Sir George launches Catholic Church website
12 May 2002
Sir George with Fr Jack Blaney SMM, admiring the new website
Sir George with Fr Jack Blaney SMM, admiring the new website
Click for a full size picture
Sir George clicked the mouse after Mass on Sunday, to launch St John's wesbite.

"This is very progressive - the Church using modern technology to spread the Gospel. Congratulations to Julian Marsh and Patrick Pontet-Piccolomini for doing so much to get this quality wesbite up and running.

Extract from the Church's Press Releaase follows

Sunday 12 May 2002 is World Communications Day. This is the day that the Catholic parish church of St John the Baptist in Andover has decided to launch its website. The parish area is quite extensive. Covering over 400 square miles of the northwest corner of Hampshire, it is one of the largest in the Catholic diocese of Portsmouth. The furthest point north is Linkenholt, to the west Tidworth, south from start of King Somborne and to the east Micheldever Station. Within this area are six places where mass is celebrated on a Sunday alone, of which three - Andover, Whitchurch and Stockbridge - are the responsibility of St John the Baptist parish.
The large parish church in Andover celebrates mass every weekday and to accommodate a variable weekend congregation of anything between 500-750 in Andover alone, celebrates mass on Saturday evening and twice on Sunday morning, and once on Sundays in Stockbridge and Whitchurch.

The Catholic Church generally is conscious that there is no longer the conveyor-belt of priests coming out of seminaries into parishes or even to congregations and religious orders. The number of active priests is fast declining, the results of which are particularly felt in the diocese of Portsmouth. In St John the Baptist parish, the three priests who serve the parish are not getting any younger and a couple are declining in health.
The Montfort Missionaries, who have served this parish since 1974 and are also suffering the decline in their numbers, have serious doubts about being able to continue to provide priests, certainly not to the same level as now. The parish may find itself in the not too distant future having a visiting priest, perhaps not even every week. The congregation, however, does not view this with negativity or despair, but as a new challenge and an opportunity to reshape the parish to ensure its survival. Rising to the challenge of starting to get used to looking after themselves, the parish formed a Co-ordinating Committee to study the implications for the future, particularly the establishment of a Parish Pastoral Council which will assist the parish priests - and in the future if only a visiting priest - in the delivery of pastoral care to its community.
The attitude of the parish is reflected in the first paragraph of the Introduction in the parish's Directory which starts off by saying "A Parish is not the church or the priest; it is the people. People who try to live their lives in a way that reflects their beliefs, people who come together to pray, people who afford each other friendship, help and encouragement, people who facilitate support and pastoral activities, people who allow themselves to be involved in the social and welfare cohesion of the parish family."

With such a large geographical area to care for, even with the luxury of three priests, and conscious of the demands of the modern world placed on individuals which make it difficult or impossible to attend mass or other services, the Parish Co-ordinating Committee set up a working group to develop a parish website as a means of communicating to these and the wider community, utilising the generous services of one if its parishioners, Julian Marsh, to design the site in conjunction with the working group.

The website contains a wide spectrum of information, both spiritual and temporal - times of services in all three of its churches in Andover, Stockbridge and Whitchurch, details of and how to contact the clergy, a directory of the numerous activities that go on in the parish - baby sitters, sacramental preparation classes, various associations, how to hire the church hall, finances, prayer groups, bereavement support, how to arrange baptisms, marriages, a funeral mass, the parish shop and various Catholic newspapers, committee structures, social activities, youth activities - not forgetting the sensitive topic of child protection, information about the future development and direction of the parish, and background papers to use of the Internet by the Church in reaching out to the wider community.

There are also links to a host of other Catholic websites from which the viewer can glean views - and not just the official views of the Church - on a wide range of topics, and links to local information as they directly affect the lives of those in this large parish - carers support, local newspapers,
local government agencies, Kids Church, local resources for leisure activities, businesses, places of interest, and so on.

The site will be launched by local Conservative MP, Sir George Young Bt, and will take place in the church hall in Alexander Road, Andover, at 12.30 pm. As well as the presence of Sir George, the leaders of local churches in Andover, Stockbridge and Whitchurch have been invited, many of whom have expressed their interest in the development of this local resource.
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