The Most Holy Trinity – 22nd May 2016

Dear Parishioners,

This an abbreviated extract from an American Bishop’s column in a regional newspaper…

Mercy may seem reckless to us at times. Mercy trusts those who have proven themselves untrustworthy, those who have failed us. Mercy loves those who acted without love. Mercy hopes in those for whom it seems all hope is lost.

Very often, we question the practice of mercy. A wife forgives an unfaithful husband, and her friends call her a fool. If we befriend the weak, or the elderly, or the unborn, or the disgraced, the world believes we are wasting our time.

But God is merciful. God trusts us, even when we have failed him. God hopes in us, even when we disappoint. God loves us, with love beyond measure, even when we do not believe that we are worthy of his love.

God is not merciful because he is reckless. God is merciful because we are his children. God is merciful because we are made in his image; in God’s sight, we are worthy of his sacrificial love, for the sake of our redemption. God’s mercy is a mystery. But the mystery of God’s mercy gives us new life.

Our lives are often messy, complicated, and disappointing. Very often, we have the sense of being unloved. Our sins can leave us depressed and despondent: without a sense of meaning, or purpose, or hope. Unhappiness, rootlessness, and loneliness seem often to be endemic to the human condition. But mercy gives us new life in God’s friendship.

There is nothing more profound than receiving the mercy of God. And in his grace, we can receive his mercy through the sacramental life of the Church. Pope Francis says that the sacraments – especially the sacrament of confession – are the “bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.”

St. Paul says that at all times “God is rich in mercy, because of his great love.” In the sacrament of confession, God reminds us that his love has no conditions, no bounds, and no exceptions.

Mercy forgives, and it strengthens, and comforts, and restores. Mercy is not reckless, because mercy prepares us to leave our sinfulness behind, and to love as God loves, in faithfulness and freedom. Mercy sets us free for new lives of holiness and joy.

Fr John


Palm Sunday – 20th March 2016


This week we embark on a journey that will take us from the joy of Palm Sunday through the suffering and sorrow of Holy Week to the triumph and celebration of Easter.

Maundy Thursday

Clitheroe 8.00pm Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper

We commemorate the last meal that Jesus ate with his disciples in which he washed their feet and instituted the Eucharist. Afterwards he walked to the Garden of Gethsemane where the Apostles were unable to stay awake and pray with him. In darkness he was arrested. We commemorate this by the removal of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose. As a community we respond to Christ’s words, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” by watching with Christ from 9.00pm until Compline (the Church’s night prayer) at 10.00pm.

Good Friday
Today is a day of Fast and Abstinence

Clitheroe 9.00am Stations of the Cross

Sabden 10.00am Stations of the Cross

Clitheroe: 10.00am Ecumenical Service at St Mary Magdalene’s, followed by procession of the Cross to Castle Gate

Sabden: 11.00am Ecumenical Service at the Village Cross

Clitheroe 3.00pm Celebration of the Lord’s Passion

Jesus died at the ninth hour, three o’clock in the afternoon. We gather in mourning to hear St John’s account of Jesus’ Passion; to pray for all for whom Christ died; to venerate the cross on which he died; and to share the fruit of his redeeming death in Holy Communion.

Holy Saturday    

Clitheroe 8.00pm Easter Vigil

In darkness, the Easter fire and the blessing of the Paschal Candle celebrate Our Saviour’s resurrection from the dead and the victory of light over darkness. Extended readings recall God’s redeeming acts throughout history that culminated in the Resurrection. The Easter Water is blessed and we are invited to commit ourselves afresh to Christ by renewing our baptismal promises. This Vigil Mass is the most important Service of the whole year and should be attended even in preference to Mass on Easter Sunday itself.

Easter Sunday

Clitheroe 9.30am Mass & Renewal of Baptismal Promises

Dunsop Bridge 10am Mass & Renewal of Baptismal Promises

Sabden 11am Mass & Renewal of Baptismal Promises


A prayerful Holy Week and Joyous Easter to all our parishioners…

Fourth Sunday of Lent – 6th March 2016

Dear Parishioners,

Defending one’s faith or religion in general is challenging. It demands trust in Jesus’ promises and belief in the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

This is how George Brandis, Australia’s Attorney General did so towards the end of last year.

Religious freedom is just as important as political freedom, he said, in a speech given on November 5th at Australia’s Human Rights Commission’s Religious Freedom Roundtable, held in Sydney.

The event was meant to provide a forum for people of diverse religious faiths and also those who do not profess a faith, but who take an interest in religious affairs.

“To those who are adherents of a religious faith – and in Australia, according to the last census, that was seven among every 10 of us – religion can be the most fundamental source of our sense of right and wrong; and of those beliefs about mankind and his place in the cosmos which transcend the everyday.”

He noted that many notions of political liberties had their origin in the struggles for religious liberty, referring to the political battles of the 17th and 18th centuries in England and to the writings of such authors as John Milton and John Locke.

At the same time over the Atlantic, in the colonies of North America, there was a strong commitment to religious liberty, not least in the writings of such persons as Thomas Jefferson.

In more recent times Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights strongly affirmed the right to religious freedom and liberty of conscience.

Turning to the current situation in Australia, Brandis commented that sometimes there is an inconsistent attitude towards religious tolerance. “Members of Christian faiths – in particular the Catholic faith – are routinely the subject of mockery and insult by prominent writers and commentators, provoking Mr Dyson Heydon’s observation, in his Acton Lecture last year, that ‘anti-Catholicism in Australia now might be called the racism of the intellectuals’ – or perhaps he should have said, the pseudo-intellectuals,” Brandis observed.

He also referred to what he termed the “incessant, smearing ridicule” of the former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, on account of his religious faith, describing it as “bigotry at its most shameful.”

In our country it is no different: anti-Catholicism remains the last respectable prejudice. So I say to George Brandis, “Good on ya, mate!”

Fr John

Third Sunday of Lent – 28th February 2016

Dear Parishioners,

Lent is flying by with only a month to go before we celebrate the great Easter feast.

If you haven’t yet made a Lenten resolution or if you have already broken one, don’t worry. With a month to go it isn’t too late to start afresh. Don’t let time slip you by; do something for Lent, no matter how small it may be.

The final parish meetings to study and discuss Pope Francis’ important letter Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) are on Wednesday of this week, 2nd March, and Wednesday of next week, the 9th. Tea and cake is available from 7.15pm, the meeting begins at 7.30 and lasts only one hour until 8.30pm, though some then take the opportunity of an extra cuppa and further chat. These last two sessions will hopefully generate ideas of how best we may become the Missionary Parish that both Pope Francis and Bishop John are urging us to be. Why not do something positive for lent by coming along?

Last week I was able to send a cheque for £1,000.oo to Oliveaid, the charity run by Bethlehem’s Catholic University which provides olive tree saplings to Palestinian families whose trees and therefore their livelihoods have been taken by that infamous security wall. £258.oo was raised by Christmas Crib donations and £430.oo by donations from parishioners. Thank you all. The charity supports Muslim as well as Christian families and particularly has helped Christian families remain in the Holy Land.

This weekend the Easter Lily Remembrance Book opens at the back of St Michael and St John’s. For paying the cost of an Easter Lily, £3, donors may write the name of a deceased member of their family or a friend or indeed for anyone for whom they may be praying in the Easter Lily Book which will remain at the Altar during Eastertide. The resulting display of lilies magnificently decorates the sanctuary during this most important time of the Church’s year.

The popular Family Paschal candles have arrived complete with stands and are still only £10 each. I have only 10, so first come first served.

St Michael and John’s needs more volunteers to read at Mass. Please don’t be afraid of stepping forward, particularly younger members of the congregation. It isn’t as daunting as you may think and we will help with training. Please speak to either of the priests or to Teresa Mercer.

Fr John


Second Sunday of Lent – 21st February 2016

Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis has asked that we make Lent, in this Jubilee Year of Mercy, a special time to celebrate and experience God’s mercy by receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation. On countless occasions he has reminded us that God never tires of forgiving, it is we who tire of asking him for forgiveness!
In a recently published book THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY Pope Francis was asked: ‘You once said that the confessional should not be a “dry cleaner.” What did you mean by that?’
He answered: “It was an example; an image to explain the mistake of those who believe that sin is a strain, only a stain, something that you can have dry-cleaned so that everything goes back to normal. The way you take a jacket or dress to have a stain removed: you put it in the wash and that’s it. But sin is more than a stain. Sin is a wound; it needs to be treated, healed.”
In response to his plea, a number of events have been arranged in the Deanery to encourage you to attend the field hospital of the Spirit, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

This Saturday, 27th February, the Mercy Bus will be in Blackburn, parked up (with permission!) from 11am until 4pm on King William Street, opposite the Town Hall. Young volunteers will be on hand to explain to passers-by what the bus is all about. Priests will be on hand to respond to requests for a blessing or Confession (Reconciliation). Some parishioners will remember that Fr Frankie spoke of this and his picture with the Pope and the bus at the recent parish Jimmy Cricket evening. So, do come along if only out of curiosity!

Then on Tuesday 1st March at 7.30pm in St Albans, Blackburn, there will be a special Deanery Lenten Mass to celebrate the Year of Mercy. From 7pm onwards and throughout the evening a number of priests will be available for Reconciliation (Confession). Fr Frankie will preach at the Mass.

On Tuesday 15th March in St Michael and John’s at 6.30pm there will be a Service of Reconciliation at which our Clitheroe and Dunsop Bridge First Communion children will make their First Confessions.
Parishioners are also welcome to celebrate the sacrament with Fr Wareing, Fr Kevin or me.
The following day, Wednesday 16th Fr Kevin and I shall be in St Mary’s Sabden where the Service will begin at 6pm.

In St Michael and John’s the usual Saturday morning Confessions will continue from 11 until 11.45am and on Friday evenings during the Stations of the Cross at 7.30pm.

I leave the last word to Pope Francis: “God is faithful. His mercy will always be greater than any sin; no one can put a limit on the love of the all-forgiving God. We should only be conscious of our need, be honest with ourselves, and not simply lick our wounds.”

Fr John

First Sunday of Lent – 14th February 2016

Dear Parishioners,

In Lent we are asked to prepare for Easter by prayer and sacrifice. If you haven’t decided yet what you will do for Lent then please consider one of the following (or more than one!).

* Give God some silent attention each day.

* Buy (£1) the ‘Walk With Me’ booklet which will help you pray and reflect each day of Lent.

* Join the Stations of the cross in Clitheroe at 7.30pm on Fridays and in Sabden at 7.30pm on Tuesdays.

* Join the Lenten Service after Mass on Thursday at 8.10pm until 9.15pm.

* Spend a little time each day reading the Bible in the quiet of your home.

* Attend daily mass. (Details weekly in the newsletter)

* Come to Exposition on Saturday mornings between 11am and 12noon.

* Pay a visit to the church which is open daily during daylight hours.

* Encourage someone who has been away from Mass to return to practice and accompany them to church.

* Recite the Rosary at home or join the weekday recitation in church at 9.30am.

* Visit someone in need of help or friendship or perhaps an elderly relative you haven’t visited for a while?

* Make up a longstanding quarrel.

* Help to clean the church on Monday mornings at 9.30.

* Give up a favourite treat like sweets, drink, watching too much TV or cigarettes.

* Keep ‘Family Fast day’ on Friday.

* Every Friday give up eating meat.

* Make a clean sweep. Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession), available Saturdays in Clitheroe from 11 to 11.45 and during the Stations of the Cross on Fridays.

* Attend the series of ecumenical Lenten talks on Saturday mornings in the Hall at 11am. (Coffee from 10.30)

* Join a Lent discussion group based on Pope Francis’ recent letter ‘The Joy of the Gospel’, Wednesdays at 7.30pm in the Hall on 17th, Feb, 2nd and 9th March

* Attend a Lenten Station Mass (see the notice board)

Wishing you a fruitful Lent,

Fr John


Lent begins this week on Wednesday when there will be four masses celebrated in the parish during which ashes will be distributed. Please do try to attend one of these, the times of which are listed on the front page. Ash Wednesday is also a day of Fasting and Abstinence on which Catholics worldwide join in common penance by eating less and abstaining from meat.

Fr John

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 31st January 2016

Dear Parishioners,

The Forum met a week last Wednesday in Sabden.

With Dunsop Bridge a part of the family it was decided that all future meetings would convene in Clitheroe to save Dunsop parishioners travelling 15 miles to Sabden and vice versa. So we shall next meet in Clitheroe after Easter on Wednesday 6th April.

Forum also voted in favour of the proposal to celebrate a Children’s Mass on Christmas Eve at 4pm in Sts Michael and John’s. Hopefully this will prove to be a more suitable time for young families and also reduce the pressure on the 6pm Mass. The 8pm Mass will be celebrated in Sabden and on Christmas Day morning Mass will be celebrated in St Hubert’s at 9am and in Clitheroe at 10am.

Also discussed was the irritation of some parishioners at the frequency of retiring collections (so named because these are taken as you leave church). 18 of the collections are compulsory and taken in every Catholic Church in England & Wales. Occasionally another collection may be added in response to a particular need or emergency. What is important to bear in mind is that you are not obliged to give to retiring collections. These collections are not compulsory but an opportunity to support some charities important to the church.

In this Year of Mercy there will be a Reconciliation service in St Michael and St John’s on Tuesday 15th March at 6.30pm during which children from St Hubert’s will join Sts Michael & John’s pupils to make what most of us remember as their First Confession. Children at St Mary’s will make their First Reconciliation in Sabden the following evening, 16th March, at 6pm.

Just look at what we found while planning the refurbishment of the Confessional: two stained glass windows. These will be opened up when work begins.

The Church runs an excellent internship scheme that provides recently graduated Catholics with an intensive experience of political and social action in a spiritual context. This year it is offering up to eight internships, including placements with Christian MPs at Westminster; a parliamentary support role within the Bishops’ Conference Secretariat; with the Catholic Agencies CAFOD and CSAN in social action and public policy roles; and a media and communications internship in Archbishop’s House, Westminster.

Applications close soon but there is still time to apply. To learn more:

Fr John

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – 24th January 2016


Pope Francis writes, at the start of his letter to the Church, “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness.” He invites all Christians everywhere to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them.

In our Parish we have made a start responding to Pope Francis by arranging six meetings to examine our Faith through this document. So far we have had two gatherings before Christmas, each lasting one hour. Groups of around eight parishioners read and discuss the message in an atmosphere of welcoming friendship.

Here are some comments from parishioners who attended;

“I really enjoy these groups—meeting with others and talking about our Faith”

“Another excellent and thought provoking session”

“Very friendly group, it was easy to participate for someone who finds it difficult to open up”

We have arranged four more sessions leading up to Easter and invite ALL parishioners to come and experience these groups. The meetings start at 7.30pm on Wednesday evenings in the Parish Centre with refreshments served from 7.15pm. They end at 8.30pm but those who wish may stay on to discuss some issues in greater depth. What a great thing to do for Lent! Please come and join us.

The dates for your diary are 3rd February, 17th February, 2nd March and 9th March.

Parishioners will be available to explain more to anyone interested after all Masses next weekend, 30th/31st January.

We look forward to seeing you on the 3rd February.

Peter Donnelly


Second Sunday in Ordinary Time – 17th January 2016

Dear Parishioners,

Following last week’s newsletter, I’ve been asked to explain, particularly for the benefit of new parishioners, what the Parish Forum is and how it operates.
Quite simply the Forum is our Parish Council, but unlike many Councils it is totally transparent and inclusive. Its Chair is elected to serve for three years, as is the Secretary, and all parishioners are welcome to attend its meetings, join in discussions and vote in ballots when they are present (no postal voting!). It meets round about every six weeks and each parishioner has the right to suggest items for the agenda.

We meet next Wednesday at 7.30pm in the Parish Hall in Sabden and will finish by 9 o’clock. Tea will be served from 7.15. Further items for the agenda should be submitted to me or the secretary Margaret Donnelly: or 01200 441081 by Tuesday evening.

The proposed Christmas Mass schedule and one central venue for future Forum meetings (last week’s newsletter) will be among the issues to be discussed.

Lent is only three weeks away and Maureen Mercer is introducing a new arrangement for groups who this year will lead the Friday Stations of the Cross in Clitheroe. A list will be pinned up in the porch for groups to decide their Friday. First come…..!

Launched last Tuesday a book long interview with Pope Francis. The name of God is Mercy was also released in 20 languages in 86 countries.

Fr John

They say time flies when you’re having fun; this has certainly been the case in my pastoral placement here in the Ribble Valley

I have had a wonderful experience in a Parish full of people with a lively and inspiring faith, which has been greatly encouraging. I have encountered such a great commitment to service among so many of you and you have taught me a great deal. So, it’s with a certain heaviness of heart that I leave you to return to seminary and continue this exciting journey towards priesthood. Please accept my sincere thanks for the privilege of getting to know you over the last five months. I ask for your prayers for the rest of my time in formation and be assured of my prayers for you all.

Wishing you every blessing,