St Peter's, Stonyhurst
The three questions St Ignatius asks the retreatant going through his Spiritual Exercises are a useful guide for any parish. To paraphrase:
What has the parish done for Christ? What is it doing for Christ? What will it do for Christ?
Here at St Peter’s Parish in Stonyhurst, we could spend all our time answering just the first question, since the history of provision of Mass and the sacraments goes back a very long way. Individual Jesuits were caring for Catholic souls here in the Ribble Valley from as early as 1680. With the arrival of British Jesuit refugees from the French revolutionary wars and the establishment of Stonyhurst College in 1794, the ministry became more confident and more organised, culminating in the building of St Peter’s Church in 1835.
Fast forward to more modern times and we find a parish attempting to answer the question, ‘What are we as a parish doing today for Christ?’
Like so many rural parishes, and, indeed, some urban parishes in today’s church, the number of mass-goers has declined. Whereas just twenty years ago, the numbers attending Sunday mass numbered 200+, the official mass-count for 2015 was 99 and reflects the social changes going on in society today. The large Catholic population which lived in the village of Hurst Green, many of whom worked in Stonyhurst College, has changed over the years and the older generation has either passed on or moved away and their places in the village are taken by non-Catholics who probably work in Manchester, Preston or Blackburn etc.
Notwithstanding all this, there is still a lively sense of community life. In this Ecumenical age, we work closely with the Church of England parish community of St John’s in Hurst Green. The fortnightly Monday ‘Coffee Stop’ afternoons are patronised by Anglicans and Catholics alike and provide a great opportunity for the elderly to chat together whilst young mums and toddlers get together in nearby rooms. Two or three times a year, both Church communities come together for a prayer service followed by lunch.
What will the parish do for Christ? The recent re-siting and refurbishment of the St Joseph’s School Chapel (below) with upgrading of the school dining facilities and the addition of a brand-new classroom is an indication of the commitment of the parish to the future. St Joseph’s Hurst Green is the oldest Catholic primary school in England school in Britain, founded by the Jesuits in 1686.
Stonyhurst College itself, the longest continuously existing Jesuit school in the world, is a strong centre for the Jesuit charism and for the formation of young people as “men and women for others”. St Peter’s hosts many of their Masses.
Hurst Green Village is a growing ‘dormitory’ for the bigger cities nearby and the size of the village Catholic school can be expected to grow, but in terms of priestly ministry, a lot will depend on the availability of priest-power.
The question ‘What will the parish do for Christ?’ is therefore a question with no immediate clear answer but one that is stimulating a lot of prayer and reflection, interlaced with hope.
Pray with us
You so loved the world that you sent us your only Son,
that we might believe in him and have eternal life.
May we encounter Jesus Christ anew this day
and live the Good News with joy.
Through the power of your Holy Spirit,
help us to “go out to the whole world and proclaim”
our faith with confidence.
Give us the courage to witness to the Joy of the Gospel
by our words and actions.
Help our parish to become more welcoming and missionary,
so that you may be known and loved by all people.
We make this prayer through Our Lord Jesus Christ Your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever,
Our Lady, Star of the New Evangelisation, Pray for us.
Blessed John Henry Newman, Pray for us.
St Thérèse of Lisieux, Pray for us.
St Ignatius of Loyola, Pray for us.
Stonyhurst, the first whole school mission
Every pupil of Stonyhurst College in Lancashire has been involved in the first whole-school Mission, by attending talks and workshops, as well as engaging in charitable activities and volunteering in the local community. The Mission was an opportunity for the entire Stonyhurst community to focus on the 400 year-old Jesuit school's purpose and identity and for every pupil, aged 3 to 18, to consider their faith, their unique talents, and their vocation in life.
Became a Jesuit in 1960. Peter has been superior for Stamford Hill and Mount Street. For years he was parish priest in Glasgow and moved to Stonyhurst as parish priest at the beginning of 2014.