Parishioners fight to keep Rothwell church open after being left stunned by closure

The church was closed after a review by the Diocese of Northampton
St Bernadette's Church, RothwellSt Bernadette's Church, Rothwell
St Bernadette's Church, Rothwell

Parishioners at a Rothwell church say it feels like a family has been pulled apart after being left stunned by its closure.

Catholic church St Bernadette’s was one of two – the other being St Patrick’s in Corby – that the Diocese of Northampton announced would shut after a review led by Rt Revd David Oakley, Bishop of Northampton.

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But the congregation at the Rock Hill place of worship say they were not consulted over the decision and are determined to keep it open.

The church was opened in 1959 after lots of fundraising and some parishioners have been worshipping there for more than 50 years.

Dr Janet Squire grew up in Rothwell and married her husband James at the church in 1973. After moving away she came back to the area in 1985 and has been going to St Bernadette’s ever since.

She said parishioners were stunned, surprised and upset after being told of the closure at the end of a Mass in July.

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She said: "It’s very much loved by the local congregation. We just do not know why it’s being closed.

"We can’t find the words to describe how we’re feeling. It’s as if the soul has been pulled out of the place.”

Writing to parishioners the Bishop of Northampton said it was with a ‘very heavy heart’ that the pastoral decision had been made to close but that currently the ‘appropriate level of pastoral care’ wasn’t possible. Dwindling congregations and too few clergy have been cited for the closures.

Parishioners were told that Sunday Mass would continue at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Desborough.

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But Dr Squire said many do not want to travel elsewhere to worship. One has already made a funeral plan which includes a Mass at St Bernadette’s.

She said: "Rothwell is a growing town and there are at least three new estates. We’ve got to have the facilities.

“You’re not just closing a church, you’re pulling a family apart and losing a caring community which, post Covid, you need to preserve and encourage.”

The last official Mass there took place on August 21. The congregation has been promised nothing will be removed until they have had the chance to meet the Bishop – who is yet to visit – to discuss the decision.

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Dr Squire added: "Before he takes that move he must consult with the parishioners. That has not been done.”

A Diocese of Northampton spokesman said: “We do understand the position of the parishioners and senior members of our leadership were present at an open meeting and listened to the concerns raised.

“Bishop David is always available to meet parishioners to listen to any concerns they may have and he is in the process of arranging a suitable time with some of the parishioners from St Bernadette's, Rothwell.

“As you will be aware, numbers attending Mass is just one of the factors in this decision alongside numbers of clergy and availability of a suitable alternative place of worship within a reasonable distance, the Catholic Church in Desborough, is just 1.5 miles away.

“The distress the closure of a church building can cause is not underestimated by the Diocese of Northampton and this decision has not been taken lightly.”