Published: 09:00, 01 July 2016
A Catholic church in Strood is closing because of a shortage of priests.
The last service at St Justus, Temple Farm, Strood, takes place on Sunday at 10.30am with a mass presided over by the auxillary bishop of the diocese Paul Mason and the church’s current priest, Fr Anton Vijayan.
Penny Modena is the parish’s catechist, a person who leads others in understanding the official teachings of the Catholic church.
She said: “Unfortunately, due to a shortage of priests, it is no longer possible for the church to sustain three churches in one parish.
“Twenty years ago the parish had three priests, now there is only one, Father Anton.”
After Sunday, the nearest in church for St Justus worshippers to now attend will be English Martyrs, about a five minute drive away on Frindsbury Hill. The other still remaining open in the parish, which covers some 30 square miles, is Holy Family Church in Hoo.
Father Anton, confirming the closure of St Justus, said: “In addition to experiencing fewer priests the building was in a desperate condition, especially the roof.
“English Martyrs is a bigger church and can accommodate some 400 to 500 people.
“The move will bring worshippers together under one roof and provide better use of our resources.”
It’s estimated St Justus had up to 70 worshippers. Also looking for a new home will be the day nursery at St Justus with 50 children on its books, 14 with special needs.
The foundation stone for St Justus was laid on August 27, 1950, by Canon Joseph Simmons with the chapel built in the same year.
Mrs Modena said: “The shortage of priests is not just a Catholic church problem. Today there are not many young men being called to be priests. It isn’t a job, it’s a vocation and those that do it perform a fantastic job and are quite wonderful.”