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The Campaign to Save St. Michael's Church

Save St.Michael's banner from the Annual Procession

On the 23rd November 2003 a parish circular was distributed amongst the parishioners of St.Michael's RC Church, Ancoats, stating that after 145 years the Church would be closed on 3rd January 2004 by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford, Bishop Terence Brain.

The parishioners immediately grouped together and wrote to the Bishop requesting a meeting to discuss the closure. The Bishop replied that their comments had been noted, but despite further requests for meetings no further dialogue was forthcoming. This resulted in a feeling among a group of parishioners that they were being ignored by the diocese, and so the 'Save St.Michael's Campaign Group' was formed.

The main reason for closure of the Church given by the Bishop was the falling attendance rate at the Church, in part caused by the decline of the residential community in the Ancoats area. Currently the area is undergoing major redevelopment after its industrial decline, and since being declared a 'World Heritage Site' land and property prices around Ancoats have soared. The 'Save St.Michael's Campaign Group' feel that the parishioners should have been given greater consultation for new uses for the church, which has now been de-consecrated, stripped and is in the process of being sold off. They believe it could have still been used as a place of worship for the Catholic community, whilst combining it for broader uses such as a social centre and centre of Ancoats heritage. This would have encompassed the three main groups who formed the Ancoats community, English, Irish and Italian.

The 'Save St.Michael's Campaign Group' feel that the community has donated much to the running of the Church, not least in financial donations over the past 145 years. As the Group has stated, "if the church needs a new roof, we are expected to find the money to pay for it, or any other repairs needed. Then, and only then, is it "OUR CHURCH"." Indeed St. Michael's is the venue for the annual Italian 'Madonna del Rosario Procession' which started back in 1890 and has continued every year (war years excepted) to the present day.

The 2004 'Madonna del Rosario Procession' was held on Sunday 11th July. Despite the fact that St. Michael's had been closed to worship, close to 1,000 people gathered as tradition outside its doors to begin the annual walk of their Roman Catholic faith through the streets of Manchester. The Manchester Italian Association had requested an open air Mass be held outside the Church, but this was declined by the bishop who offered Mass at an alternative venue away from the Procession. However a sympathetic priest from outside the area volunteered on the day, and Holy Mass was heard by the faithful, a miracle in itself after the Bishop's refusal.

At the current time of writing, every Sunday at 11 o'clock, the 'Save St.Michael's Campaign Group' and faithful parishioners gather for prayers outside their beloved spiritual home. The church is still under negotiation for a buyer, and the Group continues to campaign for dialogue with the Bishop.

For all those who have been touched by St. Michael's Church, or suffered closure of their own church under similar circumstances, the 'Save St.Michael's Campaign Group' welcome your prayers and support.

'Save St.Michael's Campaign Group' Newsletters
August 8th

Contact the 'Save St.Michael's Campaign Group'


Flowers of support outside St.Michael's

The gathering of the parishioners who are the 'Save St. Michael's Campaign Group' for their weekly Sunday prayer meeting outside the church
(Courtesy the 'Save St. Michael's Campaign Group' )
The Very Reverend Father who held the outdoor Mass and saved the day at the Procession
The modern interior of St.Michael's before it was stripped
The original interior of St.Michael's, 1952
Further links:
BBC report on the closure of St.Michael's, Ancoats
BBC report on the closure of St.Joseph's, Northern Ireland
Associations & Walks
Manchester Italian Association (MIA) website

All text and images (unless marked *) Anthony Rea 2010
not to be used without permission. All rights reserved