Pupils from Our Lady of the Rosary take part in Stations of the Cross

A Lenten story: Communities coming together in faith and charity

Thursday 30th March 2023

Parishes and schools across the diocese have been pulling out all the stops this Lent to embrace the seasonal themes of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

From concerts, to soup lunches and fundraising initiatives – as well as special Masses and Stations of the Cross – our diocesan community has been undertaking a host of activities to nurture our relationship with God and each other in this season of Lent.

Christ the King Church, Walkden

Christ the King church in Walkden played host to wonderful choral concert in March, featuring Bolton choral group The Brixi Singers. The concert brought together people across the parish and beyond for a beautiful evening of live music whilst raising hundreds of pounds for CAFOD (Catholic Agency for Overseas Development.)

St John Southworth, Nelson

Meanwhile, the parish of St John Southworth in Nelson has also come together in support of the charity, combining all three Lenten themes of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Each Friday during the Lent, the parish will celebrate Mass before coming together for a soup lunch to raise funds for CAFOD.

Fr Gerard Kelly, parish priest of St John Southworth, explained how the simple observance of the three pillars of Lent opens the door to enable the Lord to transform humble efforts into something wonderful.

He said: “Our Mass and lunches are attended by representatives of the three primary schools in our parish: St John Southworth’s, Holy Saviour’s, and Holy Trinity, which makes the occasion truly an all-age experience. The children love the trip down to church, and the older people, even more so, love the presence of the children.

“Furthermore, our church, in the centre of Nelson, is uniquely a shared church in that it was built from its inception by Catholics and Methodists. The ecumenical aspect of the CAFOD lunch helps us to build relationships when we have occasions in which we can share together those things we have in common.”

St Joseph’s, Mossley

Another parish has also embraced the soup lunch fundraising strategy, this time in support of The Good Life Orphanage in Kenya.

Fr Jim Clarke, parish priest of St Joseph’s in Mossley, Ashton-under-Lyne, has been running soup lunches during Lent for the past 25 years, raising funds for this wonderful charity that cares for 77 children in its orphanage, and educates 350 children in the local area.

Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School, Urmston

The age-old tradition of Lenten soup lunches is also reaching a whole new generation as one primary school is linking up with the parish community for Soup and Stations of the Cross.

Working together with parish priest Fr Kieren Mullarkey, headteacher of Our Lady of the Rosary Primary School in Urmston, Sue Molloy, has enjoyed welcoming members of the parish community – including GIFT Chaplains from St Antony’s RC High School – to the school grounds to join the pupils in soup, scones, and Stations of the Cross.

She said: “Classes are now able to join our wider parish community, both enjoying a bowl of soup and banter as well as worshipping together. As a parish community, we are meeting, chatting, eating, and praying together, as well as catching up, laughing, and supporting each other.”

In addition, the school community has also relished attending a special weekly Mass, arriving bright and early at 7.30am at English Martyrs Church, Urmston, each Friday during Lent.

Sue said: “Every year, I challenge our pupils, from Nursery to Year Six, to join the special celebration. The children ensure family members drop them off on time, many also stay.

“Fr Kieren always delivers an engaging homily that helps all to think about putting their faith into action.

“After Mass, we all walk back to school (approximately a mile away). This is a great witness to our faith, especially to the many drivers and pedestrians who observe us en-route.

“The Mass is great for promoting role models, living out our Mission Statement, and coming together with the wider community in Communion.”

So far this Lent, more than 80 of the school’s 237 pupils have been attending Mass each week. To celebrate their commitment, anyone who has attended at least four of the six Friday Masses is awarded a special bespoke badge. So far, more than 60 pupils have received the badge, as well as a number of secondary school pupils and staff, parishioners, and Fr Kieren himself!

Parishioners and school children gather for Lenten Stations of the Cross

Parish of St Cuthbert, Bolton

In Bolton, the Parish of St Cuthbert is also enjoying working closely with their parish primary schools to celebrate the special seasons of Lent and Easter.

Over the past few years, the parish and associated primary schools have teamed up with local radio station Bolton FM to record a series of prayer and music reflections during Lent and Advent, and this year has been no exception, with broadcasts hitting the waves each Sunday during Lent.

Another much-loved tradition has been for the parish Outreach team to work with schoolchildren to create beautiful Easter baskets for Eucharistic Ministers to deliver to sick and housebound parishioners during their home visits.

However, the creativity doesn’t stop there, as children across the parish are putting their artistic skills to the test by making beautiful decorations to adorn the churches over the Easter season.

Pauline O’Rourke, a member of the Parish Leadership Team, has been delighted to see the parish and schools coming together in faith, saying: “One of the highlights has been the response to our invitation at the end of the school day to our school children and families to “Come and Light a  Candle”.

“This devotion is being held for one of our parish primary schools in church each Thursday during Lent. With regard to our other primary school, this is being held each Tuesday in the school itself.

“There has been a good response with a stream of children and a family member or guardian coming along to take part in this special devotion and it is intended to keep this as an ongoing activity beyond Easter.”

The prayerful nature of Lent has also been embraced by parishioners, who have been coming together to pray the Stations of the Cross once a week in different homes across the parish.

Schools show support for Caritas Salford

Meanwhile, primary and secondary schools right across the diocese have been digging deep for our diocesan charity, Caritas Diocese of Salford.

Once again, the St Joseph’s Penny boxes have played a central role this Lent, with schools collecting small change to make a big difference to the lives of people here in our own diocese.

Photo of Caritas' St Joseph's Penny box in front of an illustrated Bible

In addition, Holly Mount Primary School in Bury has been cooking up storm in raising funds for Caritas Salford by making shortbread biscuits, whilst St Monica’s RC High School has also put its culinary skills to the test with a delicious-looking bake sale.

Meanwhile, over in Oldham, students at Saint John Henry Newman RC College have been selling raffle tickets to also raise funds for the charity.

Entrepreneurial spirit is also flourishing at St John Fisher RC Primary School in Haughton Green, as Year Four pupils have been making, selling, and advertising bracelets to raise funds for the St Joseph’s Penny Appeal. Hear more from the team in the video below:

Do you have a story to share?

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch with their wonderful Lent activities! Do you have a parish or school story to share? Please get in touch by emailing communications@dioceseofsalford.org.uk

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