I read this morning that Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa in the USA, together with Sr Theresa Gottschalk, have enabled the Priestly Society of St Peter to take over the Convent of Our Lady of Sorrows at a place called Broken Arrow. I presume that the order of nuns to which Sr Theresa belongs has shrunk to the extent that they are no longer able to maintain a presence in this particular convent. If this is the case, it is a story replicated many times over in numerous places in the western world, including in England.
What is to be commended in this case is that both Bishop Slattery and the superior of the order of nuns have taken the trouble to consider how this redundant convent can continue to serve the Church. They have come up with the simple solution of offering the buildings to the FSSP, who will now be able to locate a resident priest there.
A few weeks ago, we were able to read a similar story. Bishop Andre Joseph Leonard of Brussels decided to make the conventual Church of St Anne available to the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, giving them a fine church in which to establish a traditional Mass centre in one of the capital cities of Europe.
More recently, we have been able to read that Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury is willing to hand over the Church of St Peter and St Paul in New Brighton to the Institute of Christ the King with a view to their setting up a centre for eucharistic adoration. This imposing church with adjacent presbytery occupies a very prominent position on high ground in the Wirral, and was closed in 2008, on the grounds that it was too expensive to maintain. The latest information is that this project is likely to proceed.
Here are three examples of redundant ecclesiastical property being put to good use. Although I would not wish to quote specific cases, I can think of many examples where convents and churches have been closed with no consideration given to finding ways in which they may continue to serve the Church. Let us hope that the example given by these three bishops will be noticed and taken up by church leaders more generally.