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


Pentecost Sunday – 15th May 2016

Dear Parishioners,

The new Reconciliation Room (Confessional box) is open for business! It is different to before but then again it is the same, so feel free to look in and walk around. When you enter you will immediately see a traditional screen with a white curtain in front of the grill. Before the screen is a kneeler for those who wish to receive the sacrament in the traditional manner but next to this is a chair for those who experience any difficulty kneeling or afterwards regaining their feet. The chair is a sturdy piece of furniture with arm rests so if you have any problem whatsoever with your knees please do not hesitate to sit. Those who may wish to receive the sacrament face to face need only walk on past the screen. The wide entrance and door permit access by wheelchair.

The walls have been insulated and plastered, so the room should maintain a fairly comfortable temperature. On the outside wall there is a light that indicates when the room is in use.

The usual time for the sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) is from 11 to 11.45 each Saturday morning. This Year of Mercy should prompt us to ask ourselves, ‘When did I last go to confession; when did I last receive the sacrament of reconciliation?’

Finally, what is the name of the sacrament: Confession or Reconciliation? Both! We confess our sins and thereby are reconciled with God and the community.

On the upcoming Bank Holiday, Monday 30th May, we shall again host Right to Life’s sponsored Walk for Life. There is no doubt that Right to Life is the most successful of organisations that work to defend the dignity of life from conception to the grave. It does so by encouraging and supporting pro-life MPs in their task of raising the awareness and disseminating information on life issues among their fellow Parliamentarians. The success of this work is seen in that whenever a Euthanasia Bill has appeared in the House on each occasion the number voting against it has increased. Right to Life also provides education packs for Secondary level schools. Demand for this by both state and religious secondary schools outstripped supply.

All these activities cost money even though Right to Life works on a shoestring budget. Please consider joining us this year on our scenic eight mile circular walk along the River Ribble together with Bishops John and Patrick Kelly and Lord David Alton among others. If you are unable to walk then please do consider sponsoring a walker.

Fr John

The Ascension of the Lord – 8th May 2016

Dear Parishioners,

As a Catholic school our mission at St Michael and St John’s is to serve and to make Christ known through our work with our children, families, parish and Diocese.  So our whole community was delighted when a recent inspection by Salford Diocese in March judged us to be ‘outstanding’ in our commitment to Catholic faith and teaching.

Our purpose as a school is underpinned by our mission statement: “Following the example of Jesus, together we learn, love and respect one another to be the best we can be”.

As a Catholic school we endeavour to make the person of Jesus Christ known and loved and ensure that Christ and His teachings are central to all school activities.   The Gospel values are studied, assimilated and lived out in practice and this creates what would be described as the ethos of the school.

The inspectors found that: “All staff act as excellent role models for the children and help them in recognising that God is with them in every aspect of school life.”…“The quality of outreach support provided by the school is absolutely outstanding as not only senior leaders but all members of the community of St. Michael and St John’s live out the gospel message to care for others in their service to the community.”

Our pupils are supported not only by the staff but also by our outstanding Pupil Chaplains who plan, prepare and deliver daily acts of collective worship, prayer and reflection.  Parents and parishioners who have observed these have shared with us how are impressed they are by their quality.

The school recognises that parents are the primary evangelisers for their children and as a Catholic school we seek to support our parents accordance with the teachings of the Church.

As the inspectors commented: “The home, school and parish links are inclusive, creative and effective.”… “All children are provided with a Catholic education in a caring and supportive environment where individual needs are exceptionally well catered for.”

These findings are a well-deserved recognition of our pupils and testament to the hard work and dedication of the whole team involved with St Michael and St John’s.   The strength of the relationships between the school, Priests, Catechists and Parishioners ensures our school is the special place it is.  Thank you and congratulations to all.

Mrs Zoe Mabbott  (Headteacher)

The full report is available on the school website at

5th Sunday of Easter – 24th April 2016 Dear Parishioners,
This week I include important comments from Pope Francis’ address to the World Methodist Council, the Methodist Council of Europe and the Methodist Church in Britain meeting in Rome on 7th April.

I offer warm greetings to you in this Easter season, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord who enlightens the whole world.  I wish to thank you for the kind words addressed to me.  We come together united in the faith that Jesus is Lord and that God has raised him from the dead.  This baptismal faith makes us truly brothers and sisters.

I was pleased to learn of the opening of the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome. It is a sign of our growing closeness, and particularly of our shared desire to overcome all that stands in the way of our full communion. May the Lord bless the work of the office and make it a place where Catholics and Methodists can encounter one another and grow in appreciation of one another’s faith, whether they be groups of pilgrims, those training for ministry, or those who guide their communities. May it also be a place where the progress achieved through our theological dialogue is made known, celebrated, and advanced.

John Wesley, in a letter to a Roman Catholic, wrote that Catholics and Methodists are called to “help each other on in whatever … leads to the Kingdom”. May the new common statement encourage Methodists and Catholics to help one another in our lives of prayer and devotion. In the same letter, Wesley also wrote, “if we cannot as yet think alike in all things, at least we may love alike”. It is true that we do not as yet think alike in all things, and that on issues regarding ordained ministries and ethics, much work remains to be done. However, none of these differences constitute such an obstacle as to prevent us from loving in the same way and offering a common witness to the world. Our lives of holiness must always include a loving service to the world; Catholics and Methodists together are bound to work in different ways in order to give concrete witness to the love of Christ. When we serve those in need, our communion grows.

In today’s world, afflicted by so much evil, it is more than ever vital that as Christians we offer a joint witness inspired by the light of Easter, becoming a sign of the love of God, which in the resurrection of Jesus is victorious. May this love, also through our humble and courageous service, reach the hearts and lives of our many brothers and sisters who are looking for such love even without knowing it.

Glen Cove Ecumenism is a high priority for Pope Francis

hypothetically Fr John

Vocations Sunday – 17th April 2016

Dear Parishioners,

“To live is to change.  And to be perfect is to have changed often.”  Famous words of John Henry Newman.  They reflect one of the great demands of the Gospel, which is Christ’s call to each one of us to change.  It is not always welcome, it’s not always comfortable, it’s not always easy, but like it or not, if we refuse to change we will die.  That goes for us as individuals, and for us as a Christian community. (This is reason for the recent parish meeting!) To live is to change.  To be perfect is to have changed often.
Those called to the consecrated life (priests and sisters in religious orders) or to the diocesan priesthood live this out in a special way: a divine intervention takes their lives in unimagined directions. In turn, their changed lives influence others and help many people make the changes necessary to growing in faith, in relationships and in responsibility. The apostles are the most startling example of divinely disrupted lives. ‘Follow me,’ said Jesus, and they left their fishing nets so that untold numbers of people might hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Today we pray especially that those God is calling may allow this divine intervention into their lives so that they might become the disciples Christ intends them to be as priests or religious.

This year in Salford Diocese, we look forward to the ordination to the Priesthood of Rev Michael Deas and Rev Richard Howard who are completing their studies at the Venerable English College, Rome. We also have two ordinations to the diaconate: Mark Paver (whom you will remember was on placement with us) also from the English College in Rome and Gavin Landers from Oscott College, Birmingham. Please hold them in your prayers as well as our other students who are continuing their journey in formation: Damien Louden, at the Beda, Rome; Callum Brown (who was also on placement here) and Bob Hayes at Oscott College, as well as Luke Bradbury at the English College in Valladolid, Spain. Please also remember in prayer Daniel Gillard who is currently making a formal application to the Diocese for the coming academic year.

Today there is special collection to pay for the training of these young men and the money you give is essential. In 2014 expenditure on training these future priests exceeded income by £165,000. Please give generously.

Fr John

Cardinal Vincent Nichols to the UN – 7th April 2016

Address by Cardinal Vincent Nichols to the Special Conference held at the United Nations on 7 April 2016 on the combatting of human trafficking and modern slavery

Mr President, Your Excellencies, Sisters, ladies and gentlemen,

I am honoured to address you this afternoon on this most important topic which is increasingly demanding not only our attention but that of the entire world. I address you behalf of the Santa Marta Group, an international network of cooperation and initiatives, active in this work against human trafficking and modern slavery. I speak, therefore, in the name of the Catholic community which today again wishes to make clear its unequivocal support for all who undertake this work and its willingness to take part in it.

In asserting this commitment of the Church, I emphasise the foundations from which we act: a radical commitment to the dignity of every human person, a dignity which has to be protected and promoted in every circumstance and time; a dignity which does not depend on the abilities or status of a person but which is rooted entirely in the inner depth of the person’s existence, in the gift of human life which always comes from the Divine Creator who has shown himself to be our loving Father. Human trafficking and slavery radically strips a person of this fundamental dignity, reducing them to the status of a commodity. It is an evil crying out to heaven. That there are over 20 million people callously held in modern slavery in our world today is a mark of deep shame on the face of our human family that no words alone can remove. The challenge that the eyes of faith see before us today is to work to our utmost to rescue, protect, assist and serve the poorest of the Father’s children who have be sold into slavery even as Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers ‘in the beginning'(Gen 37.32).

More personally I stand before you because of three key moments in my life.

The first was four years ago when I listened, for the first time, to the witness of a young woman who had been betrayed into the slavery of enforced prostitution. Her story was heart-wrenching. But what added a particular depth to my shock was the fact that she was a young English woman, trafficked from England into slavery in Italy.

The second moment was occurring about the same time. I began to witness a remarkable partnership being built in London between religious women and London police force, Scotland Yard. This partnership transformed the effectiveness of operations to rescue victims, care for them and pursue to prosecution the perpetrators of this horrendous crime. I realised then the effectiveness of such partnerships, especially between unlikely partners.  Religious women, working on the street, did not instinctively trust the law enforcement agencies who they understood, with good reason, were in all likelihood going to prosecute the very women the Sisters were trying to protect. Yet over time the partnership was established. It was the fruit of the hard work of building trust, a work made up of many demanding practical steps, requiring change in mindsets and procedures. For one thing, it was essential that the police gave to the Sisters the assurance that the victims of trafficking would not be prosecuted, but rather they would be helped.

The third moment came two years ago when, at the end of our first Santa Marta Conference in Rome, Pope Francis turned to me and asked me to keep this work going. That is an order that cannot be refused!

The Santa  Marta Group brings together the leaders of law enforcement agencies from an increasing number of countries – 36 at the last count – and the resources of the Catholic Church, in order to fashion shared alliances of effective action in the fight against human slavery. There have, to date, been three major international gatherings: in Rome, London and Madrid. Results are emerging, with a growing number of countries putting together effective partnerships in this work. Strong examples can be given – in Edu State, Nigeria, – for example, where a detailed four year programme is being put into effect.  Similarly, a North Atlantic Maritime initiative is emerging to tackle the problems of unjust working conditions in the fishing industry. Other initiatives involving the Catholic community have emerged in Argentina and Lithuania and requests for initiatives have come in from the Philippines, South Africa and Mozambique.

The core of the vision and work of Santa Marta, then, is to foster a  symbiotic relationship between law enforcement and the resources of the Catholic Church in this great fight.

I offer this brief sketch of this work because the new Sustainable Development Goals now express the official commitment of every UN member state to work, in this period, for the eradication of human trafficking and modern slavery. The core proposal of this day is that this goal cannot be achieved without effective, international cooperation at many levels, one of which is indeed the

Santa Marta Group, open to all who see the importance of its insight and wish to take part in its processes.

Such international partnerships require not only a shared motivation but also some clear key aims. For us they are univocal: the well-being of every victim of human trafficking, for it is the victim who must always be central to our efforts; the enhancement of the work of law enforcement: the breaking up of criminal networks, the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators; and thirdly the strengthening of the legal frameworks within which this work is carried out.

For me, and I am sure for many of you, Pope Francis remains a central and inspiring figure. He is direct and blunt in what he expects of us – something far more than words: effective action on the ground which frees prisoners, comforts the victims, serves their well-being and generates new hope in a world in which there is far too much suffering, poverty and grief.

When he was here at the UN in September last year Pope Francis talked about the importance of having ‘the will to put an end as quickly as possible to the phenomena of social and economic exclusion’ mentioning first ‘human trafficking and slave labour.’ He called on us to create institutions which ‘are truly effective in the struggle against these scourges.’ He asked us to remember always that we are responding to ‘real men and women’, sons and daughters of our one Eternal Father’ and who are therefore truly our brothers and sisters. In their plight we are complicit. In their freedom we will rejoice with a joy no other satisfaction can give.

I hope and pray that this important Conference will mark a vital step in the work not only of our individual nations and agencies, working in new and effective partnerships, but also in the role of the United Nations itself, an institution which, in the words of Pope Francis, is ‘an appropriate juridical and political response to this present moment of history.’

I thank you for your attention.


Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster


United Nations Headquarters, New York, 7 April 2016.


3rd Sunday of Easter – 10th April 2016

Dear Parishioners,

On Wednesday evening 59 parishioners responded to the bishop’s request that we review parish structures and activities to identify our strengths, challenges and pastoral needs. Participants represented all three church communities and between tea and cakes managed to cover the evening’s agenda. What became glaringly obvious were the very different challenges facing our three communities. I will take a report to the Deanery and the Bishop. To remodel our parish along Pope Francis’ missionary parish model will be a long haul but we have begun and I’m grateful to all who attended.

Due to the haste of adding Offertory Boxes for St Hubert’s to an order already at the printers no one noticed the omission of Dunsop Bridge from the envelopes. I apologise for this mistake which will be ratified when next we reorder envelopes.

If you go on line to or on twitter or facebook at click to pray you’ll be taken to a new prayer app which encourages support of the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions. In addition it offers a prayer to begin and to end the day.

Our Lady of the Valley is a rural parish so Pope Francis’ April prayer for small farmers caught my eye.

Father of goodness, You created this world for your children

who draw their livelihood from the land.

The fruit of each person’s work should be a decent life,

but many are exploited at work, such as small farmers,

in favour of the economic interests of the powerful.

Touch the hearts of all, so that justice may be done to reward

those who need your support.

I also pray for Christians in Africa, especially those living amid

 conflict, that they may be strong in love and faith.

Our Father…; Hail Mary…; Glory be…

Resolutions for this month:

  • I will seek to purchase products from small farmers to support their work.
  • I will inform friends of the injustice caused by those who profit at the expense of others.
  • I will pray both privately and publicly for the persecuted Christians in Africa.
  • Fr John

2nd Sunday of Easter – 3rd April 2016

Dear Parishioners,

First a word of gratitude to all, too many to mention by name, who worked so hard to prepare the Church for Holy Week and all who participated in the ceremonies.  Attendances were really good and it was great to welcome so many parishioners from St Hubert’s.

As you are aware Bishop John has asked each parish to consider how we can best undertake the mission of the Church in Salfoed Diocese in these changing times.  This means identifying our resources and how we might best reorganise ourselves.
In February, the Bishop met over two day meetings with almost all of the priests in the diocese to begin this reflection.  He stressed that, at this point, we are concerned with determining and agreeing “what” we must do in order to face the present and future needs of the diocese.  The “how” we do it will be for a later stage of discussion over the coming summer months.
Now he invites parishes to meet individually, not so much to get into the details of parish amalgamations or church closures, though they will touch on that briefly towards the end of the meeting.  Those detailed discussions will be for a later date.  This meeting is about us, as a parish, accepting that there is a need for change and being open to being part of that change.
Why change?  Back in 2000 we had 191 parishes, containing 206 churches and served by 210 priests.  Now we have 150 parishes, containing 185 churches and served by 155 priests.  Of the 155 priests currently serving our parishes, 124 are diocesan priests but only 106 of those diocesan priests are under the age of 75.  In the next five years, that number will drop to 93 (assuming that they all are able to continue in parish ministry until retirement at 75 and that the present 8 seminarians get ordained).
Change and adaptation is not an option.
More important is Pope Francis’ challenge that “the call to review and renew our parishes has  not yet managed to make them environments of living communion and participation and to make them completely mission orientated.”
So as a parish we shall meet on Wednesday evening in Clitheroe to respond to the challenge of both Pope and Bishop and consider what a modern missionary parish in North Lancashire should look like and be about in the 21st Century.
I urge our three communities based on Dunsop Bridge, Clitheroe and Sabden to COME, answer the call at 7.30pm in the Clitheroe Parish Hall, this Wednesday.

Fr John


Pope Francis’ Easter Message

Pope Francis’ Easter Message was summarised by the BBC commentator in  the words:  “…many references there, both direct and indirect to the fact that  this has been declared by the Pope the Holy Year of Mercy, a year which many have seen it with the emphasis rather less on the rules of the Church, the strict observance, than on mercy, mercy being available and open to all.  The full text is below.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, a Happy and Holy Easter!

the Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” ( Mt 28:5-6). This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew.

The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.

That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!  Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you.

Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.

Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned.

Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty.

Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped.

Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith.

We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent.

We pray in a particular way for Syria, beloved Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenceless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!

Jesus, Lord of glory, we ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan.

We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela.

By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future. On this day, may they be able to proclaim, as brothers and sisters, that Christ is risen, Khrystos voskres!

Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace!

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!