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Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Lay couple (with baby) run parish
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¬†A young couple are helping to run a priestless parish while looking after their five-month-old baby. Pioneering church workers David Igoe, 35, and his wife Marie Louise, 34, have been officially commissioned by Bishop Ambrose Griffiths to run St Wilfred's Catholic Church, Bishop Auckland, County Durham. "We are all doing fine," said a beaming Marie whose third child Francis was born in July. She fits in church work as an official parish employee, round looking after her family, especially baby Francis. David's official role is that of church volunteer, helping to run events. Parishioners are full of praise for the model experiment, which has now been going for more than a year since the last resident parish priest left. Fr Simon Weymes, who is parish priest of both St Mary's, Bishop Auckland, where he lives, and St Wilfred's, two miles away, has welcomed the new set up. "David and Marie are finding their feet and have made some good contacts in their pastoral work," he said. Marie, who is accountable to Fr Simon and the parish pastoral council, said: "People welcomed us because we didn't know anyone." David, who has given up an £18,000-a-year civil service job in his native Edinburgh, said the first year had "gone very well, in the main." Both David and Marie had been active in church work in Edinburgh, but they wanted to become more involved, possibly working alongside a priest. They heard that the Hexham and Newcastle diocese might be interested in using their services, and sent their cvs to Bishop Ambrose. David outlined his job 'with prospects' with the Scottish Parliament. Marie worked part-time for the St Andrew's diocese in Edinburgh offering parenting support and helping parish groups, earning under £6,000 a year. St Wilfred's parish stalwart Jack Moran, 78, recalled that some parishioners initially objected to the idea of laypeople living in the presbytery. But he said their work was a "great success." The couple have organised events like a Geordie night, a Burns, night and a children's picnic. The family live rent-free and the parish pays all household bills except telephone and running their car. They also receive family tax credits. A "simple lifestyle" is part of their vocation. They are renting out their Edinburgh flat to pay for its mortgage. David said: "There is no pension, but our net income, taking into account that most of the bills are being met, is not too much less than what we received in Edinburgh. "It was difficult for the parish losing their priest. Fr Kieron O'Donnell went to the Bosnian shrine Mejudgorie for a year, but people have been very supportive. It's great." The Igoes spent the first few months listening and getting to know the 100 Mass-going parishioners, who include 45 taking an active part in parish life. They also met other parents through the school and nursery, which Daniel, six, and four-year-old Robert attend. Michael Broadbent, chairman of the parish pastoral council, said: "It is splendid having a family living in the presbytery next door to the church. It's a first contact for people." He described the experiment as a good model. "Catholics could not expect priests to do everything for us," he said.
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