Parishioners delighted as decision is made on future of Merseyside Pugin church

A DECISION has been made on the future of a Merseyside Catholic church building which had been provisionally reopened for 12 months last year.

Thomas of Canterbury Church on Greenfield Road, in Dentons Green, St Helen’s was reopened in November 2022, having been shut for more than two and a half years since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic. The long-running closure had raised fears from parishioners over the church’s future.

But the building was reopened for a provisional 12-month period from the start of Advent on 27th November, last year, following a consultation.

According to the Catholic Church’s Taking Stock website: The church stands in a conspicuous position in the streetscape and is a work of Pugin & Pugin, a well-known firm of Catholic church architects. Although modest, the design is inventive. The interior retains much of its original character.”

The St Thomas of Canterbury parish has been overseen since the church’s reopening by priest Father Michael Harwood, who also has responsibilities at St Mary’s Lowe House, in the town centre, and St Julie’s Church, in Eccleston.

As the end of the one-year provisional period approached, a meeting was held at the Greenfield Road church on Wednesday last week to review progress.

This was held by Father Philip Inch, Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Organisation and Synod Implementation at the Archdiocese of Liverpool, who had led the consultation ahead of the building’s reopening last year.

The consultation last year heard Catholic parishes will need to work more closely together in future, amid a backdrop of decreasing priest numbers and congregations.

The archdiocese stated it may need to look to the future with “a different vision of Ministry”.

According to a parish newsletter, 82 people turned attended the meeting “which showed the strength of support for the church remaining open and some very useful positive comments were made.”

It added that during the meeting “it was emphasised that churches can only thrive with the support of the people by volunteering.”

Following the meeting, Fr Inch made a recommendation to the Archbishop’s Advisory Body to keep the Dentons Green church open, which has been accepted.

Fr Inch said: “Following the consultation meeting that took place on Wednesday, October 18, concerning the future of St Thomas of Canterbury Church, I’m delighted to announce that Archbishop Malcolm McMahon has accepted the recommendation that the church should remain open for public worship.”

St Thomas of Canterbury parish priest Fr Michael Harwood, added: “I would like to thank all of the parishioners of the church for everything they have done during the past 12 months and what they have committed to doing in the years ahead.”

The church is now seeking volunteers for roles including for Eucharistic Ministers, sacristans, readers and welcomers.