Pastoral Regeneration In Liverpool


St Alphonsus
The Archdiocese of Liverpool has produced a report entitled 'Towards Pastoral Regeneration in Liverpool City Centre'. The document is the product of substantial consultation which has been taking place for over two years in the Deaneries covering north and south Liverpool. The wide ranging report covers issues of personnel, finance, education, use of buildings and theological reflection on the role of a priest in a parish community; its aim is to continue a process of sustainable regeneration for the Roman Catholic Church in Liverpool City Centre.
The process was initiated by the Archbishop of Liverpool's Council, who are the trustees of the Archdiocese, in May 1998. Recognising that effective regeneration must be in the hands of the community or communities themselves the preparation of the report has involved lengthy discussions with priests and lay people as well as the distribution, by post, of over 12,000 consultation leaflets to both Catholic and non-Catholic homes in the area. The report was presented to the Archbishop's Council in June 2000 who after appropriate discussion and reflection, made a series of decisions concerning future regeneration in Liverpool City Centre which are listed at the beginning of the report.

St Alphonsus
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Holy Cross
The trustees recognise that adequate funding is required for pastoral regeneration to take place and they are willing to provide this, not least for the appointment of full-time Pastoral Assistants in each of the Deaneries concerned. They also recognise that for any regeneration to be sustainable in the long term difficult decisions have had to be made concerning the use of six church buildings. Accordingly it is intended to take out of sacred use the following churches: St Mary, Highfield Street (which closed in January 2000); St Alphonsus, Great Mersey Street; Holy Cross, Great Crosshall Street; St Mary of the Angels, Fox Street; St Finbar, Dingle Mount and St Malachy, Beaufort Street. Taking into account the geography of the area and transport requirements the trustees intend to assign these parishes to other churches and include a list in their report.
Other decisions include the drawing up of a contract with Liverpool Hope University College for access, in perpetuity, to the church of St Francis Xavier in Salisbury Street and for the Archdiocesan Schools Commission to be advised of the new boundaries where they may affect the admissions criteria of schools.

Mary of the Angels - Friary

Holy Cross
The report recognises both the heritage of the Roman Catholic Church in the City Centre and the need to respond to changing situations. Its conclusion says: 'Regeneration is not incompatible with pruning; they are not opposed, as positive is to negative. The loyalties of Liverpool's city centre Catholics is a precious heritage, earned largely by the pastoral zeal of many devoted priests in the area over a period of 150 years. But different modes of parish life are developing under the double pressure of new awareness of baptismal responsibilities and diminishing numbers of, priests'.

17 November 2000

Contributions and feedback to -

Public Meeting calls for fresh forms of consideration to be given to proposed closure of Holy Cross Church

Almost 100 people (a mixed age group) attended a Public Meeting, called to assess the depth of opposition to the proposed closure of Holy Cross Church. The meeting on Wednesday 29th November took place in the Hall of the Marybone Youth & Community Centre. Although the night was wet and windy, with many TV attractions, the level of attendance gave an immediate indication of the level of concern felt by many past and present parishioners. That concern was unanimous in verbal determination that Holy Cross Church must not close.

There were representatives at the meeting from several of the other churches under threat of closure who sought to offer their support as well as seeking support from the meeting for their own efforts to keep their churches open. A letter was read out to the meeting, which voiced the support from Louise Ellman MP who asked to be kept informed of any programme of action taken. Local Councillors, Peter Brennan and George Knibb were present at the meeting and they expressed their willingness to help efforts to keep Holy Cross Church from closing.

Speakers from the floor of the meeting claimed that the Liverpool Archdiocese's 'Pastoral Regeneration' sounded more like Pastoral Decimation. How could, they asked, the closure of the churches be a positive part of the Urban Regeneration programmes promised for these areas? There were calls for the closures to be given fresh forms of consideration.

The generosity of past and present generations of Holy Cross parishioners was also highlighted - it was said at the meeting that people often gave to the church when they had very little money themselves. Many at the meeting remembered the financial sacrifices that their parents had endured to support Holy Cross Church. Many elderly people at the meeting felt that the closure of the church would take the treasure of the history and heritage of the Holy Cross area from the area. Holy Cross would be a lost name to future generations.

The Public Meeting called for action to be taken. Positive action as 'a way forward' from the meeting. This action saw the election of a Committee who would oversee a range of action to be taken and who would ensure that news of such action and further meetings will be communicated to all who had attended the meeting.


On St Patrick's Day, Saturday 17th March, shocked, saddened and disillusioned parishioners of Holy Cross Church walked sullenly home after hearing Archbishop Patrick Kelly confirm that their parish church will close.

More than 60 church going parishioners of Holy Cross gathered together within the church to hopefully hear that their efforts to keep the church open, along with their faith in the future of the church could win a reprieve of the proposal to close the church

After listening to Archbishop Kelly explain his reasons why Holy Cross must close, and that the parish must amalgamate with Our Lady's Eldon Street, the parishioners were given an opportunity to express their points of view.

It became increasingly difficult for the parishioners to accept that all of their suggested alternatives to closing the church were met with a fatalistic response from Archbishop Kelly.

Archbishop Kelly said, "Although it is terrible to see a good church like Holy Cross go out of existence, churches closing has happened many times before. The time is now right for Holy Cross parishioners to begin working together with the parishioners of Our Lady's Eldon Street to build a stronger church community".

Aware that their pleas made to Archbishop Kelly not to give up on the area were seemingly met by a set in stone decision to close Holy Cross, emotionally and visibly upset parishioners chose to leave the church.


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St Alban's

Yes church closing has happened before and the closing is then customarily followed by the removal of items from the church interior often destined for other churches. The history of our local churches spans generations of parishioners, past and present. Many of these parishioners have helped secure the future of these local churches by furnishing them with the individual gifts and donations. Whilst sadly many of these people are no longer alive, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are. It is for them and for other past and present parishioners a heartbreaking site to see a church of which their ancestors were so proud laid bare. We picture the church of St Alban's prior to the stripping from the church the furnishings' that made the church a church. Then we picture the church empty of the altar and statues. Yes church closing has happened before and will again - and yes the heartbreak of seeing a well loved church reduced to a shadow of its former glory will continue to be felt by past and present parishioners.

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After Closure

Parochial Ties

The closing of local churches might not seem to matter to those who have never had the traditions associated with a local church as part of their upbringing or area culture. People who are lost to understanding the pull of parochial ties will never understanding the heartbreak and heartache attached to hearing news that your local church is closing.

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Former parish priest Fr Lawn celebrates 50 years as a priest in 1987

The pull of parochial ties extends much further than living close to the church for many former parishioners of St Alphonsus Church now live many mile away. Some even living oceans and continents away from the church of their childhood - but still the loss of the church has a very deep effect on their lives.

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We picture exterior and interior photographs of St Alphonsus Church, which is situated in Great Mersey Street. The Church is threatened with closure and in recent days a number of the benches have been taken away for use in other churches.

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We will be featuring reaction from current parishioners to what some see as the start of procedures that will culminate in closing the church. We welcome comments from former parishioners regarding the loss of the church to the local community. We also welcome hearing from former parishioners who may have memories and or photographs they would like to feature on this webpage.

Dear Scottie Press

With the intended closure of St Alphonsus Church, I am concerned as to what will happen to the Memorial Tablets in the Lady Chapel, which commemorated those men of the parish who lost their lives in the 1914-1918 War.

As a child growing up in the parish, when I went to church, I would love to go into the Lady Chapel to see the names of PTE JOSEPH CANNON on one panel and on a different tablet the name PTE JOHN CANNON.

These two men were, Joe Cannon, my grandfather, died 1915 at Gallipoli, aged 38, and John Cannon his son, he was killed at Arras, 29th September 1918 a little over 7 weeks before the official ending of the war. He was just 19 years old. Both Joe and John lived in Lamb Street. The death of Joe Cannon (my grandfather) left my grandmother to look after 5 boys and one girl - all of school age.

I have now been able to get photographs of these tablet panels as souvenirs of 'St Ollies' to remind me of happy memories of the parish. My family moved away from the area in 1941, after our home was bombed, on the night of May 4th, which was my Mother's birthday.

It is sad to think the Church will go, but this is the way of the world today, too many church buildings - too few priests - and not enough people filling the benches.

Yours sincerely, M. CAREY.

Last Mass at St Alphonsus Church

Past and present parishioners, from near and far, of St Alphonsus church filled the benches to witness the 'Last Mass' on Thursday 21st June.

The emotion felt by many was reflected in the manner by which conversations revolved around former times at St Alphonsus. A series of old photographs greeted those attending the evening service and these helped to recall the strength of love, devotion and pride for the parish and its church built in 1878.

The service of "Thanksgiving" was celebrated by His Grace Patrick Kelly, Archbishop of Liverpool, and the readings and hymns could be followed by virtue of a special souvenir booklet designed by Tony Clarke with help from the Vauxhall Neighbourhood Council's IT Centre. Tony has been Alter Server at St Alphonsus for 32 years.

The booklet also featured a photograph of Rosemary Coulthard who was tragically killed in a road traffic accident in January 2001 and who had given total devoted service to the upkeep of the church and who had raised many thousand of pounds for repair work on the church. Rosemary was at the vanguard of efforts to try to keep the church open for the spiritual welfare of the parish community and special prayers were offered for the repose of her soul and in thanks for all she had done and endeavoured to do.

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From a vantage point in the choir loft a series of photographs were taken and an opportunity gained to hear the choir who were in fine voice as were the congregation who sang loud and proud an entrance processional hymn in honour of St Alphonsus at the start of the service.

St Alphonsus now in glory
We they children humbly pray
For the people of this parish
Guard us all both night and day
Guide us, lead us and protect us
In your paternal way

For the sick and for the dying
For those burdened down with care
For the poor and for the lonely
St Alphonsus hear our prayers
May we in they glory share.


On Friday 29th June 2001, the Feast Day of St Peter & Paul, past and present church parishioners from the Friary, St Joseph's, Holy Cross and St Mary's Highfield Street were joined by parishioners from other churches on Merseyside as they staged 'A Walk Of Faith'. This saw the parishioners assembling at the Friary church in Fox street and processing along to the former St Joseph's church in Grosvenor street and then onto Mass at Holy Cross. Following the service they then processed to St Mary's Highfield Street. At all stages of the procession decades of 'The Rosary' were said.

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'The Walk Of Faith' was yet another effort by those parishioners concerned about closure and threatened closure of local churches to show a solidarity of intent and action. Photographs accompanying this report feature the assembled congregation prior to the Mass at Holy Cross and then processing to the steps of St Mary's Highfield Street whereat the parishioners prayed for the possible reversal of decisions to close Holy Cross and the Friary.


'a tear to the eye, a hollow feeling in the heart and soul'

The closure of St Alphonus Church in June has now been swiftly followed by its demolition. A process that will take a number of weeks to complete and as such affords opportunities for photographs to be taken.

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The mechanical and physical process of knocking the church building down, can be recorded by such photographs. The photographs showing how each stage of the demolition work reduces the church to a mound of brick rubble and the physical existence of the church removed from the eye. But the memory of the church and the memories of times spent within will take much longer to be removed, if ever they will, from the minds, hearts and souls of former parishioners.

It struck the Scottie Press that in photographing the demolition of the church it would provide chances for those who were parishioners of St Alphonsus, (and for those who have attended various forms of church services at St Alphonsus), to spend some time looking at the photographs and recall how 'acts of bad conduct or misbehaviour within the church fell into the category of sacrilege'.

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Such recollections may bring a tear to the eye. For to see the church gutted of its altar, its benches, its statues, its stations of the cross etc and then to be as unfeelingly knocked down as would be an old warehouse surely puts a hollow feeling into the heart and soul. It may also stimulate an opinion that the physical act of demolition of the church is in its-self an act of sacrilege. An opinion and feeling born from the traditions and values that the church installed within the hearts, minds and souls of generations of its parishioners who thought such traditions and values would be protected for eternity.

There comes a time in people's lives when reflections on the past puts into perspective the way things have turned out. Would it be possible to suggest that for former parishioners of St Alphonus Church, who are aged over the age of 50, that they may see the demolition of the church and its removal from the parish area as a vision impossible to believe when they quickly recall to mind the efforts made by themselves and other generations of parishioners to ensure the future of the church. The special 'after mass' church collections, the church fund-raise nights at the parish club etc. What are the thoughts of former parishioners, who were christened, confirmed, and married in St Alphonsus Church. What are the thoughts of former parishioners who were members of the churches various guilds and societies and sporting clubs'.


'end of an era - 152 years'

Holy Cross Church closed on Sunday 16th September - after the morning Mass the church was taken out of sacred use. So ending an era of 152 years. Photographed, right, is the 'Last Mass' attended by many former parishioners' and residents of the Holy Cross area.

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In 1849 the parish was founded because of the very large influx of catholic people who arrived in the area as a result of the Great Famine in 1847. The new Parish of Holy Cross was entrusted to the missionary congregation known as the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, in 1850.

In 1860 a beautiful new Church, designed by architect, Edward Welby Pugin was opened. Unfortunately, incendiary bombing in 1941 destroyed the church. A new church was built in 1954 and opened by the then Archbishop of Liverpool, Dr Godfrey.

In the 1980's due to demolition of the tenements and the construction of the new arterial roads within the parish confines, many hundreds of people were compelled to move away from their neighbourhood to live in the suburbs.

In 1998, Archbishop Patrick Kelly set up a working party to assist in formulating a 'Report Towards Pastoral Regeneration'. As a direct result of this report, seven churches will be taken out of sacred use by the end of December 2001.

Already closed (and now demolished) is St Alphonsus and due to close are St Mary of the Angels (Friary) and St Jospehs.


On December 8th three local churches, St Joseph's, St Mary of the Angels (Friary) and Saint Francis Xavier (SFX) will come together to form a NEW PARISH based on SFX Church.

On Saturday 29th September an invitation was extended to parishioners from the three churches to an assembly to plan the new parish. An opportunity was taken at this assembly to mount a series of exhibition stands to show the rich history of the churches to allow for reminiscence about the parish to be an important part of plans for the future.

The assembly took place in St Mary's of the Angels and the Altar was specially decorated for the occasion.

The Scottie Press welcomes comments on the website from current or former parishioners affected by the changes planned - together with any favoured memories that parishioners past and present may have.

If you would like to voice your thoughts, opinions and feelings on this webpage please email

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