The following article appeared in the Easter 1995 Edition of St. Jude's Journal:

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SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
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Statement of the priests of the Wigan Deanery concerning the closure of St. Joseph's Chapel of Ease, Wigan

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It is with sadness that the closure of St. Joseph's Chapel of Ease has been announced. Established in 1871, it was a densely-populated and thriving parish, but in 1964 housing developments meant that it was absorbed into St. Jude's Parish and became a Chapel of Ease, or Mass Centre. The demolition of houses meant that the Chapel became isolated and is now surrounded only by shops, supermarkets, small businesses and light industry.

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There is a shortage of priests both within the Archdiocese of Liverpool and throughout the country. The Wigan Deanery is fortunate at present to have at least one priest in each parish, when there are some 15 parishes in the Archdiocese without a resident priest. In addition, Sunday Mass attendances have fallen during the last ten years, which means that most churches now have plenty of room and can reduce the number of Masses. With slight alteration of Mass times, it is possible for priests in nine parishes of the Wigan Deanery to help one another, especially at times when priests are sick or away.

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A further consideration is, inevitably, financial: with so many churches now available, it is neither necessary nor desirable to spend a large amount of money. A great deal would have to be spent to maintain St. Joseph's Chapel and repair the deteriorating fabric. As parishes can no longer exist in isolation, we must all help and support each other.

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The priests of St. Jude's are clearly the most closely involved in this closure and are very sensitive to the feelings of those who attend Mass at St. Joseph's. They are also aware of the overall needs of the Wigan Deanery which have to be faced at this time. The closure will take place towards the end of this year and every effort will be made to ease things for those involved. The future of the site is yet to be decided.

 
In the Autumn 1995 Edition of St. Jude's Journal, Father MacNally, our Parish Priest at St. Jude's, wrote the following letter:
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"Dear Friends and Parishioners,

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"I write this letter with mixed emotions: sadness and hope. It is with sadness that the closure of St. Joseph's Chapel of Ease has been announced and also that the final concelebrated Mass will be on Friday, 27th October, 1995 at 7 p.m..

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"The Church was originally a Methodist Chapel, which came into Catholic ownership in 1871. At that time, and indeed up to 1964, Caroline Street, where the church stands, and the immediate neighbourhood, was densely populated. Since then, however, urban redevelopment has meant that the houses were demolished to create a light industrial area with shops, by which St. Joseph's Church is surrounded.

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"Because of the shift in population, Caroline Street, and its closest houses, was quickly absorbed into the new parish of St. Jude, and St. Joseph's continued as a Chapel of Ease with two Masses each Sunday: one at 11.00 a.m. and the other at 4.00 p.m.. About 400 people came each Sunday.

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"Two powerful reasons, however, have convinced the Archdiocesan authorities that it should now cease as a Chapel of Ease. The first is concerned with the acute shortage of priests throughout the country - at the moment in our own Archdiocese, there are some 15 parishes without a resident priest. The other convincing reason is financial: in order to bring the building up to standard, a quarter of a million pounds would be needed, and the Archdiocese does not have that amount of money to spend on it right now.

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"I am deeply sensitive to the intense feeling among so many of our people for St. Joseph's. I share that feeling and pain at its closure, but I am also realistic enough to be convinced by the above reasoning, that its closure is inevitable.

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"Now I come to my other feeling, which is one of strong hope. Here in our parish, we have a strong and united family of faith, the seeds of which were in many cases sown in St. Joseph's in the past. The great work of the past is now bearing fruit in abundance in the committed people of today. For the priests and people of today were yesterday's children, born and bred in St. Joseph's. Our people therefore - primarily because of what went before - are caring and responsive to their baptismal vocation.

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"During the past six months, since the closure was first rumoured, we have listened carefully to all the reasons, and having reflected, healing and new growth will, I feel, follow. Our people take very much to heart the good news of our Easter faith, for, in the words of St. Augustine: "we are Easter men and women". That faith clearly tells us that we can grow through our feelings of pain and sadness, and that, no matter how painful, there is no experience in our lives that cannot be an opportunity for new growth because of the victory won for us by Christ on the Cross.

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"God bless you and keep you,

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Patrick J MacNally, PP"

 

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