Yesterday`s local morning paper, the Newcastle Journal carried an article featuring Fr Zielinski (pictured above), parish priest of Prudhoe, judicial vicar, and dean of the Tyne valley area regarding the bleak future for the Catholic Church in this part of the world. This comes in the week when the bishop and his episcopal council have been away from Monday to Friday mulling over the future too. The Journal article says the bishop`s meeting was beginning yesterday but it ended yesterday. However here is a quotation:
FEARS the Catholic church could diminish in the region over the next decade have emerged in a new study.
Leading North East priest Father Paul Zielinski, of the Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, has warned of potential widespread closures and dwindling clergy cover at Mass attendances, if trends from the last 10 years continue.
The worrying scenario facing deaneries in Newcastle and Hexham were on the agenda at a crucial Bishop’s Council meeting which began last night.
Mass attendances in the diocese have continued to fall, dropping by 13,347 from 52,563 in 2001, to 39,216 in 2009.
Fr Zielinski, head of the deanery covering most of the Tyne Valley, has produced a list of concerning scenarios potentially faced by the church, alongside changes proposed for the other 17 deaneries also on the table at the debate.
The present number of active priests stands at 115 but is likely to fall to 73, warns Fr Zielinski.
He has also raised the prospect of many of the 181 parishes having to be cut back, with churches in the diocese covering Berwick to Teesside closing, priests’ houses being rented out and greater pressure put on retired priests, deacons and ministers to work again.
The consequences of falling Mass figures and the declining number of clergy were being debated at last night’s behind-closed-doors meeting, which is expected to last several days.
Fr Zielinski told The Journal last night: “We face a huge challenge in the future to maintain the current level of the Catholic church. My study appears gloomy but we must face the real problems head-on. The concept of Sunday worship is disappearing. People do not consider that day as a time for rest and reflection any more in our 24/7 culture.
“We are in danger of losing what makes the church a source of immense wellbeing.”