Blessings at Christian Heritage Centre site

Procession to bless the Christian Heritage Centre site at Stonyhurst
Procession to bless the Christian Heritage Centre site at Stonyhurst

On Monday, 1st May, Feast of St Joseph the Worker, the site of Theodore House - the Retreat, Study and Leadership Centre of the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst (CHC) – was blessed, ahead of building work commencing tomorrow, Tuesday 2nd May.

The site, which was originally a 19th century mill providing wheat for Stonyhurst College fell into disrepair, and has now been taken on by the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst to forward its aims of creating accessibility to the Stonyhurst Collections and providing Christian leadership formation, education, and retreats in the tradition of Stonyhurst College – the world’s oldest Jesuit school.

The mill building kennels once housed the hunting dogs that inspired the young Arthur Conan Doyle – then a pupil – to write The Hounds of the Baskervilles – and the writers JRR Tolkien and Gerard Manley Hopkins found inspiration here.

Lord Alton, the chairman of the CHC Trustees, which is an independent registered charity, thanked the many contributiors to the project thus far, particularly: The Theodore Trust, The Bowland Trust, the Catholic Association Foundation (USA) the EL Wiegand Foundation (USA) The Knights of Columbus, The Stanhill Foundation, and the numerous significant individual benefactors.

Fr John Twist SJAfter a 7am procession from the statue of Our Lady at the entrance of the Stonyhurst estate to the site a pupil read a short biography of St Theodore, after whom the building has been named. A pupil from St Mary’s Hall presented a time capsule which will be buried in the foundations of Theodore House. It included a school blazer and a number of artefacts which will provide a future archeologist with insights into life in a twentieth century Catholic environment.

St Theodore was a Syrian Christian who had to flee his homeland due to religious persecution. Having studied in Antioch, Constantinople and Rome, where he was ordained, he was eventually sent by Pope St Vitalian to be Archbishop of Canterbury and consecrated in 668 A.D. St Theodore is venerated as a saint by Catholics, Orthodox, and Anglicans.

The ground was blessed by Fr John Twist SJ, the College Chaplain. Present were Trustees of the Centre, Headmaster and Governors of the Stonyhurst College, supporters and friends. The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst is privileged to have Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor as its Royal Patrons, as well as numerous ecclesiastical, parliamentary, and academic patrons, including Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Field Marshall the Lord Guthrie, Ann Widdecombe and Baroness (Caroline) Cox.

The Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst continues its fundraising efforts to be able to complete the internal work of the building, and ensure it is fit for purpose. The building work, which will cost £4 million, is Phase Three of the project, and is scheduled to be completed in 12 months.

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