26th September 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Time has once more passed us by with its slippers on as we arrive at another weekend, and I am delighted to be able to send out our Newsletter and the Readings for Holy Mass. In the absence of our Mass Books in church it is good to see increasing numbers bringing printed copies of the latter with them to our celebrations of Mass. At the end of each of my days, which for some may appear relatively early as I begin the ‘retiring’ process just after the headlines at 10.00 p.m., I have a conversation with the Good Lord, and eventually – no matter what time – round the day off with a little light reading. Usually this takes the form of a historical mystery, and often as I put the light out, I say to myself: The plot thickens ! And so it seems to be doing in regard to our battle with Covid-19. For some time we seemed to be doing so well, and then, sadly, we are seeing the number of cases increase, and regrettably the death toll rise. With something like a quarter of the nation’s population in ‘restrictions’ clearly there is cause for concern.

With many youngsters beginning a new chapter in their lives at universities and Colleges of Higher Education my final daily conversation with the Almighty currently includes them in a special way. Having served as a University Chaplain I am very well aware of the ‘University experience’ that many speak of in the media, adding that this can be for better or for worse ! Having got numerous student out of a variety of scrapes at different times. I ask God to care for them, open their minds and hearts to the wonderful gift of education that our universities and colleges offer, but above all I ask them to be given the friendship of the Holy Spirit – God’s sense of fun and humour, but also His Wisdom. Perhaps more than ever this is a gift they need to take with them as they pack bags and boxes, moving from the security, stability and familiarity of home, to a new environment, populated with many who will become life-long friends, and with whom they are called upon to share a domestic space. Currently good numbers of them are having to isolate for their well-being and that of others. It is far from the best way to begin a new chapter in life, but perhaps it is a part of their learning curve, and having been forced to spend two weeks alone with relative strangers the bonds that unite them will ultimately be stronger, gifts and skills shared, together with a growing sensitivity and kindness amongst those that they share a living space with. I did notice on one or two blocks of student accommodation captured by media cameras that windows contained homemade posters, not the familiar “Thank you NHS”, but those which read “Send Beer”. Clearly God’s gift of humour has arrived in our university towns and cities ! Let us also hope that the students don’t forget to unpack His Wisdom too. A wisdom that when applied will help keep them, and all of us safe and well.

Reassuring you of prayerful remembrance, not least for those still not feeling able to join us around the Altars of Word and Sacrament, uniting themselves with us in Spiritual Communion.

With affection,

Fr. Nicholas

19th September 2020

Dear Parishioners,

This Newsletter and the Readings for the celebration of Holy Mass this weekend come with the hope and trust that you and your loved ones are well and continuing to cope with the way of life that some weeks ago we began to speak of as being the ‘new’ normal. Aspects of this new way of living in society continue to be hard, tough and very demanding not least emotionally and psychologically. In the times when you feel somewhat overcome by the limitations and restrictions of life, please remember that you are not walking alone. As a faith community we are there for you, remembering you in prayerful thought, but also just at the end of the telephone, whether that is a call to me directly, or to a friend. The opportunity to chat and talk to one another is welcomed by us all. So please don’t walk alone, let us all journey together.

From recent Newsletters you will have noticed mention of the Sacraments of First Holy Communion and Reconciliation, sadly postponed earlier in the year, due to the obvious reason. However, we are now moving forward and planning to celebrate these Sacraments by the end of the Liturgical Year i.e. before Advent. These will be different celebrations to those we have become accustomed to, but nonetheless significant milestones in the faith-development of the youngsters concerned, and as such parents, our teachers in school and myself will be working closely together to ensure the children are not only well prepared but will also have a meaningful and memorable celebration of these Sacraments. Please remember these children and their families in your prayers.

Continue to keep well and safe, keeping an eye on your friends and neighbours. May our continued remembrance of one another in prayer and affection strengthen us as we face a new phase of localised restrictions which come into force from Tuesday.

As always, Fr. Nicholas

12th September 2020

Dear Parishioners,

With the arrival of another weekend I am pleased to be able to send you this coming week’s Newsletter together with the Readings for our celebration of the weekend Masses. Having asked for prayers for our primary school last weekend in preparation for the beginning of the new academic year, I am delighted to report that when the school opened it had its best attendance for about three years with just a single absentee, due, sadly, to a broken arm. Life in school is getting back to a routine, albeit that some elements are necessarily different. It has been good to see our Year 5 children gaining some life-skills by undergoing Road Safety training on their bicycles initially in the playground, and then graduating to the roads of Heckmondwike. Helmeted and forming a human caterpillar as they pushed their bikes out of the school grounds, they were clearly ready for any challenge !

As in previous e-mails I do encourage parishioners to consider attending one for our weekday Masses as a starting point to your return to church. We are stringent in relation to the Covid-Safe guidance that we receive from our Health and Safety Officer to ensure that everyone feels comfortable in a setting that is very familiar but at the same time somewhat different. That said, difference is a part of most things – if not everything – that we now do, in comparison to how we were living our lives at the beginning of the year.

As always I assure you of a remembrance in affectionate thought and above all in prayer. It is good to hear how many of you, still not back with us in person, pause in your day at the time Mass is being celebrated in our churches so that you can be united to those gathered there. As a family of faith, this unity makes us a community.

As ever,
Fr. Nicholas

5th September 2020

Dear Parishioners,

Writing to you this morning I am noticing a few seasonal changes provided by Mother Nature. The leaves on a large tree are beginning to turn a yellow colour, moving from the striking green they have displayed from the early months of the year, the roses are now far from abundant but the remaining blooms still manage to add a bright array of welcoming colour to any visitor, and even the magnolia is boldly displaying a late show of second blooms. Perhaps for most of us our own gardens, or even those of our neighbours, as well as open spaces and the fields round and about our locality, have meant more to us this year than for many a year. Let us hope that they will continue to do so for a long time to come, perhaps less as the perimeter of our world and more the welcoming familiar as we return from ventures into the dawning ‘new world’ of school, work, recreation and the necessary tasks such as a foray to the shops.

Enclosing this weekend’s Newsletter and the Readings for Holy Mass I am very conscious that as a community a new phase of life resumes this week with the re-opening of our schools at both primary and secondary level. Please remember all those who form our school communities in your prayers – staff at all levels, our pupils, parents and carers, Governors. Spiritual support for all of us is not only important but vital. Having seen at first hand all the hard work, dedication and enthusiasm that went into providing our young people with an education during Lockdown in (and from) Holy Spirit School, I cannot praise our staff enough ! These same gifts will be there to greet and welcome our children this week, as they will be at St. John Fisher’s for our older pupils.

Having recently increased the number of Masses celebrated in our churches I continue to encourage parishioners to come along to a celebration of Mass, possibly during the week, just to see what provisions we have in place to ensure that everyone is kept safe and feels comfortable. The Obligation to attend Holy Mass on a Sunday remains suspended so weekday Masses are a viable option. Under guidance, our Masses are somewhat shorter than they were before the arrival of Covid-10, and both of our churches have been given clearance to open by the Diocesan Health and Safety Officer because we meet the demands expected of us and continue to maintain the necessary on-going high standards. A number of churches in the Diocese are unable to open because of the health or age of their clergy, but for us this weekend with be our tenth of being open for the celebration of Holy Mass. The doors are open, and you’re very welcome !

With a certain bird ‘s arrival in the garden, I am getting a look to tell me that the water in the birdbath needs replenishing … so I had better attend to the needs of nature’s gift to me – a noisy tree-dwelling lodger !

Be assured of continued remembrance in the prayer, and above all in the celebration of Holy Mass, together with affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas