Orton angered by loss of priest
by Christopher Rails CATHOLICS in Orton. near Peterborough. are annoyed because Bishop Alan Clark of East Anglia is to leave them without a resident priest. and has not consulted them.
Orton is a new town of 15,000 people, expected to expand to 22.000 by 1988. It is served by All Souls Catholic church, Peterborough, which is six miles away. But one of All Souls' group ministry. Fr Michael Griffin, is resident in Orton.
Bishop Clark decided that due to a shortage of priests, he would have to withdraw Fr Griffin, but he agreed to review his deeision after what he called "strong representations" were made by Fr Griffin and Fr Paul Hypher, leader of the group ministry. The Orton Catholic community however, were annoyed that they had not been consulted. and they met on July 6 to outline reasons why they considered a full-time priest was necessary. They said Orton needed a full time priest to serve the new town being six miles from Peterborough it needed a separate identity leading towards separate parish status.
The bishop replied in an open letter dated July 12. He said every aspect of the situation had been taken into account, but he would have to stand by his original decision, and Fr Griffin would be moved "after the summer".
However. he agreed to a request by the Orton community that the presbytery be maintained for community use. He said that
the pastoral care given by All Souls church would be rearranged to give top priority to Orton, and that a young assistant priest would be appointed to the parish to maintain manpower.
Orton was dissatisfied with this arrangement. and the community has made further representations to Fr Hypher. One of the community, Mr Willy Grant, said: "After all the talk at the National Pastoral Congress about consultation with the laity, I feel let down by the hierarchy" "We accept that the bishop has to move priests" said Mr Grant, "but we feel we must try to make Orton a parish in its own right". He said there were more than 200 regular Mass goers, a figure which was rapidly growing.
At least 11 people had written to the bishop and each received a reply from the bishop's secretary saying nothing further could be done.
Orton is involved in u local ecumenical project. which means there is practical co-operation between the churches.
Mr Grant said the Church of England's Board for Mission and Unity were "extremely worried" about Fr Griffin's withdrawal from Orton. because the project's success was partly reliant on the presence of resident clergy.
Bishop Clark was not available for comment, but his secretary, Fr Roy Gathercole, said on his behalf that there had been consultation with the priests concerned. He admitted the system could be better. but said things were improving.