[Updated on 16th October 2020]
Priory Campaign Completed with £1m Raised
Our conveyancer emailed us today: “I am pleased to confirm that completion has taken place today.” The purchase of Priory Court Unit 1, 2 and 3 is now completed and our charity legally owns the entire building.
Our heartfelt thanks go to God and all our benefactors for the success of the Priory Campaign. The Trustees of FSSP England are delighted to announce that the remaining funds needed to complete the purchase of Priory Court (Unit 1) and to undertake the necessary conversion work have now been raised and we have ceased fundraising.
Fr Goddard, our charity’s Bursar, has written as follows: “This much needed addition to St Mary’s Shrine facilities involves significant funding, and it would not have been possible without your financial support. At the time of writing, with a few final administrative checks still to be undertaken, we are fairly certain that the Priory Campaign final total stands at £957,917.48. This includes a legacy of £139,800.00 which the executor was happy to put towards Campaign funds. When we add the expected Gift Aid rebates on some of your donations, along with other funds received towards hall facilities, this raises the total to about £1,019,300.00. With last year’s purchase of Units 2 and 3, and some remedial works completed in recent months, roughly half of this figure has been spent. However, the remaining funds will allow us to comfortably buy Unit 1 and make all the necessary conversion work and adaptions for Shrine use.”ur heartfelt thanks go to God and all our benefactors for the success of the Priory Campaign. The Trustees of FSSP England are delighted to announce that the remaining funds needed to complete the purchase of Priory Court (Unit 1) and to undertake the necessary conversion work have now been raised and we have ceased fundraising.
It seemed very fitting for us to try to buy back the old Priory and convent, both on Buttermarket Street, because they were part of St Mary’s Parish – originally owned and run by the Benedictine monks of Ampleforth Abbey. Similarly, Priory Court stands on the site of the old parish school of St Mary’s. But we started this Campaign two years ago in adverse circumstances. The owner – a large company letting office and industrial space nationwide – granted us three months, between 18th July and 18th October 2018 to raise the £1.5 million needed to make the purchases. However, with everyone going on holiday, including benefactors, this was the worst time in the year to launch a fundraising campaign. And yet, money started being sent to us.
Articles in national media such as The Catholic Herald and some international blogs draw attention to the project. The Priory Campaign received official support from The Latin Mass Society, pro-life organisations such as SPUC, 40 Days for Life, Good Counsel Network, and other prominent Catholics such as Archbishop Malcolm McMahon OP, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Viscountess Ashbrook.
The October 2018 deadline was extended over time and our scope had to be limited to the amount raised and to administrative constraints. After one year, in October 2019, we managed to buy two units of Priory Court, while allocating funds for the necessary conversion costs from office to our use. One year later, we are now completing the purchase of the final unit and can allocate space within the entire building for various needs.
Work should start shortly to make Priory Court a versatile venue for Catholic activities and events. We wish this venue to support Catholicism not only in Warrington but further afield through family activities and through liturgical, doctrinal, pro-life and artistic events. We thank wholeheartedly our benefactors, including those who offered sacrifices and prayers rather than or in addition to money, according to their means. From the start the Priory Campaign was entrusted to Our Blessed Lady. St Joseph was also regularly invoked, as well as the Servant of God Elizabeth Prout. The success of the Campaign demonstrates their blessing through the generosity of our benefactors and supporters. In happy contrast with the sad departure of the Benedictine monks from Downside Abbey in the news recently, the success of the Priory Campaign speaks of the reclamation of part of Warrington’s Benedictine patrimony. The Abbey of Ampleforth in Yorkshire used to run four parishes in Warrington. St Mary’s was the last one they had to relinquish, due to lack of vocations. There is something symbolic in the saving of St Mary’s Church from likely closure in 2015, followed by the reclaiming of the site of the old parish school next door. To English Catholics and to anyone in love with our Catholic heritage and faith, it speaks of hope, of ardour and of trust in the Lord and His saints, helping us rebuild Our Lady’s Dowry.
Born in Shrewsbury, the Servant of God Elizabeth Prout (1820-1864) founded the female branch of the Passionists with Bl. Dominic Barberi. Her congregation served deserving families in the North West. The Sisters of the Cross and Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ arrived in Warrington on 3 January 1899. Their convent, 80 Buttermarket Street, was beside St Mary’s Benedictine Priory. They came to teach, to visit sick and needy parishioners, to instruct converts and to help the poor. The Sisters taught in St Mary’s girls’ and infants’ schools from 1899 to 1967. Her congregation now asks to be informed of any favour granted specifically through her intercession. This could lead to her beatification. In anticipation of the 200th anniversary of her birth this September, less than a month before the fundraising deadline for our Campaign, the following petition was suggested: “Servant of God Elizabeth Prout, to further your work of Catholic education and assistance to Catholic families in our country so much in need of it, please obtain from God’s Providence the successful completion of the Priory Campaign in Warrington, on the very location where your Sisters served for seven decades.”
Dear benefactors, while the Priory Campaign is satisfactorily ended, please continue to pray and support us in our ongoing expenses. To give you a recent example, the cost of a necessary Visual Condition survey (N.B. not including yet any repair) of St Mary’s church roof, tower and external areas amounts to £12,447.30 incl. VAT. The body of Elizabeth Prout lies at the Sutton St Helens Passionist Shrine, fifteen minutes from St Mary’s, along the bodies of Bl. Dominic Barberi and Ven. Ignatius Spencer. What a grace if this saintly woman could be beatified soon and intercede even more powerfully for our service to souls at Priory Court and St Mary’s. God bless you! □