Cheshire: church in Stalybridge to close

St Raphael’s, Stalybridge

St Raphael’s, Stalybridge

Priests throughout the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury will join the Rt Rev Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, at 7pm on 14 July, to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at St Raphael’s, Stalybridge, Cheshire, on the day that the church closes.

Following a consultation on May 15 between Bishop Davies and more than 80 people of the parish the sad decision was made to close the church, because of the unsustainable costs involved in repairing the roof and fabric of the building combined with mounting concerns over its continued safe use.

As much as £250,000 urgently needs to be spent which parishioners feel they are unable to raise.

St Raphael’s, in the Millbrook area, has been in the pastoral care of Father Bernard Forshaw, the parish priest of St Peter’s Church, Stalybridge, since May 1 after Father Paul Hughes, formerly its parish priest, resigned on health grounds. Millbrook had been part of the parish of St Peter’s until 1958 when the new parish of St Raphael’s was created.

After St Raphael’s closes Fr Forshaw will celebrate a weekly Mass each Sunday at 5pm in St Raphael’s Parish Hall, starting from Sunday 17 July.

Fr Hughes will retain responsibility for St James the Great Church, Hattersley, Hyde, and has moved into the presbytery there.

Bishop Davies said: “It is always a sad moment to see a church closed. I was grateful to be able to meet with the people of St Raphael’s as we faced this difficult decision together.

“On Thursday we gather with feelings of sadness but most all to give thanks for this church building and the great purpose for which it was built almost 50 years ago. This purpose continues as we look forward to the continuing mission of both parish and school.”

Fr Forshaw said: “We are all very sorry to see St Raphael’s Church having to close so quickly due to the rapidly deteriorating condition of the building and the escalating costs to put it right.

“I am looking forward to working with the parish and school community at St Raphael’s and to caring for their spiritual needs as I have been at the neighbouring parish of St Peter’s for the past nine years.”

 The Church of St Raphael served an area that was formerly part of the parish of St Peter’s, Stalybridge. Following a succession of well-attended Masses celebrated in the canteen of Staley Mill, Millbrook, from 1946 Bishop John Murphy of Shrewsbury took the decision in August 1958 to constitute Millbrook as a new parish and to dedicate it to the St Raphael, one of the three Archangels named in the Bible.

That same year Father James Fraser arrived in Millbrook and began to celebrate Masses, hear confessions and perform baptisms from a rented house called Red Croft and later from a wooden parish hall. On 14th October 1961 Bishop Murphy laid the foundation stone and on 25th April 1963 his successor, Bishop Eric Grasar, solemnly blessed and opened the church building. The presbytery was occupied the following month.

St Raphael’s Primary School was opened on 24 February 1969 and the nursery was added in 1978.

Tags: Cheshire, Mark Davies, Shrewsbury, St Raphael's, Stalybridge, the Bishop of Shrewsbury

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