UK: Parish resuscitated by Extraordinary Form. New Evangelization continues

On whichever side of the Pond you are, you can be sure that reviving a parish doesn’t have to be rocket science.

We have all heard of parishes which, though moribund, have been revived through the use of Catholicism.   That is to say, hard identity Catholicism.  That is to say, traditional devotions, clear preaching, sound priests and, in particular, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.

As we come up to the 7th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, say a prayer for Benedict XVI.

That said, I bring to your attention a parish in England that is finding a new lease on life through the introduction of the older, traditional forms.

I like the headline:

Latin Mass could prove to be church’s salvation  [Latin Mass could mean either the Novus Ordo or the TLM, but we know what they are talking about.]

A landmark church will step back from the brink of closure later this month when a leading priest makes a pilgrimage from Italy to celebrate Mass in Latin.

St Walburge’s in Preston, with its imposing 309-foot spire – the third tallest in the UK – looked destined to be decommissioned only months ago due to a dwindling congregation.  [What do you want to bet that what was being done there was sort of a go-along-get catholicism?]

But now the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has moved in to save the 167-year-old church by offering Catholics traditional services seven days a week.

The new mission will begin on September 27 when Monsignor Gilles Wach, joint founder of the movement, flies in from the Institute’s base in Gricigliano in Tuscany to celebrate Solemn High Mass.

“This is a dream come true for me,” said traditionalist Jim Aherne who is one of around 50 regular celebrants of the Latin Mass at St Mary Magdalen Church in Penwortham.

“To see the Institute take over the biggest church in Preston is wonderful. I’ve always longed for this day.

“The congregation at St Walburge’s have done their best trying to keep the church going, but there was no way this dwindling group of good people could keep it going indefinitely.

“The Institute were invited to a church in New Brighton and what they have done there is nothing short of a miracle. I have a feeling they will do the same to St Walburge’s.”


[Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster said:] “There are some voices who tell me that the presence of the Catholic Church in inner Preston is finished. I cannot agree. We need to be here in a new shape and form and at the same time to strengthen our missionary presence and vitality.”


Fr. Z kudos to Bp. Campbell!

The New Evangelization is easier when you have a church open in the place you want to re-evangelize.  So, the older form of Holy Mass and Summorum Pontificum are tools of the New Evangelization.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Peter from Jersey says:

    Poor Bishop Campbell got a tough time in the blogging world in respect of the Protect the Pope blog. My guess is that he, like Pope Benedict, works quietly for the good.
    It is very hard to judge from afar: the Lancaster Lourdes pilgrimage seem to suggest a good diocese.

  2. mark1970 says:

    I’m part of the Latin Mass community mentioned in the article, those people attending the EF Mass at Saint Mary Magdalene, as represented above by Mr Jim Aherne. This is indeed good news for this part of England, both for St Walburge’s, and for those people who have been attending the EF Mass is the Preston area for many years. Prayers requested for the success of this initiative!

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Excellent news! I have some close friends from this area who will be delighted. Praise God.

  4. benedetta says:

    Beautiful! Agree that offering the EF becomes a game changer for a parish in these times. More vocations are needed though. The aftermath of the false teaching that said that communion service or “Sister’s Mass” or lay run parishes was actually desirable for all time has wrought terrible destruction and undoubtedly has ushered in what we see playing out in nyc and in other places now. The thing is, young people raised in the happy clappy liturgy with the life coach and the table and all that really do not tend to remain Catholic after graduation/confirmation. Whereas young people who opt for beautiful and worthy liturgy and regular confession as a means to the spiritual life will be around for our Church in the next generation. Sister’s Communion Service/Mass will be long gone by then and a memory of a very trying and sad time in the history of the Church.

  5. Andrew D says:

    Praise God! This is not an anomaly either. In Philadelphia, Holy Trinity Church at 6th and Spruce had lost its parish status, becoming a worship site for nearby St. Mary’s. Low and behold, the church is now the center of the Latin Mass community in Center City with a TLM celebrated every Sunday at noon, full of devout and dedicated Catholics. Let’s pray and pray some more that Pope Francis and Cardinal Dolan will see the good the TLM is doing for the Church.

  6. cpttom says:

    This is a great success, and Thank God that it is happening. What is the back story to this? How did the Institute get involved at Preston? Who approached who? Did the Diocese go to the Institute or vice versa, or did the parishioners instigate this through the diocese? Is there a more in depth treatment of this?

    I am concerned that bishops, even allegedly tradition friendly ones, in the US are still so timid to let the EF “have it’s head” so to speak. To see what the EF can do head on. The established lay and clerical cogs of the diocesan machines are NOT supportive of this and, if anything, are active in opposition to it. In my diocese at least the worry is if a EF is regularly offered in the parish it would draw people from other masses and parishes (like that would be a bad thing?) and cause “division.” The anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise, that the EF unifies, clarifies and draws people BACK to the faith, instead of poaching sheep from other parishes. So we’re limited to 4 a year. At least we have a decent start time of 12:30 on Sunday. But it’s all so mind numbingly complicated.

    Sorry to go on, I’m just have so many bruises on my forehead from smacking it against the brick wall. *sigh*

  7. hilltop says:

    Rev. Z is right!
    I further predict that The TLM will prove to be the core of the New Evangelization’s success.
    The NE types, and especially those who merely pay lip service to the NE, focus on new media and using new media to spread the “word”. Problem is their “word” is the same-‘ol, same-ol, just via twitter and Facebook.
    Actual conversion (oh, I mean evangelization) will develop around and emanate from the Holy Mass. Period. And the holiest of Masses, the TLM, will prove the most effective at drawing the masses to conversion.
    May God the Father continue to bless the authentically new evangelization works of Bishop Campbell and of the ICKSP and of His Holiness Benedict. Amen.

  8. mark1970 says:

    cpttom: I have been involved with the Latin Mass community in the area for some time and know some of the history, but as my knowledge is “personal” (i.e. I can’t reference it to e.g. newspaper articles), I’m not sure how much of it Fr Z would be prepared to alow me to mention. Perhaps Fr Z could guide – or is there some way we conld find of speaking privately?

  9. Patti Day says:

    What a blessing that this beautiful church will remain viable. I pray it is such a success that there can be no question of closing it. We will need occasional updates and maybe some pictures of the interior of the church.

  10. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    I am an American living near to Preston. The city center is densely populated with Mohammedans, so I’m not surprised that anyone say there is no Catholic presence there. There’s hardly any Christian presence there.

    I heard a sermon by the new pastor, Fr. Francis Xavier Altiere, who is from Philadelphia and a graduate of Harvard College. Fr. Altiere was ordained in St. Louis recently by Cardinal Burke. He is a brilliant thinker and homilist, and exemplifies the very best in the Church. I expect great things from him in the future. Please support him with your prayers, as will I.

  11. Sonshine135 says:

    This is the renewed evangelization Father- The idea that what was being taught wasn’t what was wrong with the church. The decline came from new and heretical ways of thinking, and the church trying to adapt to this modernist thought. This is wonderful to hear. My church, just this week, announced that a 1st Saturday EF Mass will now be held, and Father told me that the Wednesday Masses in a couple of months will also be in the EF. The church is even offering instruction to the laity on the old form. One of the Priests offering it at our church is only a year out of seminary, and a passionate homilist. We already have one of the most solemn OF Masses. We are blessed. Year over year, my church has had the most vocations out of other churches in the diocese, and I suspect this will continue.

  12. cpttom says:


    I understand. I’ve been involved in an eight year struggle to bring the Latin Mass (both OF and EF) to my parish. It is amazing to me how personal and nasty Church politics can be. Sorta like an undisciplined school yard at times. So I can imagine there are details that should not be aired in public out of propriety and respect for the individuals involved.

    Father Z has been a good sounding board and a font of wisdom during the past couple of years during our effort to get the EF mass on an occasional basis here, we’re up to 4 times a year, but it’s been a real slog.

    I’m here in the US, in New York state, so in person is out, how about Skype or Google? Let me know what works for you. You can reach me through our blog , there is a “Send email” link at the top

  13. mark1970 says:


    I’ve sent a personal e-mail to the address provided, hopefully it should come through to you.


  14. kbf says:

    I’m a Lancastrian from God’s own county and there are a couple of pertinent points:

    1. The current Bishop’s predecessor was +Patrick O’Donahue who I knew well when he was an Auxilliary in Westminster. +POD (as he was affectionately known) was solidly authodox at a time when the bishops in England were not. he commissioned a report “Fit for Mission” which he presented to Pope Benedict, but which was widely derided by the liberal circle for its call for orthodoxy. POD himself was often marginalised by his fellow bishops at the time and I know this was a source of great discomfort for him, but he persevered anyway (he’s now retired in his native Ireland serving as an assistant Parish Priest and helps the bishop out with confirmations and pastoral visits when called upon to do so).

    2. The current bishop was the coadjutor bishop for a while so it’s largely inconceivable that POD didn’t have a hand in the selection process and that the current bishop would be of a different mindset. Everything I’ve seen done by Bp Michael is entirely consistent with POD.

    3. With the exception of Liverpool in the 1980s under ArBp Warlock, the north west of England has always been heavily Catholic and influenced by Irish catholic orthodoxy. The neighbouring diocese is Salford (headed by the very solid Bp Mark Davies who invited the ICCSP to take charge of the Dome of Home) and has always been generous in its provision of the EF. The diocesan shrine at Ladywell used to accommodate the Latin Mass frequently under Fr Benedict Ruscillo and the diocese and county has a long association with the English Martyrs.

  15. mark1970 says:


    +Mark Davies is bishop of Shrewsbury diocese, Nw Brighton is within his diocese,the bishop of Salford (my diocese) is +Terence Brain.

  16. aviva meriam says:

    Thrilled for that Community.

    Would be even happier if my local diocese (DALLAS, TX) would encourage local priests to be more traditional instead of taking their inspiration from the Local Protestant Mega Churches.

    (I apologize for the gripes but one of my formerly favorite parishes…. the one with almost daily confession before mass, etc has cut back dramatically on Confession availablity (even wtih two assistant pastors instead of just one) and the two new assistants to the Pastor are less traditional).

    Have already voted with my feet, (as have others: since these changes attendance is down) but I’d be happiest if I could RUN to a more reverent mass and community instead of running FROM a less optimal one. In other words, I am interested in the Sacraments, not Carnivals and social action.

  17. Rachel K says:

    kbf says “and the diocese and county has a long association with the English Martyrs.”
    Yes, and today is the feast of St Ambrose Barlow (OSB) a local priest from Chorlton in Manchester. He studied for the priesthood in Douai and Valladolid, worked in the Northwest of England and was executed on this day in 1641.
    St Ambrose Barlow, pray for us.

  18. RichardT says:

    A little more background; as well as having a largely Muslim population, Preston also contains a large SSPX chapel and house.

    I think it is where Williamson lived for a while, after being relieved of his duties but before he was finally expelled from the SSPX.

  19. Sixupman says:

    +POD blocked use of St. Walburge’s for ‘Traditional’ use stating it would be “divisive”, he also sought to sell the building to the local university – a la, Holy Name, Manchester, happily saved by Fr. Ray Matus and supporters, now reverted to philistine Jesuit control.

    Also of interest, the priest who resurrected a parish with ‘Traditional’ oriented devotions and Mass, unseated and parish closed down. The priest rendered itinerant!

    A very mixed picture.

  20. Pingback: Armenian Catolicos: World Has Muslim Threat -

  21. Vincent says:

    @RichardT, +Williamson never darkened the door of St Mary’s House. The last comment says it all. It’s a very mixed picture. If you ask me, it’s designed to split the TLM community. Preston isn’t the only town in the diocese. I do not believe that the Bishop of Lancaster supports the Tridentine Latin Mass….

  22. mark1970 says:

    @ Vincent: I can’t claim to know the Bishop of Lancaster’s views on the TLM, but there is another consideration: money. Churches in Preston were at risk of being closed down, St Walburge’s was potentially on the list. It is also a Grade 1 listed building.

    Let me tell you about my own parish. My parish is composed of 2 previous parishes, merged – a bit like St Walburge’s parish, except that theirs is 3 previous parishes merged, not 2. In my parish the “other” parish has a church building, closed for many years due to structural issues. But the building is also a “listed building”, as is St Walburge’s. The church building in my parish is effectively derelict – but the building’s listed status limits what can be done with it. Obviously, it has never been demolished. But the parish still has to pay insurance on an unused church – and recently also had to pay for repairs to the building, on an area that had started to collapse. So even though it is unused, and may indeed end up being demolished – and it’s status as a listed building will have to be removed to allow demolition – the parish is still having to bay insurance and to keep the buildings safe. The church interior is in a horrendous state – vandals have left even the high altar with graffiti, and broken windows mean that the interior is now an unofficial bird sanctuary. The expression “millstone around your neck” comes to mind.

    My reason for telling you this is that the Bishop of Lancaster has possibly been faced with a choice – either close the church, which he may have to allow to remain empty until it can be converted to another use or demolished. But even in that case the parish or the diocese may still be having to pay for the church’s buildings insurance and to be maintained in a safe state. Or he can allow an organisation such as the Institute of Christ the King to function in the church – I’m not sure what the legalities will be but at least the church will be kept open and money will be coming in to help with expenses.

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