Letter to the Deans of the Diocese concerning plans for the Diocese.

There is an important letter from the Archbishop to the Deans of the Diocese. This deals with important issues for the future structure of the Archdiocese, namely, falling Mass attendance, lack of priests and the long-term viability of parishes. This letter will affect almost every parish in the Archdiocese. It comes in the light of exhaustive consultation over the last 20 years or so and is a precursor to a pastoral letter which the Archbishop will publish shortly, setting out his pastoral vision for the future. It is accompanied by a separate sheet showing parish cluster areas – as already given in the consultation process Now is the Favourable Time. For your information, Pittenweem, Crail, St Andrews & Canmore form their own cluster.
While the letter was sent to the Deans (and priests) this week, it is also meant for general publication and it contains criteria for further immediate consultation at the deanery level. Fr Galbraith has just returned from a break but will give further information about this next week for our own participation in this consultation. Please do take a copy of the letter at the back of the church if you wish or email the parish secretary requesting an electronic version (response by Wednesday at the earliest). The letter will probably be published on the Archdiocesan website in due course as well. In the meantime, please do keep the Archbishop and all of us as the local Church in the Archdiocese in your prayers as we face the difficult but necessary decisions that will have to be made in the near future. Let us commend it all to the Lord in his Eucharistic Presence.


The letter:

To the Very Reverend Deans
Edinburgh, 10 January 2015

I am writing to thank you and the priests and deacons of your Deanery for your cordial welcome to me on the occasion of my meeting with you last Autumn to discuss the future provision of parishes in the Archdiocese.

In the light of those important discussions, a consensus close to unanimity emerged that we cannot continue to maintain the present numbers of parishes. As you know, this is due to a lack of priests, a drop in income and the fall in numbers attending Mass. This picture is made more complicated by the natural shift of the population in the Archdiocese’s considerable and diverse territory over the last 150 years, and the accumulation over a long period of a number of parish buildings that no longer serve our communities in the way they used to. It is an unpleasant task, but it nevertheless falls to our generation to look hard at our present situation, to establish what may now be done for the good of the diocese as a whole, and how best to serve our people through the regular provision of the Sunday Eucharist and the celebration of the Sacraments in a way that our number of priests and our finances realistically permit.

Given the archdiocesan survey of 2012 and the lengthy and exhaustive period of consultation that preceded the publication of the document Now is the Favourable Time, all the clergy attending the meetings agreed that this document should be the staring point for our present deliberations. Herewith, I enclose a slightly updated version of the clusters of parishes proposed which should be the point of departure for your discussions with the priests and, in due course, with the people in your parishes. The present clustering arranges our parishes into 31 groups. We can count until about the year 2035 on having 30 or so diocesan clergymen and, I hope, some religious priests as well for a time. I will of course be looking at ways to promote vocations to the priesthood, including inviting foreign priests to assist us. However, both ways of obtaining priests remain beyond our control and so we must look, at least in principle, to self-reliance. This means that we will have an average of 6 diocesan priests per deanery. Your draft proposal to me, therefore, must aim at the creation of six parishes in each deanery, so that, at the end of this exercise, we have a total of some 30 parishes or so throughout the diocese.

I am all too aware how painful and difficult it will be for us to arrive at this figure. But the spiritual and pastoral advantages would also be notable, in that we would have fewer, larger, stronger parishes with at least one priest at their heart. In that way our parishes will become again “a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of the journey, and a centre of common missionary outreach” (Evangelii Gaudium 28).

In the light of this critical situation, I would therefore like you to invite the priests in your deanery to do two things in the next three months.

First, I would like you to examine each of the clusters proposed for your deanery in Now is the Favourable Time, and see if each cluster could become one single parish with one central church, in other words, effectively amalgamating the parishes in each cluster into one, new parish.

Consequently, I would also ask you to propose which of the remaining parish churches should close and which ones might be retained as chapels of ease or Mass centres for a time. There may well be some churches that could be closed within a comparatively short period of time, that is, perhaps even by the end of 2015.

I would then ask each dean to put a draft proposal of the deanery to me at a forthcoming meeting, on or about Easter 2015.

After I have discussed this with you at the deanery level, I then intend to put the proposals to the clergy and lay representatives of the parishes at a deanery level. If there is an active or an ad hoc deanery council in the area, that might be the appropriate forum for this discussion.

After those consultations, I will reflect further before making a firm proposal to each of the parish communities directly affected by the consultation process.

* * *

The Parish Clusters:

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CLUSTER 1 St Mary’s Cathedral
SS Ninian & Triduana
St Patrick
St Albert
St Margaret Dunfermline
St Patrick Lochgelly
Holy Name Oakley
OL & St Bride Cowdenbeath
St Bernard Ballingry
St Francis Xavier Falkirk
St Mary of the Angels
St Anthony Polmont
OLL Larbert
St Joseph Bonnybridge
St Andrew Livingston
St Philip
St Peter
St Theresa East Calder
Our Lady of Loretto Musselburgh
St Gabriel Prestonpans
St Martin Tranent
CLUSTER 2 St John the Evangelist
St Mary Magdalene
St Teresa of Lisieux
OLL Dunfermline
St Peter in Chains Inverkeithing
SS John & Columba Rosyth
St Joseph Kelty
Christ the King Grangemouth
Sacred Heart Grangemouth
St Mary of the Assumption Bo’ness
St Michael Linlithgow
SS John Cantius & Nicholas Broxburn
St Philomena Winchburgh
St David Dalkieth
SS Luke & Anne Mayfield
St Mary Pathead
CLUSTER 3 St Catherine
St Gregory
St John Vianney
St Paul Glenrothes
St Mary Leslie
St Agatha Methil
St Giles Kennoway
St Alexanders Denny
St Lukes Banknock
SS. Mary & Columba Bathgate
OLL Blackburn
St Joseph Whitburn
Sacred Heart & St Anthony Armadale
Sacred Heart Penicuik
St Margaret Loanhead
CLUSTER 4 St Peter
St Columba
St Mark
Sacred Heart
St Marie Kirkcaldy
St Pius Kirkcaldy
St Ninian Bowhill
St Joseph Burntisland
St Mary Stirling
St Margaret
Holy Spirit
OL & St Ninian Bannockburn
Sacred Heart Cowie
St Thomas Addiewell
St John the Baptist Fauldhouse
OL Stoneyburn
OL & St Bridget West Calder
St Mary Haddington
OL Star of the Sea North Berwick
OL of the Waves Dunbar
CLUSTER 5 St Mary Star of the Sea
Holy Cross
St Margaret Mary
St Margaret (DM)
St James in St Andrews
St Andrews University
Christ the King Pittenweem
Most Holy Trinity Crail
St Patrick Kilsyth
St Paul Milton of Campsie
St Dominic Torrance
OL of Consolation Bonnyrigg
St Margaret Gorebridge
St Matthew Rosewell
CLUSTER 6 St John the Baptist
St Kentigern
St Andrew
St Margaret (SQ)
St Mary Ratho
St Machan Lennoxtown
St Kessog Blanefield
St Anthony Balfron
OL & St Andrew Galashiels
St Cuthbert Melrose
OL & St Joseph Selkirk
CLUSTER 7 Our Lady Currie
St Cuthbert
St Joseph
St John Ogilvie
Immaculate Conception Jedburgh
Immaculate Conception Kelso
SS Mary & David Hawick
CLUSTER 8 OL & St Margaret Duns
St Andrew Eyemouth
CLUSTER 9 St Joseph Peebles
St James Innerleithen