All Saints – 1st November 2015

Dear Parishioners,

Periodically I’m asked what we Catholics believe regarding Heaven, Hell and Purgatory and why a Catholic Funeral is not a simple celebration of life. So, for this weekend of All Saints and All Souls here is a simple restatement of Catholic belief regarding death and what follows.

Death is life’s moment of truth when we shall see and recognise ourselves for what we truly are. It is then that God waits to accept us into his infinite loving embrace. Some may fall into God’s arms immediately. For others the embarrassment of fickle, imperfect, vacillating love may prevent an unconditional acceptance of God’s embrace until love is purified and refined. Sadly, some may be so full of hatred and denial of everything good that they turn their face forever away from love, from God. An eternity without love is simply Hell.

On the other hand, Heaven is an endless moment of love. Nothing more separates the saints from the God whom they have sought their life long. Together with the angels they rejoice eternally in and with God. Observe a couple in love, oblivious to the world as they look into each other’s eyes or a suckling baby looking up to its mother’s face — then you have some inkling of Heaven. To be able to see God face to face is like a single, never-ending moment of love.

Purgatory, often imagined as a place, is actually a condition. One who dies in God’s grace but whose frail and wavering love is in need of purifying of selfishness is in the state we name, Purgatory. After Peter’s betrayal, Jesus looked at him but Peter could only turn in shame to weep bitterly — he withdrew, unable to accept Jesus’ forgiving gaze of love. Just such a purgatory, a purification of love probably awaits most at death — the Lord will look at us full of love but on our side burning shame and remorse for past faithlessness and unloving behaviour will hold us back. Only after purification will our love rush us into God’s loving gaze in untroubled heavenly joy.

We, who are baptized, both the living and the dead, are united in one family, in one communion. So we pray for each other — we ask the saints to intercede for us and in turn we intercede for our dead. Our example is St Thomas More who wrote to his daughter Meg on the night before his execution: “Farewell, my dear child, and pray for me, and I shall for you, and for all your friends, that we may merrily meet in heaven.”

All Saints is the day we praise God for his miracles of grace in the lives of each and every saint. All Souls is the day we remember and pray for our departed family and friends.

                                                                                                     Fr John


30th Sunday in Ordinary time – 25th October 2015

In 2013 Pope Francis wrote Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) Within the document, Pope Francis encourages every Christian to rediscover the joy of a personal encounter with Jesus and to engage with renewed vigour in the mission of spreading that joy of the Gospel and becoming spirit-filled evangelizers.

It is fair to say that Evangelii Gaudium is quickly gaining its place among some of the most powerful and inspiring papal documents. To understand Pope Francis’ plan for the church you really should read this document. It has therefore been decided by the ‘Our Lady of the Valley Evangelisation team’ (aka The 99 Group) to hold a series of meetings to examine the fundamental aspects of the document.

For those not familiar with the 99 Group, this is a parish group set up eighteen months ago, at the request of the diocese, to promote evangelisation at the parish level. Since our formation we have been meeting regularly and with similar parish groups to discuss aspects of evangelisation.

The one hour study sessions will take place on the 4th and the 11th of November, the 3rd and the 17th of February, and the 2nd and 9th of March, from 7.30pm to 8.30pm. Light refreshments will be provided fifteen minutes before each session commences. Booklets will be provided that will enable us to read through a summary of each chapter per session. We will pause periodically to discuss what we have just read and share experiences related to our own lives. These meetings will be similar to the three highly successful Proclaim 15 sessions held in March.

As the Pope states; “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord” [EG 3]

So please do come along, one and all, so that we as a Christian community can listen to Pope Francis’ words and discuss ways that we can embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by the joy of Christ.

Michael Smith, Our Lady of the Valley 99 Group

29th Sunday in Ordinary time – 18th October 2015

World Mission Sunday

Today Pope Francis invites all Catholics to contribute to a special collection for Missio, his official charity for overseas mission. Your prayers and donations today will support the work of missionaries and mission churches like the church in Mongolia, as they share faith, build churches and provide healthcare and education, often in difficult and dangerous environments. The World Mission Sunday collection supports mission projects worldwide that bring God’s love and message of dignity for all. Please give what you can, and if possible, please use the Gift Aid envelopes if you are a taxpayer. Every gift makes a real difference to people living in poverty who are yearning to hear the Good News of God’s love for them.


There are more slaves today than at any time in history. It is impossible to accurately estimate numbers but the figure has been put at around 30 million worldwide. These are people held captive through threat of violence to self or family, or in debt bondage. They are slaves in the most literal sense of the word.

In the UK there are an estimated 15,000 slaves, many trafficked from Eastern Europe, Nigeria and China. In Lancashire the Police target brothels, nail bars, car washes, places where migrants work, and anywhere brought to their attention by observant members of the public.

For Anti-Slavery Week locally, we are working with Lancashire Constabulary, Epiphany Trust, The Medaille Trust, Clitheroe Citizens in Partnership, Caritas Salford and Salford Diocese Education Department to do everything we can to raise awareness. Below are some specific events to raise money and awareness.

On October 23, Question Time on trafficking at St Michael and St John’s Parish Hall, Clitheroe, with Lord Alton of Liverpool, Mike Emberson, Project Director of the Medaille Trust; Sue Cawley, Head of Public Protection, Lancashire Constabulary; Hannah Flint, Regional Development Executive, the International Justice Mission, and Mark Wiggin of Caritas Salford (Chair).

On October 24, Chicago gospel singer Elsa Harris at the Grand in Clitheroe. Elsa sings songs from her album telling the story of slavery and the evolution of spiritual songs.

Also on October 24 Gemma Frankland does a sponsored sky dive for the Medaille Trust.

For details contact Anthony Brown on 01200 422811 or

28th Sunday in Ordinary time – 11th October 2015

Dear Parishioners,

I associate this time of the year with big bills, possibly because in September the invoice arrives for the insurance premium for the coming year’s cover. This year it is £10,867.

Why so high? Simply because all our buildings are either listed or in conservation areas and so if they are damaged or destroyed they would need to be replaced as they stand at the moment. But expenses do not end with this particular tab. Adjacent to the Social Centre the boiler house roof has just been replaced at a cost of £2,100. Also, you may have noticed that work has begun on the field below Candlemakers, completing the drainage scheme begun a couple of years ago. This has been agreed at a knockdown price of £800, thanks to voluntary labour and donated materials.

Another cause of concern is the rapidly deteriorating surface of the road between the church and the school. With the school’s help the area will be tarmacked during midterm at a cost of something over £4,000. This is a really low price, thanks to Miles Fox who is both providing the labour and the tarmac at cost.

At the beginning of the summer, Salford Diocese’s insurers inspected the electrical installations in all parishes to ensure that they comply with the latest regulations, the most recent of which only came into force in July! The improvements we must make are costed by the insurers at £7,400. After putting the work to competitive tender and further negotiation, this figure has been reduced to £4,390! This and all our parish’s rebuilding and improvements are done under the supervision of Tony Hargan, a qualified surveyor and parishioner in Sabden whose time and expertise are freely given to the parish, saving thousands of pounds. I can assure you that the money you contribute is cautiously and wisely spent!

This parish resembles the Forth Bridge where maintenance continues the year round. The next job is to hire a cherry picker so that the top of the west gable of the church can be repointed to cure water seepage above the organ loft and to replace roof slates. Does anyone know of a benefactor who could loan us a cherry picker?

We do need to look at parish income which hasn’t risen over recent years in contrast to smaller, nearby parishes which receive considerably more returns from Gift Aid than do we. So the Finance Committee has invited Derek Pearce, a Catholic who has advised a number of dioceses, to speak to us about these issues. He will do so this weekend.

Fr John


27th Sunday in Ordinary time – 4th October 2015

Dear Parishioners,

Pope Francis spoke recently on marriage.

In the old days, he said, society was rather like a corner shop. “The products may not have been cleverly displayed or offered much choice, but there was a relationship between the shopkeeper and his customers,” Then came the giant supermarkets with a multitude of choices but leading to a breakdown of trust and neighbourly bonds.
“Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to relate with anything or anyone, not to trust,” He said. “Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming: whatever the cost or consequences. A consumption which has little to do with human relationships.”
He then advised priests to resist the temptation to say things were better in the old days and be willing to engage people where they are, not blame them for the way things are today.

“Are today’s young people hopelessly timid, weak, and inconsistent? We must not fall into this trap,” Pope Francis said.

Mindful that the average age of marriage continues to rise and the number of children continues to drop in the United States and Europe, Francis reiterated his call for young people to have the courage to make long-term commitments, saying this was the way to true happiness.
“Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions, when everything will be perfect. Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full,” he said. “For knowledge of life’s true pleasures only comes as the fruit of a long-term, generous investment of our intelligence, enthusiasm, and passion.”
Looking up from his remarks, Francis joked that mothers could help by refusing to pamper their adult sons, a phenomenon especially prevalent in Italy. He recalled a mother saying to him, “My son is 34 years old and he’s not getting married. I don’t know what to do.” “I said, don’t iron his shirts anymore!”

“We have to encourage the youth to take that risk, to commit to marriage, because they need to move toward fruitfulness,”

Fr John


26th Sunday in Ordinary time – 27th September 2015

Refugee Response: Diocese of Salford

I am writing to share with you the plans of the Diocese of Salford in response to the ‘refugee crisis’ and the call for action from Pope Francis. Bishop John Arnold has asked Caritas Diocese of Salford to take up this work.

To coordinate our response, we will work closely with the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales and others at both national and local level. This response will need to be diocesan-wide and I will be inviting every parish and school to get behind the initiative we have named as Refugee Response.

Our response is planned in three phases:

Phase 1  

We are setting up a webpage for information with donation opportunity – how to help; channelling donations to front line work with refugees; listing the sort of practical items we might need to collect and identifying the hubs in the Diocese from where these items can be delivered to; building a register of people and organisations with transferable skills who we can call upon for assistance.

Phase 2

We will work with parishes and schools, the charities that specialise in work with refugees and asylum seekers, linking Refugee Response to the voluntary and statutory sectors, local authorities and government. In particular there is a national and international Catholic network that we are part of through Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) and Cafod in London linking to our European Caritas family through Caritas Europe. We will also direct people to website information, petitions, and advocacy & campaign groups.

Phase 3

We will build a register of people, homes and properties that can be places of welcome offering a room, a house or a building that can be used to house refugees and be places of welcome, hospitality or sanctuary. We will also plan for the longer term as we already have thousands of refugees, asylum seekers and people with no recourse to public funds or entitlements in our midst and we will be welcoming more including refugees fleeing the trauma of war in Syria. There are long-term needs to be planned and resourced working in partnership with the Catholic community and all people of good will.  Most importantly, we will also be encouraging prayer for social justice in this forthcoming Year of Mercy.

If you would like to find out more about the Refugee Response in Salford Diocese please visit our website at
or email

Mark Wiggin, CEO Caritas Diocese of Salford

25th Sunday in Ordinary time – 20th September 2015 Dear Parishioners,

Today is Home Mission Sunday for which the English Bishops have written a pastoral letter, an extract from which reads: “a day when we invite every member of the Catholic community to pray for, participate in and support the work of evangelisation in England and Wales.

Pope Francis shows us that the true heart of faith is hugely attractive. He shows us how to let our faith be seen. He does this by making clear the great mercy of God, the mercy that he has received and that he shows to all.

The mercy of God is God’s love in action, reaching out to every person… When Pope Francis was asked to describe himself he said, simply, “I am a sinner.”

The letter concludes: Finally, we your bishops want to thank each and every one of you for the witness that you already give. Your presence at Mass today is a good example. By coming to Mass you not only give due worship to God but also publicly proclaim your faith to everyone who knows of your commitment and routine. We thank you for your daily efforts in family living, the patterns of family life that you work hard to sustain. The family is the first and best school of faith, of prayer and of virtuous living. Thank you all indeed!

Together let us seek to live out the words of Pope Francis: “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. With Christ joy is constantly born anew… I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelisation marked by this joy.’”

Here we shall begin another RCIA programme which might best be described as an introduction to Catholicism that caters for any wishing to learn more about our faith, or maybe missed making their First Communion, or who wish simply to join the Church. Anyone curious to learn what makes a Catholic tick is also welcome!

We meet on Thursday evenings in the Presbytery large meeting room for one hour between 8 and 9pm. If you have a friend who may be interested but is perhaps shy of coming alone, then do please consider inviting and accompanying them and assure them that there is no obligation to return if they feel that it isn’t for them. There will be an introductory meet and greet session next Thursday, 1st October, at 8pm with a little something to wet the lips and steady any nerves.

Fr John


24th Sunday in Ordinary time – 13th September 2015

Dear Parishioners,

I grew up in a Catholic family in Birmingham and was blessed by attending a wonderful Catholic primary school, run by a saintly headmistress. I received an excellent religious and academic start in life. I vividly remember making my first communion, confession and confirmation. An aunt who was a nun asked me when I was quite young what I would like to be when I grew up, so, to please her, I said, “A priest.”
Priests were always positive figures in my childhood and the ones who came to school were gentle and encouraging. Once when walking to the shops with my father, we met the parish priest. My father greeted him but the priest whispered, “I’m carrying the Blessed Sacrament.” I was fascinated by the mystery.
I had many of the usual questions and quibbles through secondary school, but again look back on many blessings. I sang in the choir at St Chad’s Cathedral where the music and masses were beautifully inspiring. Having attended Newman’s Oratory prior to this, I listened to the homilies of Canon McCarty, and, without knowing it, was being further grounded in a faith that made sense to me.

I studied English at university and decided to follow my parents’ footsteps: both were teachers and I had a positive and practical insight into the profession, as well as a desire to serve others fostered by my faith. In fact, looking back, I enjoyed teaching so much that I suppressed a vague sense of calling to priesthood across the years.
Only when I took up my first Catholic teaching job did a vocation really flourish. In 2003 I was appointed as a Senior Tutor at Loreto College in Manchester and I moved from Brentwood to Salford Diocese. I gradually shed more of my English teaching and took up R.E. and also served in the chaplaincy, organising events, liturgies, masses and trips to Lourdes. The Salford priests who came to college impressed me greatly. In 2010, in my parish church in Rusholme, there was a banner advertising “The Year of the Priest.” Each time I returned from Communion it felt like a denial not to apply. After a year at Ushaw College and four years at the Beda College in Rome, here I am.

And I am here to serve, to learn and to share.

Fr Kevin Murphy


23rd Sunday in Ordinary time – 6th September 2015

Dear Parishioners,

On Tuesday the top years of St Mary’s Sabden and St Michael and St John’s will join the pupils of Thorneyholme (St Hubert’s) school for a joint celebration of Mass to mark the opening of the new academic year. Then at the beginning of the coming spring and summer terms there will be a similar celebration in Sabden and Clitheroe. This first Mass will be in honour of Our Blessed Lady, invoking her prayers for the three schools in our parish of Our Lady of the Valley. Later in the week our schools will publish Faith Friends, the first of a joint termly newsletter. Faith Friends will be available to parishioners next Sunday. To my mind the really exciting and encouraging feature of these ventures is that they are an initiative of the schools themselves, and bode well for the ongoing consolidation and cooperation of our three Catholic Communities in this northernmost reach of Salford Diocese.

The RCIA programme will resume on Thursday 24th of this month, the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. As in past years it will meet most weeks, beginning at 8pm, after the Thursday 7.30pm evening Mass and will last for one hour only. The programme is geared to help those who feel drawn to joining the Catholic Church or who simply wish to dip their toe in the water. Catholics wishing to learn more about our faith will also benefit from the course. Please contact me for further information.

Letters will go out this week to parents of children in our schools who are eligible to make their First Holy Communion in June next year. We shall follow more or less the same programmes as last year, which proved to extremely successful and which probably benefited the parents more than the children.
Parents of children who do not attend any of our schools and who wish their children to make their first Holy Communion should contact me as soon as is possible and certainly before the end of this month.

There was a good attendance at this year’s cemetery Mass on Bank Holiday Monday and though the heavens didn’t quite smile on us, the rain stayed away!

Finally important dates for your diaries this month:

Wednesday, 16th, Parish Centre at 7.30pm, Parish Forum

Sunday, 20th, at 1pm Parish sponsored walk for HCPT

Sunday, 27th Parish Hall at 2pm Mass of Healing.

                                                                               Fr John