7th May 2022

Dear Parishioners,

Occasionally we are given an insight into what it means to belong to a Universal Church, one such moment is offered this weekend, as across the world members of our global Faith-family are encouraged to pray for an increase in vocations, especially to the Priesthood and Religious Life. It is a rich opportunity to primarily reflect on our vocation as an individual member of the Church, hearing the words of St. Paul speak to ourselves: “As a prisoner of the Lord, I urge you to lead a life worthy of your vocation.” (Ephesians 4:1) Our primary vocation is given and accepted in Baptism, and is subsequently fed and served by others, parents, Godparents, Parish clergy, catechists and teachers etc. 

This weekend I echo St. Paul’s encouragement for us all to pray for more men and women to hear and respond generously to God’s call on them to follow His Son in a life dedicated to providing the Church and beyond with the necessary food for the journey of life, not least that of the Eucharist. As a Diocesan family we lack the numbers of Priests and Religious that we once had, and this is a trend that we are both living with now, and will continue to do so – with even further reductions – for the foreseeable future. So, let us pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send labourers into His harvest !

As ever, the Newsletter and Readings for Holy Mass come with Kindest thought, a remembrance in prayer, and affection.

Fr. Nicholas

P.S. Having been approached by a member of the Spen Civic Society I wonder if any of our parishioners (particularly those with Heckmondwike roots / connections) could assist them in regard to a project undertaken with Historic England. A one-line comment / reflection / memory is being sought from anyone who (a) worked at Firth’s Carpets (b) worked at Cooke’s Carpets (c) worked at Harold Wood Transport in Wormald Street, Heckmondwike (d) used the Heckmondwike Baths for bathing (not swimming !) or (e) lived in one of the “80 Houses” of Francis Street and Powell Street, Heckmondwike.

All that is required is a single sentence containing a comment or memory, returned to myself, and these are required by 20th May, please. Thank you !     

   

30th April 2022

Dear Parishioners,

Once more it is good to be able to send out the Newsletter to you, together with the Readings for Holy Mass this weekend. It is good to hear from numerous parishioners how much this is appreciated, and I thank Nicola and Roger for making these resources available on our websites too enabling them to reach a far wider faith-family. 

Very aware of our interdependence upon one another, I ask that we are – like the early Christian community of whom we hear so much in Eastertide thanks to St. Luke’s wonderful Acts of the Apostles – united in prayer. So many parishioners are in need of an ‘extra’ remembrance at this time, so let us be strong and faithful in our spiritual communion with each other.

Wishing you a pleasant and relaxed Bank Holiday weekend.

Assuring you of prayer remembrance, kindness of thought, and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas     

23rd April 2022

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend’s Gospel reminds us of the constant confusion about our image. St. John the Evangelist intended St. Thomas (the Twin) to be remembered as the individual in his Gospel who made the ultimate statement of faith revealing who Jesus really is … somewhere this high intention became clouded by cynicism giving rise to the crude nickname “Doubting” Thomas ! 

Wishing you a good weekend, as we continue to celebrate Easter. May its blessings brighten al of our lives.

With prayerful remembrance, kindest thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas    

9th April 2022

Dear Parishioners,

This weekend we begin the most solemn and sacred of weeks in the life of the Church: Holy Week. It will be the first Holy Week that we have been able to celebrate without restrictive constraint since 2019 so I look forward to seeing as many of you as are able to attend our Liturgies over the coming days. At the end of the week we celebrate Easter, which like Christmas is celebrated over eight days (an Octave). Hopefully this invitation will encourage those who are still hesitant about a full return to Mass to set aside one day during the week that will be their Easter Day and join us for Holy Mass. 

On Thursday of this week, Holy Thursday we celebrate the gifting of the Eucharist to the Church by Christ himself. Our reception of Christ’s very Body and Blood in Holy Communion is food for both body and soul. It is something that is uniquely ours as Catholics, and – personally speaking – I could not live without. Yet many do ! Once more, as I have before, I ask that if you are keeping a distance between yourself and the Lord in Eucharistic Form you consider attending a weekday Mass … Christ in the Eucharist is waiting to welcome you to His banquet, the Mass. May next week’s Easter Octave be the spur for us all to become the longed-for Easter People !

Throughout these days may we be united in prayerful remembrance and affection, recalling the suffering of the people in Ukraine within our Liturgical commemorations of the events of the first Holy Week.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas   

29th January 2022

Dear Parishioners,

It is good to be able to greet you this weekend and send the Newsletter and Readings for Holy Mass. 

As an advocate of clinging to Christmas for as long as we can, the Season of Christ’s birth comes to an official liturgical end on Wednesday with the Feast of the Presentation. It will mark the removal of the final Advent Candle in our churches, the white one, lit for the first time at the Vigil Mass on December 24th … hopefully the joy that we felt as we gathered that evening will continue to remain with us as we extinguish its light for a final time. May the love expressed in the dark hours of the first Christmas night when God gave His Son in human form remain the beacon enlightening our life journey. If anyone is struggling to express love for others, then St. Paul comes to our rescue in the beautiful Second Reading of this weekend’s Mass as he writes to the early Christian community in Corinith. The words and sentiments may be well-worn, but they are truly timeless.

Reassuring you of remembrance in prayer, thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas      

8th January 2022

Dear Parishioners,

A few weeks ago, a friend came to a Mass I was celebrating for his wife’s cousin who had recently died. It was great to see him as we’d not met for a long number of months. Just before leaving church after a lengthy conversation, he commented that despite continuing to work throughout Lockdown and beyond, he had ceased attending Mass on a weekly basis at the beginning of the pandemic, and had now grown used to a Sunday lie-in. His honesty was admirable. His further comment was hope-filled; that he intended to rectify this by a New Year resolution. I hope that he fulfils this, as both he and his church-family will be the poorer for his absence.   

It is noticeable that a good number of previously familiar faces have not reappeared in our two churches since we closed our doors in March 2020. I suspect that rather like my friend they have by now resumed some form of social engagement, whether that is at the hair-dressers, meeting for a coffee with friends, or indeed resuming sports or working routines. Yet they remain absent from church. Prior to Christmas encouragement was given to hesitant parishioners to attend any Mass during the final week of Advent and/or subsequently the Octave of Christmas to make that ‘their’ Mass in celebration of Christ’s birth. The response was tiny, so much so that on the Thursday before Christmas one Mass had a congregation of just one parishioner, and even on the Feast of the Epiphany we had just 18 at one of our Masses. Ever the optimist, I could see that the one person at Mass was a 100% increase on the long weeks when I was celebrating Holy Mass alone. However I personally may delight in the presence of anyone at Mass, in reality the Christmas take-up has been poor, and as a result our collective life as worshiping communities, and for those not (yet) amongst us, there is a poverty and deprivation. So, I encourage all to reach out to those they know, meet, or see who have not yet re-joined us and encourage them in some way to come along to Mass. The richness that we are privy to in the gift of the Eucharist is beyond our imaginings … yet so often we take it for granted, expecting it to be always available to and for us. The absence of ‘real’ Eucharistic participation in the Lockdown periods ought really to have made the heart grown more needy for this gift rather than culture a distance from it.

If, like my friend, you’ve grown accustomed to a lie-in on a Sunday morning, remember that there are also two Vigil Masses you could attend and still benefit from the extra hour of beauty sleep !

Be assured of remembrance at the altar, in thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

18th December 2021

Dear Parishioners,

It is good to be able to greet you as we enter the final week of Advent, sending the Newsletter for the coming week together with the Readings for Holy Mass this weekend, including the beautiful and poignant story of the Visitation of Our Blessed Lady to her cousin Elizabeth.

With our news stories dominated by the new Covid-19 variant and its incredible rate of transmission many will be understandably fearful and anxious about attending Holy Mass at Christmas. As I have suggested and encouraged since we opened our churches, attending Holy Mass on another day is an option. We celebrate an Octave of Christmas (meaning that the celebration of Christ’s birth is recalled in our Liturgical celebrations throughout eight days beginning on Christmas Day itself) so please do think of coming to Mass during this time. Our weekday Masses offer everyone the opportunity to social distance, should they wish to do so, and everything possible continues to be done to keep our churches safe. 

As always, I assure you (and your loved ones) of remembrance in prayer, thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas   

27th November 2021

Dear Parishioners,

With the beginning of the Season of Advent this weekend it isn’t out of place to wish you a very happy new year, liturgically speaking, as our cycle of readings and prayers for use at Mass starts on the First Sunday of Advent each year. May it be a good year for us all, and from the Faith that we hold in common may there be benefits and blessing in abundance for ourselves and those we carry with us in our hearts and thoughts.

I continue to invite the hesitant and anxious to join us for one of our weekday Masses not least in a Season of preparation for the coming of Christ and in the recollection of His birth in the vulnerable setting of the stable at Bethlehem. Asked about numbers at our weekday Masses by several parishioners who have yet to return I can say that the busiest is the Wednesday morning at Cleckheaton, with – on occasion – as many as 25 – 30 parishioners, and the quietest is the Thursday afternoon Mass at Heckmondwike, which is often a class Mass for the children, but this week (apart from the children, who all sit at the front of church) there were just four parishioners. All of our weekday Masses allow for social distancing. I can also reassure parishioners at we continue to do everything we can to ensure a very high standard of cleanliness within our churches, thanks to volunteer cleaners, and sanitiser stations. Hopefully this encouragement and reassurance will move some to return to their spiritual home during Advent.

Be assured of remembrance in prayer, thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

 

19th November 2021

Dear Parishioners,

It is good to be able to send you the Newsletter and Readings for Holy Mass this weekend, together with a relatively ‘hot off the press’ statement from the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales regarding the status of the Sunday Obligation to attend Mass. The statement is considered and clearly reflects an awareness of the level of anxiety that a number of people feel about coming together once more for a communal act of worship.

Personally, and it is only a private reflection, I am pleased to see anyone returning to participation in Holy Mass, even if they are not yet ready to join us on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning, but choose to make a weekday Mass their weekly commitment to being fed by the Lord in both the Scriptures and Eucharist. When our churches were limited for capacity, at both Christmas and Easter, we were encouraged to attend Mass on any one of the days of the Octaves of those feasts, and celebrate at that time the fulness of the festival. It worked and worked well, allowing people to come into an environment in which they felt safe, and at the same time celebrating our primary feasts. The invitation is offered once more … come to a weekday Mass, make that your weekly celebration. The Lord is waiting patiently to welcome you back, and so are many of the faces that you recognise, not to mention the buildings that are our spiritual homes !

May the week – the last in our Liturgical calendar – be kind to you and your loved ones. Be assured of remembrance at the altar, in thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas

6th November 2021

Dear Parishioners,

Once again it is good to be able to send you the weekly Newsletter and Readings for the celebration of Holy Mass this weekend.  Hopefully you are well and safe, and life is beginning to ‘open-up’ a little bit more for you. 

The Bishops of England and Wales are hoping that at the end of this month the Obligation to attend and participate in the celebration of a weekend Mass will be reintroduced having been suspended from the beginning of the Pandemic in March 2020. It would be good to think that as a nation we will be in such a good place, in regard to the health of the population, for this to happen. However, with it will come some apprehension, anxiety and fear, not least for those who have, on the whole, kept themselves to themselves over this lengthy period of time, limiting their social contacts. 

As a faith community with two churches, which were amongst the very first in the Diocese to open their doors to worshipping congregations in July 2020, it is commendable that we have, throughout the last fifteen months, continued to provide safe environments in which to gather. Credit for this has to be given to a relatively small group of parishioners who acted in the capacity of Stewards, together with others who after every Mass or other event in both churches spent a good deal of time sanitising pews, touch-points and cleaning other areas of our buildings. Continuing to adhere to current Guidelines from our Health and Safety Officer we endeavour to maintain this safe environment for all entering our churches. I do therefore encourage those parishioners who have not yet crossed our thresholds to think about doing so. 

During the week I celebrated a Mass with just three people in the congregation, allowing plenty of room to retain social distancing ! Our weekend congregations are numbering around the two hundred figure – or a mean of fifty at each Mass. Again, there is room to socially distance, feel safe, and at the same time begin to reconnect with the familiar. Our churches are also our spiritual homes and home is often where our hearts long to be, so please do think about healing the ache in your heart to return to your spiritual home and the celebration of Mass. 

As always, the practical items of a Newsletter and the Readings come with an assurance of remembrance in prayer, thought and affection.

As ever, Fr. Nicholas