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Led by Lyndsay Docherty, Joe  and Diane Oliver (parishioners for life and over thirty years)
1. WELCOME:  Joe extended a warm welcome to everyone and thanked them for coming to today’s meeting. He  apologised to Manchester United Fans for the  timing of today’s meeting, but he also explained that he would miss watching  his beloved Manchester   City later, as he would  be at his Grandson’s 3rd birthday party.
Joe explained  that the meeting was addressed not only to parishioners who had previously  come to meetings, but also to parishioners and parents of St Margaret Mary’s  Primary School Children who were attending one of these meetings for the  first time.
Joe expressed  his disappointment that there appeared to be no parents of current Primary  school pupils present and that the three of us would readdress a way to  connect with these young parents by consulting with the headmaster next week.  
Diane then  started the meeting with our opening prayer:
Father, We ask you for the gift of Discernment,
That we may see the way You wish us to go,  
For the gift of Wisdom, that we may make the right choices,
For the gift of Courage, that we may see decisions delivered and completed by  our actions,
That the values of the Gospel may  determine our every step,
And that You, Lord, will stay with us on  our journey. Amen.
Joe wanted to  explain the role which we three are trying to play for the Parishioners. He  explained that we are Parishioners like themselves, to whom it has fallen in  the current vacuum, to collect and consolidate their views, in order to try  to enable the best outcomes to occur for our community.
He added that there  may be some of you who are here for the first time and may be wondering why  we are having these meetings.
Lyndsay then said,  in brief, that our back story is that in late July we received the document  from Salford Diocese which gave us an outline for the restructure of the  parishes within our Diocese. Although there was a proposed twinning with St.  John Bosco’s, it clearly suggested the closure of St Margaret Mary’s. The  three of us were immediately alerted to the distress of our parishioners and  felt that we should do what we could to represent our whole community within  this new equation. Our choice was clear. If we made no response, then closure  would be inevitable. So we initiated this plan of collective action, starting  with our first official meeting on 21st August.
Diane then said we  have something for you to read which is relevant to both those who are here  for the first time and to those who have been with us on this journey from  the outset. It is the Minutes of our last official meeting held on the 4th  September. We would like to give you some time to glance over it before we  start today’s agenda.
(minutes were then distributed and all were allowed  time to read them in full)
Joe then asked if  anyone had any questions or comments they would like to raise with us about  what they had just read. There were none asked, but Joe then told everyone it  was important that minutes were taken at each meeting, to remind us what we  had discussed previously. Referring to the minutes, Joe then read aloud, as a  reminder to everyone:
“The  Parishioners of St. Margaret Mary’s R.C. Church, New Moston, wish to respond  to Pope Francis as a “Laity that goes forth!” acting from our Baptismal  Commission to participate in the Apostolic Mission of the Church, rather than  through a delegation from the Hierarchy.
‘It is Baptism  which makes every lay faithful a Missionary Disciple of the Lord, the Salt of  the Earth, the Light of the World, the Leaven that transforms reality from  within.’
Once this  involvement is opened up to us, we will pray and work together as a parochial  community, to ‘transform reality from within’ in order to build up God’s  Kingdom among us, around and beyond us.
Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done.  
Stay with us Lord  on our Journey.”
Joe then said we  would now like to tell you about two important meetings the three of us have  had: Firstly with Mr Sutton, the headmaster of SMM Primary School, on the  23rd September and after that, with the Bishop, here in the Parish Centre,  first thing on Thursday morning Sept 29th.
Lyndsay first  referred to Page 5 of the Sept 4th Minutes, and read the  following: -
“Our Views: -  The significance of the situation of St Margaret Mary’s Church, being right  next to St Margaret Mary’s Primary School?”
Our Response:  - “This is extremely important,” you said, “ School and church need to liaise  to promote Faith in the Future. The Proximity of the church is a visible sign  to our school children and their parents of their faith.”
She continued to  say that it was overwhelmingly flagged up in the Parish Portfolio that our  people desire a close reconnection with the children and parents, as young families  comprise the essential future and survival of our Faith Community. We  therefore had a meeting with the Head teacher Mr. Sutton, who was most  supportive of a full reconnection between school and parish. We gave him a  copy of the Parish Portfolio, in
which he could read  the evidence of the importance of this relationship to our Parishioners. He  will be more than happy to pass this on at the next School Governor’s meeting  for their consideration.
Diane then related  how following this meeting with the Headmaster on the 23rd  September 2016, we had fully updated the Bishop that same day on everything  we had done since the 5th September, (which was the date on which  we had personally delivered our Parish Portfolio to him at his Residence.)
After receiving this most recent update from us on 23rd September,  the Bishop replied to us that very day, thanked us, expressed appreciation  for our concerns and affirmed our positive thinking. He went on to assure us  in writing that he would not ignore any of the content of our Parish Portfolio.
This response was  reported to the parishioners in church last Sunday.
Later on Sunday 25th September 2016, we received a further  email from the Bishop, the first sentence of which read as follows: “Thank you for  all the materials and information about the community of St.  Margaret Mary’s. I am pleased to see such enthusiasm for developing a  missionary aspect to the life of the community.” This means he is very  pleased that we are addressing his key definitions for the ‘Parish of the  Future’ as a “dynamic  and life-giving community”
Also within this email he asked us to confirm additional information.  But most importantly, he offered us a chance to meet with him, face to face.  We three then met the Bishop personally, here in the Parish Centre, first  thing on Thursday morning the 29th September 2016.  Lyndsay will give you a brief outline of the  interchange which occurred between ourselves and the Bishop:
Lyndsay began by  saying that our meeting was characterised throughout by mutual respect and a  shared wish for the best outcomes.
She continued to say that he thanked us and  our parishioners, not only for the content of our Portfolio, but for the positive spirit  in which it has been compiled.
We made him aware of all the ways in which we are striving together  towards the missionary definition, trying to meet all its challenges, to  build bridges and reach out to one another. He affirmed all the signs of our  reinvigoration as a spiritual family.
Most importantly, we were able to tell him personally that SMM Parish  and SMM School have a strong mutual desire to be one community  again.
We concluded with a direct  appeal to him for a chance for SMM to be allowed to make a go of it in a  merged parish with St. John Bosco’s under fresh leadership, which will preserve  the identity of both parishes.
He responded by promising to give very careful consideration to all  that we have put before him over these weeks, before arriving at his final  decision.
Joe then referred  everyone to the head of Page 3 of the Sept. 4th Minutes that had  been handed out at today’s meeting: -
“VOLUNTEERING: Joe  pointed out that in order to achieve what many parishioners had detailed in  their INDIVIDUAL STATEMENTS, we must all come together and offer our help
in whatever way we  could.”
He explained that to  this end, we need your views, hopes and ideas as to how we can achieve this.
He asked if they  had any suggestions  of how we can rebuild our community, work together and very importantly, to  enjoy our time together ?
He added that we  three cannot practically achieve this ourselves, it takes all of us.
Many views  were then put forward, which are now reported: -
The question  was asked, “What is a merger?” Lyndsay explained that it would involve two  churches coming together sharing a priest, but that each church would be able  to keep its own identity.
There was some  confusion over which churches would be placed together in the proposed  restructuring, as currently St. John Bosco’s shares a priest with Mount Carmel.
Joe referred  to the Bishop’s document to reiterate the Clergy’s proposals and to highlight  where the proposed changes would be in our locality, namely that St. John  Bosco’s would merge with SMM, with the ‘suggested’ closure of SMM. But if SMM  were to stay open, we would have a priest who would run the two churches.
It was asked  if that meant there would then be Daily Masses again. Joe said it could  happen that we would have masses on alternate days between the two churches,  as this already happens in other parishes. But at present we just don’t know.
Sister Gabriel  referred us to the ‘Vineyard of the Lord’ – we are the workers and we all have  talents. If we are practising our faith it is not enough to just go to Mass. We are  missionaries. “Go and teach!” she exhorted.  “ We have to give that message – ‘Home, Church and Parish’, those  three are key. The characteristics of the first Christians were summarised by  these Gospel words: ‘See how they love one another and work together!’ The  parish depends on us using our talents – ‘God given talents!’ Think!  Paraphrase the words of President Kennedy who said: ‘ Think not what your  country can do for you, rather what you can do for your country’ So think:  “What can WE do for St. Margaret Mary’s?” The  Parishioners showed strong agreement by spontaneously applauding.
Joe informed  the parishioners that we would be producing minutes of this meeting just as  we have of our previous meetings and that a copy would be sent to the Bishop  and to Father Saunders.
Joe asked the  parishioners, for the future of SMM, if anyone would like to volunteer to do  any specific service as he, Diane and Lyndsay cannot practically run  everything themselves. He commented that we have had some volunteers coming  forward already to offer help and as a result we now have a parish website :
In the future  we hope this website will be linked in with the SMM primary school website.
It was  suggested that areas of need for volunteers could be broken down into  individual categories or compartments. If volunteer lists were put up at the  back of church, people could then decide what they would like to help with  and add their name to the list, with the times they are available to help. A  Parishioner commented on a need for such a system to address the shortage of  volunteers for church cleaning.
It was also  suggested we make people welcome from school. If schoolchildren were able to  do a concert - a Christmas Carol Concert for example – then parishioners  would provide refreshments for them.
It was  mentioned that we’ve had beautiful services on the altar in the past, led by  the children, incorporating dance and drama, which are well remembered by the  children themselves and their families.
It was noted  by parishioners how few children were present that morning at mass. Indeed,  it was felt to be very worrying. It was expressed that we urgently need  younger people doing the readings, bidding prayers and singing.
Joe explained  that it is not at present within our brief to create a primary school  presence in our services and that we must defer entirely to the authority of  the Headteacher, who in turn must have their presence ratified by the Board  of Governors and by Fr. Saunders. Joe said that this was one of the problems  we have particularly asked the Headmaster to address with the School Governors.  
It was also  asked if the children could have mass in church rather than in the convent.  Sister Gabriel said the children belong in church. “ It’s theirs”, she said, “it  is their spiritual home. To be having mass in the convent is giving them the  wrong impression – that the convent and not the church is their home.” She  continued: “Children worshipping in Church is also the way to involve parents,  as the convent is too small to be able to do this. They should be there–in  the church-- as they are the young family members of the Church.”
It was asked  if we knew where the Bishop stands on Eucharistic services being held when  there is no mass. Joe said this was something we hadn’t asked at our meeting  with the Bishop, as our agenda with him had to be very focused and his time  slot was tight due to another engagement following straight after our  meeting.
But we said that it was a good point and we  would pass this thought on. A parishioner said she had heard that it was  something to do with mileage. If there is a mass held within a certain mileage  of two churches, then a Eucharistic service would not be held.
It was  mentioned by the same parishioner that we should be careful that we are not  running ahead of ourselves with plans for the future. She agreed about  activities which may involve school, but she recommended that we take things  steadily, one step at a time, firstly focusing on building up a spiritual  church – praying together – and after that the social elements.
She asked us  to consider the senior status of the majority present and to accept that  although they may want to take a very active part, they will be less able to  do so than when they were younger, so at the moment we can’t promise  anything.
Lyndsay stated  that our priority was to reconstitute the link between the Parish and the young  families connected with the Primary School. That does not mean to take our  eye off all the other things raised, but rather to keep them like spinning  plates in the background.
Sister Gabriel  quoted what Pope Francis had said about the subject of Unity between  Schools and Parishes. She told us that the  Pope said that rifts do happen, but we have to get over them and bring people  back out of exile.
It was  suggested that parents could be informed of meetings, by parishioners  distributing leaflets in the playground or putting up notices on the school  fence or doing a community leaflet drop.
All good ideas,  but Joe explained about the protocol of referring every action concerning the  school to the authority of the school governors and to the Headmaster, in  order to preserve mutual respect between us and them.
Lyndsay added  that this respect for correct procedures and protocols has guided all our  initiatives from the outset and has caused  us to keep the School, Father Saunders and the Bishop fully informed of every  development as it arises.
We were  reminded of the historic restructuring of the parish in the 1970s when St.  John Vianney’s was built.
It was stated by a parishioner that surely  the priests understood the importance of a church having an adjacent school,  so why are we now going to be closed?” Joe replied that at this stage it is only  a ‘suggested’ closure. Lyndsay then explained the causes of the  sustainability crisis throughout the whole Diocese , how and why  over-expansion occurred in the 1970s.
The point was  raised that in the Bishop’s document, it states that 75 churches are going to  be closed. In reply to this Joe said that this was upsetting and we  sympathise with them, but it is up to other communities to be pro-active like  ourselves at SMM on behalf of their own people. He reminded the meeting of  his original analysis of the statistics that were included in our Portfolio,  which revealed a far worse threat of church closures in south Manchester. We therefore  need to look at this as a whole and in perspective.
The  parishioners were told that Joe, Diane and Lyndsay would be meeting with the  headmaster at SMM primary school at some point during next week.
Joe finished  this part of the meeting, by asking everyone to think of a suitable community  activity we could carry out and to approach him, Diane and Lyndsay so that  this could be considered.
The  Bishop is looking for us to achieve this, to prove
  we are a sustainable and missionary community.
Lyndsay  explained to everyone that a Missionary Community is one which dares to reach  out: to nurture both the social and the spiritual lives of our parishioners,  to serve the specific needs of different age groups, to link with and welcome  other communities outside our traditional boundaries, for example groups such  as St George’s C of E.
After  discussion, it was agreed that we would meet again on Sunday 30th  October 2016 after 10.30am Mass.
Diane then asked  everyone to refer to Page 3 of the Minutes and join in with us in our  concluding prayer: -
Dear Lord,
As the Living  Body of Christ,
May we open  ourselves with docility and humility
To the newness  of God which surprises and surpasses us, but never disappoints us.
May we take up  the challenges of our present time,
As did Mary  our Mother and St Margaret Mary our Patron,
Blest with a  new apostolic vision, Amen.
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
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