The diocese, like all the dioceses of England and Wales, is facing a vocations crisis. By 2030 there will be twenty odd priests operating in the diocese, who are 65 or under. The diocese at the moment has over a 100 mass centres.
Fr Barry’s last gift to the parishes was to encourage and facilitate the appointment of me as your parish priest. Although Fr Barry doesn’t approve of some of the changes I’ve made, my appointment has enabled the parishes to maintain and enhance the usual pattern of weekday and Sunday masses.
Without my appointment the priestly ministry would most likely have been administered from OLR with either St Joachim’s closing and a single Sunday mass at CTK or a pattern similar to Peacehaven and Seaford or a fortnightly Sunday mass shared between the two churches.
Eastbourne has gone from 5 priests to 3 in the last two years. As joint parishes, even with the loss of Fr Thomas, the masses at St Joachim and CTK have been maintained bar the loss of the Saturday morning mass.
The bishop has asked all deaneries to review all mass times in the light of the future lack of priests. It is diocesan policy, that for the health of the priest, that they say no more that three Sunday masses on a regular basis, which includes any vigil mass. Since Fr Thomas left I have been saying 4 Sunday masses each weekend. For the long term future of our churches and my health we have to move to only 3 Sunday masses over the weekend.
However, here’s the rub, I am an Ordinariate priest and I am obliged to say one Ordinariate Sunday mass each week. (Remember, I was appointed parish priest because the diocese didn’t have another priest available.) Therefore any future plan requires 1 of the 3 Sunday masses to be Ordinariate using Divine Worship.
The Ordinariate group is likely to lose their Sunday afternoon mass time. The mass times of 5pm vigil, 9.30am and 11.30am needn’t change but the venues might. An exact plan hasn’t yet been fixed. No one likes change but I am trying to think of the long term future of St Joachim’s and CTK. A little pain now may well save a whole lot of dramatic heartache later.
I share this with you so that you may have a better understanding of the situation we find ourselves in. We have to ask ourselves whether we are all prepared to be inconvenienced and some willing to attend Divine Worship for the future sake of our churches? The attitude we take to these changes will have an impact which will directly affect the futures of both St Joachim’s and CTK.