opening of just a handful of churches for private prayer would indicate that this remains some way off.

For now, we keep our prayerful vigil. We ask the Lord to free us from this pandemic, to grant eternal rest to those who have died, to grant recovery to those who are sick, to comfort those who have lost loved ones, and to help each one of us to remain close to Him and to one another in these difficult days.

God bless you all,

Father John

Fr John’s Letter – 6th June 2020

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

God so loved the World, that He gave His only Son’

The Feast of the Most Blessed Trinity which we celebrate today, finds it’s perfect expression in the words above, taken from the Gospel reading for today’s Mass. ‘God is Love’. Here is the heart of everything. It sums up the entire Gospel, the whole of religion. It sounds magnificent, so simple. Yet such simplicity unsettles us. The longer we stay with this statement, ponder it, the more uncomfortable we become. 

Why? There is not much to it is there? God is Love! How is it possible for such a beautiful statement to trouble us? The answer lies within. Our human nature is anything but simple. It is complex, ambiguous, with its lights and shadows. Isn’t love conditional, fragile, uncertain? A loving God? Tragedies, Virus, young deaths? Too many questions! Perhaps ‘God is Love ‘ is a little naive?

The world in which we live has a hard time with love. It yearns for it, speaks of it, looks for it. But in our culture it is status, reward, possessions that matter. These are highly prized. So love, it seems, like everything else has to be earned. A commodity. It can come and go. Other things seem to matter more.
It is a very mixed and variable picture of course. But this seems to be the overriding impression as we look around us.

These ideas are ingrained in us all as people of our time. So when we ponder the love of God, we bring all this baggage with us. But, in contrast, the Gospel is uncompromising in its demands; we are to forgive seventy times seven, we are to turn the other cheek, we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. How is it possible to love like this?

Our formation as Christians has not always helped us. Too often, distorted ideas and emphases have been embedded into our minds; fear, anxiety, images of a distant and stern deity. These thoughts and impressions can be raw or subtle, but they amount to the same reality; when I think of God, it is not love that comes to mind straightaway!

So let us consider this; we do not have to make sense of God, we have to experience Him. We do not have to understand God, we have to open ourselves to Him. If God is Love, then He loved me first. When we feel that we are loved, when we are secure in that love, then it is easy to love. Do I feel the love that God has for me, am I secure in that love? This is the real question. 

Where do I go to find this love? How do I open myself to it? Not outside of ourselves, but within. There the God of love waits for us. There He speaks, acts, invites us to listen and rest with Him. There is the Trinity of Persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In moments of silence, sincere heartfelt conversation with our Father, we wake up to the presence of God within us. Love begins here. We find it here. We open up to it here. Only then do we realise that we are not strangers, outcasts, inferiors. We belong. We are loved. Our existence is willed and unique. Each one of us!

If God lives in me, then He lives in every person. When I learn to reverence Him within myself, then I will learn to reverence Him in each and every person I meet. Every person!

For a moment, let us look at this amazing truth. Each one of us is loved; unconditionally, freely, eternally. We need to do nothing to earn it. It is freely given. We are necessary, we have a place in our Father’s Heart. God is Love. He gave up His only Son for us. It is that simple, that uncomplicated. Such love is worthy of our love. Always.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

God bless you all!

Father John

Letter from Fr John 5th June 2020

Dear parishioners of St Anne’s and St Jerome’s,

Earlier today (4th June), I asked John Mc Carthy to post an information update on our website. In the last few days, the Archdiocese has written to all parish priests to inform us that preparations are now being made for the opening of some churches for private prayer. It is clear after reading this letter, that the requirements are quite stringent. At first, only a small number of churches will be allowed to open. I think that the diocese will watch how that all goes carefully before permitting more churches to open for prayer.

Everything depends on a nominated church being able to meet all the requirements of volunteers, cleaning and so on. The final decision will be taken by the Archbishop. This is why Father Bernard and I decided that we would start with Our Lady’s and invite Catholics from across the town to volunteer to help. Please consider volunteering if you fit the criteria.

The question that is in everyone’s minds is, of course, when can we get back to Mass? There are no dates, but all the indications are that it will be quite some time yet. The infection rate and death rate are falling very slowly and the authorities remain very cautious. The Archdiocese indicated that when Mass does return, it will be celebrated for smaller numbers.

So it is a mixed bag at the moment. Let’s see how things progress with the opening of the churches for personal prayer. In the meantime, let’s continue to reach out, to pray and to take good care. I will write to you all over the weekend with some further thoughts.

God bless you all!

Father John

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

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

CATHOLIC CHURCH REOPENING IN FORMBY FOR PRIVATE PRAYER

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