Threat to historic church

St Patrick's Church
St Patrick's Church

One of the oldest Catholic churches in Wigan could close after a wide-ranging review of pastoral services in the borough was launched.

St Patrick’s Church, on Hardybutts, Scholes, is believed to be under threat of closure, in part because of dwindling parishioner numbers.

The review is being led by Fr Aiden Kelly, parish priest of Sacred Heart Church and dean of the Wigan parish.

His remit is to scrutinise all aspects of the Catholic church’s pastoral provision.

And a spokesman for Liverpool Archdiocese, which oversees churches in Wigan, confirmed the outcome of Fr Kelly’s consultation could mean a number of churches having to shut their doors.

One parishioner has told the Observer St Patrick’s is one of the churches most at threat of closure and that couples have been told not to book the church for weddings.

It is believed the review was sparked by dwindling attendance numbers and the steady decline in people entering the priesthood.

The consultation process was launched earlier this year and is due to be completed next month.

Church bosses expect to publish their findings by the end of October.

“The consultation process is taking place across the entire Wigan parish,” a spokesman for the Liverpool Archdiocese said.

“It is a review of the pastoral provision in the Wigan area.

“They are looking into everything from resources to the services provided.

“That includes buildings and so there could be church closures but we can’t say any more until the end of the consultation.

“St Pat’s is one of the church that could be affected but we will know by the end of the month.”

Fr Kelly has spoken extensively to a number of parishioners during the consultation.

One parishioner, who asked not to be named, said she was concerned for the future of St Patrick’s.

She added: “From the outside it is a red brick church but it is a beautiful old building, particularly on the inside, and it is definitely worth saving.

“If it is decided that they should close its doors it will be so sad because we’ll be losing one of our oldest Catholic churches with a huge history.”

St Patrick’s is one of the best known Catholic churches in Wigan and was opened in 1847 to serve the town’s newly-arrived Irish community in the then densely-populated Scholes area.

In 1848 Fr James Nugent was appointed first parish priest; he later achieved fame for his pioneering social work in Liverpool.

It is built from red brick in a lancet Gothic style.