London Colney Pastoral Centre to be sold

A PICTURESQUE Catholic Pastoral Centre in London Colney is to be sold, a spokesperson has confirmed after its imminent closure was reported in last week’s Herts Advertiser.

On Monday the Diocese of Westminster began a 30-day consultation period with the 32 staff whose jobs are affected by the planned closure of the All Saints Pastoral Centre which is set on a site of nearly 30 hectares.

It is anticipated that the former convent, built in 1901 and acquired by the diocese in 1973, will remain open until the end of 2011.

The spokesperson said: “Agents will advise on the sale of the property which will be done in accordance with the 1993 Charities Act. This is understandably a difficult time for staff, many of whom have worked at All Saints Pastoral Centre for many years.

“Any decisions about redundancies will not be made until after the consultation process is complete. All Saints Pastoral Centre will remain open until the end of the year and staff will retain their jobs until then.”

Closure of the centre has been blamed on “a challenging economic climate,” despite the diocese exploring various options over the past five years including upgrading conference facilities or developing the site as an educational centre. Those plans proved impracticable as it would have required a major investment of many millions of pounds.

Set in 70 acres of grounds, the pastoral centre caters for up to 200 delegates attending meetings and retreats, mainly from the religious sector. It has 12 meeting rooms, a caf� and the McCrimmons Bookshop. The spokesperson said: “The Diocese of Westminster will also consult with the bookshop and all leaseholders of the premises regarding the future of their tenancies.”

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The centre is also home to SPEC, which works with young people from parishes and schools from the ages of eight to 18. The name was developed from the Latin ‘Speculum Vitae’ which translates as “mirror to life.” SPEC provides a variety of residential programmes and retreats, school missions and parish outreach.

The spokesperson said: “The SPEC centre will remain on the site until the end of 2012. It is too early to say where a retreat centre will be sited in the future but the Diocese of Westminster will consider all options to ensure that there are good quality residential retreat facilities for youth and young adults in the Diocese.”

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, has paid tribute to the dedication of staff running the centre and SPEC. He said: “In particular I would like to highlight the work of Mgr Vladimar Felzmann whose ideas and energy have been fundamental to the All Saints Pastoral Centre’s ethos of welcome and spiritual discovery. I also acknowledge the contribution made by Alan Johnstone who is retiring in November 2011 and whose leadership has ensured the smooth running [of the] centre over the past 15 years.”