St Joseph's RC Church

St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church
Parish Priest: Father Paul Hopper
Deacon: Peter Lavery.
Birtley Lane, Birtley, Tyne & Wear DH3 1LJ.
Telephone: (0191) 410 2923. Facsimile: (0191) 410 5843.


Parish Profile Prepared for Parish Visitation 2007

St Joseph Mass times

Diocese contact details


1. Background

St J ChurchThe parish is one of the oldest in the diocese, established in 1696; the church was built in 1843. From 1723 until 1977 the parish was served by Benedictine priests from Douai Abbey.

The parish is situated in an unusual geographic position. It is made up of three residential communities that straddle two local authorities, Birtley and Kibblesworth in Gateshead and Ouston in County Durham. The parish has also seen a number of local government boundary changes over the last forty years. As a result the parish has three primary schools (St Joseph’s Infant and Junior Schools, in Birtley, and St Benet’s Primary School in Ouston). These primary schools feed in to three different Catholic Comprehensive schools, St Leonard’s Durham (for Ouston), St Edmund Campion Wrekenton (for Birtley and Kibblesworth) and St Robert’s, Washington (the feeder school for Birtley when in it was part of County Durham).

This unusual geography is replicated in church terms as the parish shares borders with seven other parishes, of which only one is in the same deanery and the other six are in four different deaneries and St Leonard’s School Durham is the only one of the three secondary schools in the same deanery.

Birtley was once heavily reliant on coal mining, heavy industry and brick making, the mining and brick making have now ceased and the heavy industry is much reduced but Komatsu and the Ordnance factory are still major employers. The majority of the working population now travel outside of the parish to work. The parish has recently become aware of a number of immigrant workers from Poland and other Eastern European countries working and living in the parish.

Ouston and Kibblesworth were both relatively small semi-rural villages that have seen considerable expansion of private housing over the past 40 years.

The parish continues to grow with new housing developments in Birtley, Kibblesworth and Ouston.

Within the parish there are a considerable number of care homes and nursing homes for the elderly and residential and respite homes for the disabled.

The parish has a catholic population of some 1200, a weekly Mass attendance of 420 and over the course of the past year 73 baptisms, 2 receptions in to the church, 36 confirmations, 13 marriages and 38 deaths. [Statistics taken from 2006 Northern Catholic Calendar – to be updated]

2. Parish Activities

2 (a) Liturgy

The parish provides a varied liturgy, both over the course of the different seasons of the church’s year and over the three main masses. The vigil mass on Saturday evening is regarded as a more “traditional” liturgy with the music provided by the male voice choir accompanied by the organ. The first mass on Sunday morning (8.15) is a quiet mass without music and the main mass on Sunday morning (10.00) is more family orientated, with the music provided by a more contemporary music group and a children’s liturgy. Although the three masses have their very different styles they also have a great deal in common with considerable lay participation in the liturgy: service of welcome, readers, offertory procession, Eucharistic ministers, choir and music group, children’s liturgy and altar servers.

2 (b) Witness

There is a strong sense of parish community with our Christian values at the heart of activities in our church, parish centre, schools and the wider community. The parish church is in a prominent position in Birtley and the always open door (8am until dusk) is treasured as an important part of our witness in the community. The prominent position of the church is put to good use with the illuminated outside crib at Christmas.

Church Grotto 2The parish priest and permanent deacon, from within the parish community, are seen as strong and important role models for the rest of the parish. As well as proclaiming the word in the readings and the homilies in church there are a number of ongoing formation activities in the parish. The parish sisters run the CAFE programme and other discussion and prayer meetings. There is a monthly parish discussion group that looks at key religious and / or social issues. There are preparation programmes for the sacraments of Holy Communion, Confirmation, Marriage and Reception in to the church. Our schools are a beacon of witness to our catholic faith promoting a Christian ethos that underpins the whole of the school’s activities.

The parish has many active groups in the parish, St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP), Catholic Women’s League (CWL), Young Mothers Group (YMG), the Catholic Men’s Society (CMS), the Guild of St Stephen and the Lourdes Group, and their actions as groups and as individuals provide witness in the parish and wider community.

The Parish Centre and the church together provides a hub for all parish activities, the meeting place, both formally, informally and socially for many of the parish groups and individual members of the parish community. The Parish Centre is regularly the focus for continuing celebration after we leave church and the place where many have been made to feel welcome and to take the first steps back towards the church or towards joining in full communion with the church.

2 (c) Service

There is a strong sense of service in the parish community. Service that is provided through the many activities of our parish groups and societies and service that is provided by individuals, often largely unseen, in caring for those in need.

Eucharistic Ministers assist with the distribution of Holy Communion both in church and in the homes of the sick and the housebound.

The SVP are strong and active in the parish in identifying and meeting the needs of others and organising a regular Mass for the sick and housebound.

The members of the CMS manage the Parish Centre, on behalf of the parish, organise the monthly discussion group, run groups to promote and raise funds for CAFOD and Let the Children Live and organise various social and fund-raising activities.

The CWL and YMG meet weekly providing a range of spiritual, social and fund-raising activities for their members, including running the weekly “PM Club” for senior citizens, saying the rosary in church each week and running a coffee morning.

There is a parish youth club, Brownies, Rainbows and the junior football club.

The Men’s choir sing at every funeral that takes place in our church and frequently offer this service for funeral services in the other churches in the area and at the crematorium, while the CWL provide catering at funeral receptions in the Parish Centre. These services are much appreciated by bereaved families, as is the Book of Remembrance, which is on permanent display in the church.

There is a strong tradition of Lourdes service in the parish with many parishioners actively involved in the Diocesan Pilgrimage and / or service with the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes and a Youth Sponsorship scheme to assist young people from the parish to travel on the Diocesan