St Austin’s church, Grassendale, Liverpool held its final Mass last Wednesday after 177 years, with about 250 people attending.
Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool presided and Abbot Cuthbert Madden of Ampleforth Abbey preached the homily.
The church was served by monks from Ampleforth until three years ago, when they gave responsibility for it to the Archdiocese of Liverpool, though the Abbey still owns the church.
Abbot Cuthbert said that neither he nor Archbishop McMahon “underestimates the pain and the challenge to faith that the closure of a church presents to the living stones who have made up that worshipping community”.
He continued: “It is very fitting that the last act of worship here should be the community gathered to pray the Mass together; fitting because at each and every Mass we recall the passion, death and Resurrection of the Lord.”
A spokesman for Ampleforth said: “It was a very, very good celebration. The people were upset at losing their parish church, but they took it well.”
A statement from the archdiocese said: “St Austin’s church, Grassendale, was founded by and remains the property of the Benedictine congregation of Ampleforth. The parish was served by Benedictine priests until 2012; following their withdrawal the Archdiocese of Liverpool agreed to undertake a three-year review of the church.
“The review has concluded that the archdiocese should not take over the church of St Austin. The church of St Francis of Assisi is less than one mile away and can cater for the needs of those who attend Mass. St Austin’s therefore will not form part of future pastoral provision in the South Liverpool Pastoral Area.”
St Austin’s church will be deconsecrated in conjunction with the Historic Churches Committee. No decisions have been made yet for what will be done with either the building or its contents, though “some will revert to Ampleforth”, said a spokesman for the archdiocese. Other items will be distributed to other churches in the archdiocese for continued pastoral use.
The church, which is grade II-listed, has a large war memorial tablet by Giles Gilbert Scott with an alabaster figure of the Virgin set on a background of porphyry and green marble.
Tom Ashley, the Victorian Society’s Churches Conservation Advisor, said: “All the things in the church will go to new homes within the diocese. When it comes to the war memorial the home should be particularly good, such as a church that is also listed, to give it the same degree of protection.”
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