Fighting a spiritual dearth
OUR LADY OF SORROWS and St Francis parish is situated east of Doncaster, in the heart of the village of Armthorpe. Parish priest Father Anthony Attree, sees Armthorpc an atypical mining village a clean, pleasant place, quite unlike the "slagcovered, back-to-back tenements" of popular lore.
The parish is endowed with two churches, the legacy from a time when the village was divided into two separate parishes. The oldest church (established in the 1920s) is a small red-brick building, while the more modern one, a plain rectangular structure, was constructed during the 1950s. Although he believes that both churches exude "a quiet beauty", Fr Attree feels that the atmosphere which pervades in each of them is quite distinctive.
Around 300 parishioners attend the simple, organ-accompanied Masses held at both churches, but although he appre ciates the dedication of the kw who do regularly attend Mass, Fr Attree is dismayed by the dwindling number of truly committed congregation members. In his view the entire Diocese of Hallam (which includes Our Lady of Sorrows), is "in need of evangelisation". He feels that there is a dearth of spirituality in the area, and that the sense of community so invaluable to a healthy religious life is being eroded by corruptive secular forces such as television.
Although he is understandably saddened by this state of affairs, Fr Attree remains undaunted, and is intent on reviving his 'parish's community spirit. He attempts to include all his parishioners, even those struck by illness, in the life of the church. Every three months, Our Lady of Sorrows' sick and infirm arc anointed during Mass; this alleviates their feelings of isolation and marginalisation by allowing them to meet others sharing their circumstances. Those too sick to venture to Mass are not forgotten members of the parish have formed a society which provides solace to those who arc bedridden, either at home or at the Royal Doncaster Hospital.
Fr Attree's fondest. hope is that the people of Armthorpe "will unite" to confront their current financial crisis. The parish's primary and comprehensive schools are presently over £21,000 in debt. To remedy the situation, parishioners have organised a Spring draw, carboot sales and flea-markets. A church meeting was recently held to plan further fund-raising.
Despite the fact that Our Lady of Sorrows and St Francis has limited resources, Fr Attree looks forward to involving his parishioners in programmes "which will not only reach out to the faithful, but to all of Doncaster" in the near future.