Nazareth in Lancashire: FSSP Warrington Launches Priory Campaign

July 26, 2018

The first Mass of Fr. Seth Phipps at St. Mary’s Shrine

Along Buttermarket Street in Warrington, England, a quaint little building stands alongside the beautiful Shrine of St. Mary, the FSSP’s apostolate in the heart of the burgeoning city halfway between Liverpool and Manchester. The building is constructed of red brick and possesses an elegant, old-fashioned demeanor that speaks of its Georgian origins. Not far away, set behind the Shrine and forming a sharp angle with the Georgian building, another building stands, larger and much newer, though the architecture matches that of its vintage confrere. The Shrine and the two buildings form a nicely coordinated, somewhat triangular compound; indeed, you would think the buildings belonged to St. Mary’s. And once, they did.

The smaller building dates from the Georgian era

Thirty years ago, the Benedictine Abbey of Ampleforth owned, in addition to the Shrine, both the smaller building and the larger building’s predecessor. The smaller building was the former Priory, and the larger one the former St. Mary’s school. In 1989, the Abbey sold the buildings to an owner who has had possession of them ever since. This owner completely refurbished the Priory building, rebuilt the school building and let them out as offices. The school building is slated to be turned into residential flats in the fall, with the Priory building to follow if the plan is successful.

The larger building, at the former site of St. Mary’s school

But before that happens, St. Mary’s has a golden chance to get them back again.

The owner is generously giving St. Mary’s the exclusive right to buy the buildings, and has given them until mid-October to gather the funds.

Fr. Armand de Malleray, rector of St. Mary’s, told us more about what the Shrine has planned for these buildings. Since they are outfitted as offices, they can be used immediately as such and as spaces for classes and other activities. Parts of them could be turned into residential quarters for clergy and guests. The Shrine hopes to turn the ground floor of the larger building into a conference hall seating 100, with movable partitions so it can be divided into multiple areas for smaller groups, such as children’s classes.

The buildings, at the top and bottom left of the picture, form a triangular compound with the Shrine

And here’s where it really gets exciting. St. Mary’s has a vision that goes far beyond office space and extra rooms for activities. The Shrine wishes to create a hub of Catholic activity in Warrington, with the church as the living heart of a village centered around Holy Mass and the Sacraments (see Fr. de Malleray’s article “The Village Option”, in the Winter 2017 edition of Dowry magazine). The goal is to build a Nazareth in Lancashire, a place where families live, gather and flourish, nourished by daily Mass, Confessions, catechism and the full-blooded life of a thriving parish. To this end, the plans for the new buildings include a school/educational center, a Catholic bookstore and publishing company, a pro-life counseling center and a vestments sewing shop. At a time when the decline of the Faith in England makes it tempting to settle for survival, St. Mary’s Shrine is not settling for any such thing. As they state on the webpage for the Priory Campaign:

The Priory Campaign is about being creative, daring and proactive to implant a multifaceted Catholic hub, here in the North West of England. The Priory Campaign is about bringing together the skills and talents of many, to inspire, to enthuse, to empower. 

“The FSSP in the UK is tiny compared with North America,” Fr. de Malleray explains. “This project is very ambitious and relies on the good will and skills of whoever will volunteer. But if Our Lady wants it, it will happen! Already we had an American couple email us about relocating here…Even while remaining in North America, benefactors can make a huge difference helping us implant a Catholic stronghold in post-Christian England.”

The Shrine is looking for pledges rather than actual donations at this point. They are at the £300,000 mark, one fifth of the goal, but they still have a long way to go. If you wish to pledge, please contact Fr. de Malleray at malleray@fssp.org.

Additionally, the Campaign has been blessed with the encouragement of the Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool, the Viscountess Ashbrook of Arley Hall and others. Read their words of support below, and visit the Campaign’s webpage here to read the remarks of other supporters and to learn more about the Campaign.

As the local Ordinary, I have ordained four priests at St. Mary’s Church over the past three years, and I have twice conferred the sacrament of Confirmation. I eagerly support the Priory Campaign which will secure for St. Mary’s Shrine the space needed for their increasing pastoral activities.

– His Grace the Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon, Archbishop of Liverpool

Renowned for its sacred music and architecture, St. Mary’s Church in Warrington is a place of beauty and contemplation for all, in the centre of a busy Cheshire town. I believe that such cultural oases are much needed in our day and age…I happily recommend St. Mary’s Church Priory Campaign to provide extended facilities for worshippers and visitors alike, and hopefully an added benefit for the town.

– Viscountess Ashbrook of Arley Hall