Town backs petition to keep cherished priest at Burnley church

Fr Brian Kealey of Christ the King Church, Burnley, where parishioners have launched a petition for him to remain after it was announced he was to be moved to Darwen.
Fr Brian Kealey of Christ the King Church, Burnley, where parishioners have launched a petition for him to remain after it was announced he was to be moved to Darwen.

A petition, to keep a much loved priest in the Burnley parish he has served for 14 years, raised almost 1,000 signatures in just 24 hours.

The swell of support for the petition to keep Fr Brian Kealey at Burnley’s Christ the King parish came from churchgoers, parents and supporters of Christ the King School and also people across the town who know the dedicated priest well.

Fr Brian Kealey (far left) at the recent opening of the peace garden at Christ the King Primary School with pupils, teachers and civic dignitaries

Fr Brian Kealey (far left) at the recent opening of the peace garden at Christ the King Primary School with pupils, teachers and civic dignitaries

People began showing their support as soon as the petition went live on social media on Wednesday evening and within 24 hours it had been shared several times across facebook and had around 900 signatures.

By Saturday morning the figure had passed the 1,000 mark and today the total number of signatures stood at 1,094.

The petition was launched by parishioner Jenny Turner after the announcement was made that Fr Kealey was to be moved to Darwen as part of a wider restructure within the Salford Diocese.

Jenny said: “We hope the petition will show how well loved and respected Fr Brian is here in Burnley.

“But we also want the powers that be to see all the tremendous work he has done in both the parish and the town.

“He has made such a difference to so many lives and he has made sure the parish has been ready to adjust and change in often challenging circumstances.”

Since arriving in Burnley Fr Brian has gained a reputation for being friendly and able to relate to people of all ages and he has played a key role in building the parish of Christ and King and St Theresa’s.

Passionate about creating a social community that is inclusive of people from different cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds, Fr Brian has organised and taken part in many charity, inter-faith and social events in Burnley.

Many petitioners have written glowing comments and personal accounts of how Fr Brian, who is also known for zest for life and enthusiasm, has helped them and their families personally.

Players and officials at Lowerhouse Cricket Club, where Fr Brian is a keen supporter, are among the hundreds who have signed the petition.

And Anthony Bleasdale, who is office manager at Alderson and Horan Funeral Directors, said: “Fr Brian is so loved and a great asset to Burnley.

“He is so good with people and he has done much in the community. he will be a real loss to the town.”

Originally from Bury and of Irish descent, Fr Brian, has worked at several other parishes and also for a time in East Africa.

He told the Express: “I am very grateful for the kind things that have been said on the internet.

“However I am a Roman Catholic priest who promised obedience 34 years ago.

“The Salford Diocese is very big with very many challenges and very many needs.

“Thus, if I am asked to respond to those needs anywhere, anyhow, it is part of my lifestyle to try and do so.

“Obviously I will be very sad to leave the people I have come to love in Burnley.

“I have loved being here and I have had a lot of fun.”

The chairman of the governing board at Christ the King Primary described Fr Brian as the “inspirational link between the school and the parish” saying: “All of us will miss the vibrancy he brings to life.”

A spokesman for the Diocese of Salford said: “We understand that many people within the parish of Christ the King will feel sadness at seeing Fr Kealey move to a new parish.

“The decision to relocate Fr Kealey is part of series of moves that will take place over the next few months across the diocese.”