The Bishop of Lancaster has entrusted a beautiful Pugin church in Preston to a traditionalist institute.
The grade-II listed Church of St Thomas of Canterbury and the English Martyrs will be the second church in Preston to be run by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP). In 2014 the institute was handed the landmark St Walburge’s church.
Bishop Michael Campbell said on Sunday that the institute was expected to assume responsibility for the English Martyrs church this autumn.
The move was at the request of Bishop Campbell and in agreement with Mgr Gilles Wach, prior general of the institute, together with rector of the parish Canon Adrian Towers.
“The English Martyrs is saved from the prospect of closure and is thus secured for the future,” the bishop said.
Its future had looked uncertain, the bishop said, as only about 70 people attended Mass there and parish activities had become limited, “making it difficult for the ￼parishioners to shoulder their responsibility for the care of the church building”.
“The fact that the church will be used each day for prayer and cared for by the institute means it will continue to witness to the faith and mission of the Catholic Church in Preston for many years to come.”
Canon Amaury Montjean said the institute was “deeply grateful” for the bishop’s invitation, adding: “Our entire institute family is very glad for this new apostolate.
“Like St Walburge’s, it will be a unique spiritual home offering Masses with sacred music, daily confessions, days of recollection, classes in spirituality and doctrine etc,” he said.
In his pastoral letter, Bishop Campbell said the institute was “inundated with similar requests from bishops across the world and have the proven skill, aptitude and record of expertise in the care of large and historic churches”.
The arrangement will enable the church to be open each day, and become a shrine to the English Martyrs. It will specifically provide for the celebration of Mass and other sacraments in the Extraordinary Form. The English Martyrs church remains part of St John XXIII parish and a priest from there will celebrate an Ordinary Form Mass in the church, at least for the next 12 months, each Saturday evening.
The ICKSP was founded in 1990 and given pontifical approval as a Society of Apostolic Life in 2008. Its motherhouse is in Florence and it has dozens of houses in about 10 countries around the world.
In north-west England it is also responsible for the Sacred Shrine of Ss Peter, Paul and St Philomena, a landmark church on the Wirral that had been closed for years before the institute took it on.
The English Martyrs church was designed by Edward Welby Pugin and opened in 1867.
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