Leeds rejects dying wish of loyal parishioner
By NIGEL BCR_NHAM
CA-rmoucs in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, have written to the Pope to ask for his intervention in a row that has alienated local parishioners from the Diocese of Leeds.
Bishop David Konstant of Leeds has announced plans to close the churches of St Joseph, St Thomas More, St Paulinus and St Anne and to merge them all into one parish which would be served by a new church to be built in the town in the new millennium. But the scheme has been condemned by protestors, who include Catherine Wilson, a parishioner of St Joseph's, who has accused the Diocese of plotting to finance the scheme using a L500,000 bequest left to St Joseph's by the late Gwen Cockrern.
Mrs Wilson, 60, said this week that Mrs Cockrem, a longserving member of St Joseph's, had left the money "to keep the church open, not to have it dosed down and merged with others".
But her protests to the Diocese have produced no change in policy hence her emotional plea to the Pope: "We Catholics here are feeling so desperate that I am writing to you begging for help.
"We all understand that church attendances are falling. One of our congregation, Gwen Cockrem, realised this and decided to do something about it. She knew that our little church was in danger of being closed down, so she left a large sum of money in her will to keep it open.
"She died four years ago and there is now L500,000 in the bank. But the bishop says he is still closing our church and others in Dewsbury, including St Paulinu.s, which is the most beautiful church, and well attended."
She added: "How can they do this dreadful thing to us? We have all protested but to no avail Our wishes and the wishes of Mrs Cocknern are being disregarded.
"Please do something for us little-known people so far away from you, then we would not feel so far away after all."
Fr Andrew Summersgill, Secretary to Bishop Konstant, denied that the Leeds Diocese would be misusing Mrs Cockrem's bequest if it were used to fund the proposal to merge the Dewsbury churches into one parish.
"If the scheme goes ahead and it is possible for Mrs Ockrem's money to be used then we would very much like to," said Fr Stunmersgill. "But if that isn't possible because, say, there are conditions attached to the bequest that we aren't able to fulfil, then we might have to do without the money.
"Whatever happens, we can't let Mrs Ocicrem's Will dictate what is best for the future of the Catholic Church in Dewsbury."