Below is the letter from Bishop William, our area bishop, which was read at all Masses in Banbury on the First Sunday of Lent 2018 regarding the future of Banbury Catholic Churches.
Letter to be read at all Masses in the Banbury Catholic Churches on the First Weekend of Lent 2018
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Jesus Christ,
As you will remember, in 2017 all of the parishes of the Banbury Deanery were visited as part of the Deanery Visitation programme across the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
The Visitation programme is an opportunity for the Archbishop or his delegate to spend time with each parish community, to see something of its life and to consider its life in the future.
You may be aware that at the closing event of the Banbury Deanery Visitation, an event to which all were welcome, I announced that two parishes of this Deanery, Holy Trinity in Hethe and St Teresa's in Charlbury, would continue to function as parishes but would lose their resident priest.
As we continue to ask for your fervent prayers for priestly vocations and encouragement of those who might wish to consider the priesthood as a life choice, the current situation points to more priests reaching retirement age than those being ordained. This year our Diocese can expect 2 priestly ordinations (with no priestly ordinations last year or next year). By contrast, some 10 priests of our Diocese have indicated intention to retire from the office of Parish Priest this year alone.
Fr Bill Wilton has announced his intention to retire as Parish Priest of St Joseph's Parish at Easter this year. So this is a time to take stock of that situation and to look to the priestly provision of the Banbury Catholic Churches now and in the future.
It is important to make clear that in our planning for the Banbury Deanery, a situation that the clergy of the Banbury Deanery have given some thought to over the past year, the Diocese will not be able to replace Fr Bill with a resident Parish Priest of St Joseph's. The Banbury Catholic Churches will be served from St John's Presbytery by the two priests living there.
You will know that there is already a joint newsletter for the two parishes and a joint website, and so the way forward will represent working together which will not be something new, but will build on established foundations.
I would like to invite you as parishioners to attend a meeting about the issues which will certainly arise from this development. So that there is an opportunity for as many people as possible to be represented, I propose that there be two opportunities for people to attend: one at St Joseph's on a weekday evening and the other at St John's on a Saturday morning.
The dates that I can be at these meetings are:
Friday 16th March at 7pm at St Joseph's Saturday 17th March at 11am at St John's.
It is hoped that with these two opportunities, as many people as possible representing all areas of parish and school life will be able to attend one of the two meetings.
I shall be glad to address both meetings and to outline a plan which will be open to consultation before any decisions are made.
There will be appropriate ways for people to express their thanks to Fr Bill for his service in Banbury in due course. I would like to record the Diocese's gratitude to Fr Bill for his ministry in Banbury and beyond as he prepares for the next stage of his priestly life in his active retirement in Stratford upon Avon.
With my prayers and best wishes for you as we begin this holy season of Lent.