Lancaster: Bishop saves historic church for Indian Catholics


St Ignatius’, Preston  geograph.org.uk  Galatas

St Ignatius’, Preston geograph.org.uk Galatas

The Bishop of Lancaster recently received a request from Indian Cardinal for a church and presbytery in Preston and so has offered St Ignatius’ church and presbytery, Preston. The Cardinal has accepted.

On 31 December 2014, Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster, received a letter from the Major Archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry requesting a church and presbytery in Preston for the particular and exclusive use of the Syro-Malabar Catholic community,  under the charge of his appointed priest Father Mathew Jacob Choorapoikayil.  Bishop Campbell  replied saying that that he, and  local Parish Priest Canon Anthony Walsh, would be pleased  to offer St Ignatius church and presbytery, Preston for this purpose and the Cardinal Major Archbishop has accepted. News of this development builds upon the close collaborative work of the Diocese and Syro-Malabar priests and people over the last decade.

The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church has  more than four million members worldwide and traces its origin to St Thomas the Apostle, who is said to have reached the shore of Kerala in 52AD.

The Syro-Malabar chaplaincy in the Diocese of Lancaster originated in 2004, at the invitation of Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue, and has until this point relied on various Catholic parishes in Preston and further afield, to host their liturgies, social gatherings, meetings and prayer services.

Currently there are 107 Syro-Malabar young families involved in the Syro-Malabar community in Preston, 92 youngsters attend regular Sunday school catechist classes. There were 12 First Communions in 2014 and 10 Confirmations in 2013.

Recently eight family units have been formed as basic Christian communities to support prayer and faith formation in the family.

Bishop Campbell said: “I have readily welcomed this request from Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro- Malabar Church, as I believe that St Ignatius church and presbytery will be a wonderful and vibrant centre for the St Thomas (Syro-Malabar) Catholics in Preston, and I look forward to working with the Major Archbishop, his staff and local Syro-Malabar Parish Priest Father Mathew Jacob Choorapoikayil in the months and years ahead.

"Both Canon Walsh and I are committed to making this initiative work for everyone concerned.”

Appealing to the Catholics of Preston, the Bishop concludes: “I am hopeful that local Catholics will genuinely rejoice in what is both an imaginative – and surprising - decision and will be proactive in their support of our brother and sister Syro- Malabar Catholics going forward.”

 The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is in full communion with the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. This arrangement is subject to formal legal agreements to be arranged by the Diocese of Lancaster and the Major-Archiepiscopal Curia of the Syro-Malabar Church.  

St Ignatius Church has been closed since 2 December 2014. The church will be open for private prayer to all, but all future public Masses and liturgies there will be exclusively in the Syro-Malabar rite of the Catholic Church.]

Built in 1836,  St  Ignatius is one of the oldest surviving Roman Catholic church buildings in the city, after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829,   and the first to have a spire. Architectural historian Sir Nicholas Pevsner declared it to be of national interest along with the sister church of St Walburge.

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