To Parishioners of Thirsk and Northallerton 10th July 2010

Dear Parishioners,

Greetings in the Lord.

Deacon John Steel and I are both looking forward very much to serving Parishioners in Thirsk when Fr Andrew Smith leaves in the autumn. In the meantime I should like to obtain the views of Parishioners in Thirsk and Northallerton about future weekend Mass provision in the two Parishes.

At the moment Thirsk has Masses at 8.30am and 10.30am on Sunday, Northallerton has Masses at 6pm on Saturday and 10am on Sunday (and also a Saturday morning Mass in Northallerton Prison).

Thirsk has a Mass attendance of 170-180, but at the moment the Church only fits about 130. However, if the pews are placed up to the wall (as in Northallerton) and extra seating is put into the main body of the Church and the balcony, as well as some seats in front of the glass screen and behind the glass screen replacing a table or two, there should be enough space to accommodate everyone at one weekend Mass.

Northallerton’s Mass attendance is greater than Thirsk and because the Northallerton Church is smaller than Thirsk the Saturday evening Mass needs to continue for the time being to accommodate all Mass goers.

Each Parish should have a main Mass on Sunday morning. It would be difficult for many parishioners to have the main Sunday Mass starting before 9am and so, In view of the distance between the Parishes, the next main Mass would need to start 2 hours later ie 11am. May I propose that a show of hands is made after the Sunday Masses in both Parishes in 2 weeks time to ascertain whether the majority of Parishioners in each Parish prefer a Sunday 9am or a Sunday 11am Mass? If both Parishes have a majority for wanting the same time then I think that it is only fair to give the first choice to Thirsk. I am happy to say the first Sunday Mass in either Parish, but it would make some sense to have the Thirsk Mass at 11am, only half an hour later than now, as this would give me the opportunity to spend more time with Thirsk Parishioners after Mass.

Any decisions will need to be ratified by the Deanery and the Bishop, and the situation will be monitored and reviewed within a year as people form a new pattern of Sunday attendance. No doubt there are other issues to address, but, as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Thank you for your understanding in a time of inevitable change. In the meantime I would be very pleased to receive any letters on the above matter that you may care to write, remembering that a fair and practical balance needs to be achieved between the two parishes and that of course Christians are not concerned with simply serving self interest but rather the wider interests of both communities as a whole.

God Bless You All, Fr James Sacred Heart Presbytery, 41 Thirsk Road, Northallerton DL6 1PJ

Mass Provision as from 26th September (Repeat of Last Week’s Notice)

Fr James writes, ”Many thanks to those who voted a fortnight ago to express their preference for a Mass time on Sunday. As reported last week, the result was that both the Parishes of Thirsk and Northallerton showed a majority in favour of a 9am Mass, though overall numbers were down in both Parishes because of the School holidays. . One conclusion is that for the majority of Parishioners in both Parishes an 11am Mass is too late. Upon reflection, I think that it would be wrong, for the sake of the majority, to insist upon an 11am at either Parish but I still feel that preference has to be given in some way to Thirsk Parish as they will be losing their 8.30am Sunday Mass. Having now measured the mind of both Parishes and having consulted the Diocese and the Deanery, who need to be involved in case of absence or illness, it seems that the fairest solution would be to let Thirsk continue with their well attended Sunday 10.30am Mass after all. It also gives me the opportunity to meet Thirsk parishioners after Mass.

The Northallerton Saturday 6pm Mass will also continue as before, but it means that Northallerton will need to have a morning Mass at the latest possible time for me to able to get to Thirsk before 10.30am - which means that Northallerton will have to change from their present time of 10am to 8.45am on a Sunday.

I am sorry to say that the 8.30am Sunday Mass in Thirsk, the least well attended of all the Masses, cannot continue. However I hope that Parishioners in both Parishes will be able to choose a time at either Parish that suits them best. (If offertory envelopes are presented, they shall be returned to their respective Parish).

Incidentally, the 4th weekend Mass, ie in Northallerton Prison, continues as before, but I am hoping that no one will be asked by Her Majesty to spend time there!

The new times will come into effect from the 26th September for an experimental period and is not set in stone. I am sorry if some parishioners find the above times inconvenient, but hope that everyone will see that the above times are chosen to try to help the greatest number in both Parishes.

As far as weekday Masses are concerned, there will usually be Masses at 9.30am in Northallerton on Monday and Thursday, and at 9.30am in Thirsk on Tuesday and Friday. After Mass on Friday there will be Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and an opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There will also be an opportunity to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation upon request after the Sunday Mass in Thirsk and also at the usual times in Northallerton (11am and 5.15pm on Saturday). In the lighter summer months next year, the Friday morning Services in Thirsk may be changed to the evening.

Thank you for your participation in the discernment process of the mind of the Church and for your understanding in a rapidly changing Church.”