Tag Archives: exile


From then he was declared an outlaw

“Whether we consider the castellated tower – one of the finest in the kingdom, or the pride of the de Houghtons – or the heroic sacrifice which the head of the family made in leaving it and his country for religion’s sake, or, again, the constancy of the country people which has persevered to this day, despite the forcible Protestantism of the hero’s grandson, on each of these accounts Hoghton and Brindle are unequalled in interest even in Catholic Lancashire.

‘At Houghton Hygh, which is a bower

Of sports and lordly pleasure,

I wept and left that lofty tower

Which was my chiefest treasure.

To save my soule and lose ye reste

Yt was my trew pretence;

Lyke frightened bird, I left my neste

To keep my conscience.’

Mr. Gillow says on the death of his father, August 5, 1558, Thomas Hoghton succeeded to the family estates. At this period William Allen, afterwards Cardinal, visited Lancashire, and was a guest at Hoghton Tower. In common with the gentry and people of Lancashire, Hoghton repudiated the new religion which was being forced upon the country.

Every type of pressure was devised by the government to force Catholic Christians to renounce the Faith

Every kind of pressure was devised by the Council to drive the people into attendance at the Protestant service. Fines and imprisonment were inflicted in rapid succession, and Catholics were outlawed and deprived of all protection. Under these circumstances, feeling that he could not remain in the country and keep his conscience, Hoghton took the advice of his friend Vivian Haydock, and in 1569 he hired a vessel and sailed from his mansion of The Lea, on the Rible, to the coast of France, and thence proceeded to Antwerp. From this he was declared an outlaw, and possession was taken of his estates.

The state took possession of his estates

On March 17, 1576, his half-brother Richard obtained a licence from Queen Elizabeth to visit the exile in Antwerp, with intent to persuade him to submit to the royal pleasure. Hoghton was anxious to return, but could not make terms with the Court to retain his religion; he therefore remained in exile until his death, which occurred at Liege, June 2, 1580, aged sixty-three. He was buried under the high altar of the English College, Douai, which he had helped to found. He charged his executors to remove his body to the place where his ancestors lay in the parish church of Preston, of which the Hoghtons were patrons, when God should have mercy on his country, and restore to it the Catholic Faith and service.

‘Hys lyfe a mirrour was to all,

Hys death wythout offence;

Confessor, then, lett us him call,

O blessed conscience.’

His son and namesake, Thomas Hoghton, went with his father into exile, and was not recognised on the escheat in 1580. He was placed with Dr. Allen at Douai College, whence he left to visit his father in Brabant in 1577. He probably returned, for he matriculated in the University of Douai, was ordained priest, and proceeded to the English Mission. He had no sooner arrived in Lancashire than he was seized and thrown into Salford Gaol, where great numbers of recusants were confined.

The great band of confessors of the Faith who perished in prison unrecorded

There his name appears in the list of priests returned to the Council by Edmund Trafford and Robert Worsley in 1582. He was one of those who ‘do still contynue in their obstinate opynions; neyther do wee see anye likelyhoode of conformytie in any of them.’ His name continues in the lists of recusants imprisoned at Salford until January, 1584, after which it is lost sight of, and in all probability he went to swell the great band of confessors of the Faith who perished in prison unrecorded.

The half-brother of the exile, and curiously his namesake, Thomas Hoghton, was slain in a feud with the Baron of Newton in 1589, and his eldest son, being a minor, was given in ward to Sir Gilbert Gerard, the Master of the Rolls, to be brought up a Protestant. This system of gaining over Catholic families to the new religion was constantly practised, as in the case of Sir Roger Bradshaigh and others who were cruelly robbed of the Faith. All the rest of the family were true to the old religion, and the Hoghtons would still have been Catholics but for this unjust proceeding. Thus wrote Mr. Gillow in 1887, but recently the heir to the Hoghton estates has become a Catholic, and having married a Catholic lady, their children are being educated in the Faith for which the de Hoghton of 1580 was so staunch a confessor.

It is of interest to remember that it was at Hoghton Tower in 1617 that King James, in the present banqueting hall, solemnly knighted the Sirloin of Beef, an incident which the writers of the Victorian History of Lancashire, despite their very full account of Hoghton, have thought fit to omit. Possibly the facts are none too decorous, but the incident tells us much of the manners of the royal guest and his court.

Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith

To turn now to matters more ecclesiastical, the earlier directories of the Archdiocese of Liverpool (e.g., 1915) give the date of the Brindle Mission thus: 16 – , 1786. The latter is the date of the present church, cut in stone above the doorway of the chapel, and very pretentious the date looks. The former figures, 16 -, need some completion. Fortunately, there are plenty of records from which to compile our story.

Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith

Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith

The chief jewel in the crown of the Brindle Mission is the holy martyr Edmund Arrowsmith, who attended to the Catholics in the district for some years, and the story of whose arrest is so graphically given in Dom Bede Camm’s Forgotten Shrines. Father Arrowsmith came to the English Mission in 1613, the year after his ordination, and resided for the most part with relatives of his family at Denham Hall. Mr. Gillow in his Notes on Brindle (Cat. Rec. Soc., vol. 23) mentions that about 1622 Father Arrowsmith was apprehended and brought before Dr. Bridgeman, Bishop of Chester, with whom he had a controversy before being committed to Lancaster Castle. Thence he was released about the time of the negotiations for a marriage between Prince Charles (later Charles II) and a Spanish Princess. Shortly afterwards he joined the Society of Jesus, as he had long desired, making his novitiate on the mission, but spent two or three months in Essex before his profession under the name of Rigby in 1624. From that date he continued to serve the Mission at Brindle and the neighbourhood till his apprehension in 1628. He was arraigned at Lancaster, condemned to death for being a priest, and martyred August 28, 1628, aged forty-three. The martyr’s right hand was secured by the Gerards of Bryn, and to this day is held in great veneration, at Ashton-in-Makerfield.

A spring of very clear water

According to Mr. Gillow, the usual residence of the priest about this time was at St. Helen’s Well, where also was the principal place where Mass was said in the district. The house and well are thus described by Kuerdon, writing about 1675: ‘Over against Swansey House, a little towards the hill, standeth an ancient fabric, once the Manor House of Brindle, where hath been a chappel belonging to the same, and a little above it a spring of very clear water, rushing straight upward into the midst of a fayr fountain, walled square about in stone and flagged in the bottom, very transparent to be seen and a strong stream issuing out of the same. This fountain is called St Ellen’s Well, to which place the vulgar neighbouring people of the Red Letter (Catholics) do much resort with pretended devotion on each year, upon St Ellin’s day (Aug. 18).’

From the Forfeited Estates Papers in the Public Record Office

Mr. Henry Taylor, in his Ancient Crosses and Wells in Lancashire, gives some diagrams of the Well along with his interesting account, in which he says: ‘I could not find the chapel, but some of the stairs in the dilapidated house close by may have formed a portion of such an edifice.’ This was the residence of the Gerards of the Well, and so continued till the early part of the eighteenth century, of whom William married in 1619; Oliver Gerard of the Well was buried in 1664; the will of James Gerard of St Ellen’s Well was proved at Chester in 1665, and that of Alice Gerard of the Well in 1679; besides many later entries in the Brindle parish registers.

This Alice Gerard may justly be considered the foundress of the present Brindle Mission. Previous to her death in 1679, probably about 1677, she gave the site, and built upon it a new chapel and house in Gregson Lane, known as Newhouse. Among the Forfeited Estate Papers in the Public Record Office are several depositions made before the Commissioners in reference to this chapel. ‘George Hinton, of Brindle, Co. Lancaster, swore this 18th July, 1718, saith he hath known Newhouse ever since it was built by Alice Gerard, viz. about forty years ago, that one Green lived there about ten years and died about thirteen years ago, and this deponent did frequently hear the said Green say Mass there, after whose death Mr. Hutchison, a Roman priest, succeeded him, and now usually resides there; That there are about twelve acres of ground belonging to the said house.’ Forty years from 1718, the date of the above deposition, would take us to 1678, which may thus be safely inserted in future Catholic directories as the date of the Brindle Mission.

Similar evidence to that of George Hinton was given by William Hinton, William Turner, Thomas Oram, who mention Mr. Green, Mr. Hutchison, and Mr. Huddlestone as successive priests, and the date at Newhouse of its beginning as forty years previously. Samuel Peploe again, in his account of estates granted to superstitious purposes in and about Preston, Co. Lancs., reported: “Newhouse and grounds belonging to it in Brindle is mostly let in parcels. One Hutchison, a Popish priest, has lived on it some time, who succeeded Mr. Green, a priest, who died there.’

From the above we gather that Mr. Green came to Brindle in 1695. He died in 1704, and was buried at the parish church of Brindle. Mr. Hutchison succeeded, and died at Brindle August 24, 1717. Mr. Huddlestone had charge of the Mission till 1721, when he was succeeded by Dom William Placid Naylor, the most distinguished of the monks in charge of Brindle, who during the last three years he was there was President-General of the English Congregation. His earlier years at Brindle were full of activity. He first acquired a cottage and 3 1/2 acres of land from a family of the name of Coope, and in 1726, with the aid of various benefactions, he obtained possession of Stanfield House with the grounds on which it stood. Mr. George Hull, in his historical sketch of Brindle, mentions that before he built the chapel Father Naylor, like his predecessors, did duty at several Mission stations. One of these was Jack Green, which in 1860 belonged to a Mr. Livesay. When the old house there was pulled down, Father Smith (Brindle, 1829-1874) brought the old chalice and the vestments from the garret to his own house. Another station was at Woodhouse, going towards Clayton Green; another was at Slack, where the Fazackerleys lived; another at Thorpe Green. At these stations the priest celebrated the rites of the Church, and on one Sunday he announced where he would officiate the next; for he could not take them in rotation, because then Catholics had to go to Mass by stealth, and it was dangerous to allow it to be known where services would be held.

It was dangerous to allow it to be known where Mass would take place

Mass was also said at a house, one end of which now faces the entrance to Gregson Lane Mill. This old house has strong claims – even at the risk of a slight digression – to a passing notice here. It is believed to have been erected about 1580, and is a fine example of the comfortable yeoman’s dwelling of that period; an interesting feature of the building being a small room in which the ironwork round the fireplace is hammered into a representation of the wheat and vine, emblematic of the bread and wine used in the Mass. It is said that at the beginning of the eighteenth century this house was the residence of the Gregsons of Gregson Lane, one of whom placed his initials, ‘G. G.,’ with a cross and the date, ‘1700,’ on the lintel of the porch, thus giving later generations the erroneous impression that the building was erected in that year. From it were taken, about 1880, some ancient vestments, which are now in the museum at Stonyhurst College. Near this house, about twenty years ago, was dug up a very ancient font, possibly of the ninth century; and in the garden of a cottage close by stands a beautiful old wayside cross. Local tradition asserts that at this same old house the Venerable Edmund Arrowsmith, the Jesuit martyr, said his last Mass. There are other interesting traditions of his presence in this neighbourhood.

Brindle Presbytery and former chapel, ca. 1923

Brindle Presbytery and former chapel, ca. 1923

He had laboured long in his Mission

Mr. Hull continues his historical sketch: ‘The former priest’s house at Brindle and part of the chapel, Brindle, erected for and by Father Naylor, are still standing. They adjoin the present priest’s house, a portion of which, in its turn, formed part of the second chapel, the present church being really the third building erected for divine worship on this spot.’ As priests could not then hold property, the buildings erected by Father Naylor were conveyed to him in the name of Mr. Woodcock, a Protestant friend, who lived at Walton, and whose successors lived at Bury, where Father Smith saw them, when he arranged for the transfer of the property. Father Naylor, on account of his position as President-General, appears to have been absent from Brindle, on business connected with the Order, from time to time; for it is on record, in the register of the Mission, that he left Brindle for ‘the last time’ on July 16, 1769. He then retired to his Monastery of St. Lawrence at Dieulouard, in Lorraine, and when he got there he told his brethren – to quote Father Smith’s account – ‘that he had laboured long in his Mission and had come to lay his bones in his old monastery. He lived there two years before he went to his rest.’

He had, indeed, laboured hard on the Mission, and most of the time filled important posts in the English Congregation. He was Definitor of the Province in 1733, Definitor of the Regimen 1737, Provincial of York 1741-1766, in which year he became President-General. It was he who built up the Brindle Mission, so that it became the parent of several others in the neighbourhood, and the Catholics of the district owe much to his remarkable foresight and ability.

Many of the judges and magistrates were heartily ashamed 

Not content with labouring hard himself, Father Naylor appears to have done much to induce others to take up the then arduous and perilous work of the priesthood, for there are records of at least three members of his congregation who left Brindle to be educated at the houses belonging to the English Congregation which were then maintained on the Continent. These were the Rev. John Anselm Bolton, who was professed at St Lawrence’s, Dieulouard, in 1751; the Rev. William Dunstan Garstang, professed at St Edmund’s, Paris, in 1753; and the Rev. Ambrose Waring, professed at Dieulouard in 1761. The name of the first of these three – Father Bolton – is connected with what was most probably the last of the trials for high treason to which Catholic priests were liable until the end of the eighteenth century. During the time he was chaplain and incumbent at Gilling Castle, Yorkshire (1764-1793), he was, through the ill-will of a discharged bailiff, accused and tried for his priesthood; or, in other words, simply for having taught the Catholic Catechism to his parishioners. Many of the judges, magistrates, and other authorities of that date were heartily ashamed of the atrocious penal laws which they were called to administer. This seems to have been especially their feeling in the case of Father Bolton, and the learned counsel who appeared for him took full advantage of it.

He procured a catechism, took out its pages, and substituted pages of blank paper. When the proper time came he asked the discharged bailiff who had betrayed Father Bolton if this book, which he held up, was anything like the book from which he had seen Mr. Bolton teach Popery. The ex-bailiff boldly declared that it was ‘the very same book.’ ‘Was he sure?’ ‘Quite sure.’ ‘On his oath?’ ‘Yes.’ Counsel passed the book over to the Judicial Bench, and from there it went to the jury. It was, of course, found to contain not a word of Popery; and the priest was, to the credit of the Court, acquitted. This Father Bolton afterwards had charge of a mission at Ampleforth, in Yorkshire, and from his house, which still stands, grew the noble pile now known as St Lawrence’s Abbey. He died on December 22, 1805, and a fine portrait of him is to be seen at Ampleforth, which has been reproduced by Dom C. Almond in his History of Ampleford Abbey, where he most generously acknowledges the share the good monk from Brindle had in establishing what was to be the successor of his own Alma Mater at Dieulouard.

A succession of remarkable men

Father Naylor’s successor at Brindle was Rev. Joseph Lawrence Hadley, who was there from 1767 to 1802, having acted for two years as Father Naylor’s assistant. Father Hadley built the present spacious and substantial church, which bears the date, as already mentioned, over its main entrance. After serving Brindle for nearly thirty-six years, Father Hadley retired to Liverpool, where he died. He was, in common with other Catholics of that date, interred in the burial-ground of St James Protestant Church, at the top of Parliament Street. At this time the congregation numbered about 600, whilst in 1784 Bishop Mathew B. Gibson confirmed 168 persons at Brindle. About this time the children of the district received such education as could then be afforded them at several small schools. One of them, known as ‘Old Betty Slater’s,’ was at the Straits; another, kept by one ‘Dicky’ Wilson, was at Coupe Green, which is said to have taken its name from the local family already mentioned. On the erection of the present church, the former chapel is believed to have been used as a school.

Immediately after Father Hadley’s retirement in 1802, the Mission was placed under the care of Rev. James Alexius Pope, and of him his successor, Father Smith, said that ‘he believed no mission ever had a more deserving or a better priest than Mr. Pope was.’ But the same words might have been used with equal propriety of Father Smith himself, the truth being that during the long period of 153 years the Brindle Mission was blessed with a succession of remarkable men, the four of them sharing between them the century and a half. Father Smith’s great desire was, if he knew a boy who was promising for the Church, to get him to college and ultimately admitted to Holy Orders. In this he was singularly successful. Among those whom he was instrumental in getting thus trained were Rev. J. C. Proctor, O.S.B.; V. R. Canon Carter, afterwards of Bolton; Rev. M. G. Brierley, O.S.B.; V. R. Canon Baron, afterwards of Corby, Lincolnshire; Rev. Will. Baron; V. R. Canon Walmesley; Rev. William Crook; Rev. Edmund Crook; Rev. Henry Ryley; Rev. James Thompson; Rev. Thos. Parkinson; Rev. J. A. Worden, O.S.B. There was one embargo that Father Smith always put upon the priests who owed their training to his efforts, and that was that in the Holy Sacrifice they should never forget the congregation of Brindle. The good Father died at his post on January 29, 1874, and was interred in the graveyard adjoining the church. In the early days of his incumbency a former Brindle boy, who had risen to a position of affluence by his industry and integrity, built the schools which have now done duty for three generations, and on which the following inscription may still be read: ‘Erected by Mr. Joseph Knight, of Chelsea, for the benefit of the Brindle congregation, and as a token of respect for his native place, A. D. 1831.’

…in times of prosperity as in times of suffering and persecution

The Brindle Mission is the ‘mother’ of Brownedge, Walton, Clayton Green, and Leyland. ‘It is,’ says Mr. Hewitson, in his Country Churches and Chapels, to which we would refer the reader for further ‘racy’ details, ‘an elevated pastoral district, with a peaceable, widely-spread population, and has some of the most puzzling roads in the Western hemisphere. We have managed a few roads in our time, but in all our wanderings we have met with none more mixed up or perplexing then those in the arcadian region of Brindle. It is indeed an old-world spot, the chapel snugly hid away in a deep dell and not seen until one is within fifty yards of it. But it was placed there in times of persecution; and all the surroundings have the same air of peaceful retirement so greatly favoured by our Catholic forefathers.’ But the days of retirement are past, and we may justly hope that Brindle and Hoghton will remember their former glories and be an example to Catholic Lancashire in times of prosperity, even as they were in times of suffering and persecution.”

– Dom F. O. Blundell, O.S.B., Old Catholic Lancashire, Burns Oates & Washbourne Ltd., London 1925


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“In the midst of this winter of atheism in the West, it is heartening to travel to distant parts of the globe and find that spring has arrived. For decades in Russia, thousands of Catholic priests, religious and laypersons were persecuted, imprisoned without trial or merely taken away and shot by the Soviet Communists in their attempt to kill the Faith. It was an experiment in state-sponsored atheism. But today you can walk into a Catholic church in Irkutsk, eastern Siberia, and find Mass being celebrated every day of the week. The experiment has failed and what Russia’s brutal Communists could not achieve is surely beyond the reach of the West’s extremist but essentially spineless secularists.


The Church of the Assumption in Irkutsk stands on the corner of Kirov Square. It was built in 1889, replacing the original wooden church that was burnt down in the great fire of 1879 that destroyed much of the town. Across the street is the bleak, grey government building that embodied Soviet power, the hammer and sickle still visible in the stonework. A beautiful Orthodox cathedral with six golden cupolas used to occupy the spot but the Communists tore it down in the 1930s. Remarkably, the neighbouring Catholic church survived. Perhaps its acoustics saved it, because, after stealing it from the Church, the Communists handed it over to the Philharmonic Society which to this day uses it for organ concerts. The Russian government has yet to return the stolen property and the Church is obliged to pay rent to hold daily Mass in the lower chapel and Sunday Mass upstairs in the main church.

I came across this church in the summer of 2012, on my first Sunday in Irkutsk. It was an unexpected delight to be able to attend daily Mass in distant Siberia, to meet several priests and religious as well as members of the congregation. Through them I built a picture of how the Catholic Church came to Siberia, how the Communists tried to wipe it out and how it has survived against all the odds and is now attracting new converts.


On the opposite bank of the Angara River, up a steep road beyond the tracks of the Trans-Siberian Railway, stands the Cathedral of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was consecrated in 2000 and contains a beautiful, golden statue of the Virgin Mary against a stylised map of Russia, a reference to the second secret of Fatima that spoke of the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of the Virgin Mary.

It was at the Cathedral that I met Sister Danuta, one of the four members of the Divine Word Missionaries working there alongside two Polish and one Indonesian Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters (SSpS). Sr Danuta told me that about 200 parishioners attend Sunday Mass at the Cathedral and about 40 children attend catechism classes. The Church organises marriage encounter weekends that attract even non-Catholics. Later during my stay I was to meet a group of young altar boys who had travelled from all over the vast diocese of St Joseph at Irkutsk (the Catholic Church’s largest in terms of square miles) to attend a retreat. One 17-year-old had come from Yakutsk, a journey of five days by rail and road.


Sister Danuta, who arrived in Irkutsk from Poland over a decade ago, gave me my first introduction to the history of the Church there and an insight into its contemporary conditions. She told me of the Polish uprisings of 1863 and 1864 and how the Russian Tsar exiled about 40,000 Poles, mostly Catholics, to Siberia. They included over 500 priests who were forced to stay in the isolated town of Tunka, 200km south-west of Irkutsk. In fact, the first Polish exiles to Siberia, numbering around 5,000, arrived as early as 1772, following the failed Bar Confederation, one of the first attempts to throw off the Russian yoke. More Poles were exiled following the failure of Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s revolt in 1795 and the November Uprising in 1830. Not all Catholics came under duress. Some were traders and there were Catholics amongst the worforce that built the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The first priests in Irkutsk were Jesuits who arrived in 1812 and it was they who built the first wooden church. There were about 1,200 Catholics in the Irkutsk parish at the time. In 1820 the Jesuits were expelled from Russia and the Franciscans came to replace them. By the early nineteenth century there were about 30,000 Catholics in the Irkutsk region.



It was also from Sister Danuta that I heard for the first time of one of the many saints and martyrs numbered amongst the exiles and deportees in Siberia: St Joseph Kalinowski (1835-1907), a boyhood hero of Pope John Paul II. He was condemned to death for his part in the 1863 Polish Uprising, but the sentence was commuted to ten years hard labour in the salt-mines near Irkutsk. Carrying with him only the Gospels and the ‘Imitation of Christ’ he discovered, amidst the extreme hardships of Siberia, his priestly vocation. After returning to Poland he was ordained at the age of 47 and later did much to restore the Carmelite Order in that country. Pope John Paul II canonised him in 1991.


The Soviet regime took up where the Tsarist regime had left off and deported not tens, but hundreds of thousands, from Belarus, western Ukraine and the Baltic states. The 19th-century exiles had arrived on foot in Siberia. Their 20th-century counterparts came packed into goods trains. But unlike the earlier arrivals, they would not be allowed to practise their Faith openly. The 1929 Soviet constitution and the Law on Religious Associations made it illegal to try to defend religion against atheist arguments or engage in religious activity. In 1917 all education had been handed over to the state. The family remained the last and only bulwark against Soviet totalitarianism. But also, by the law of unintended consequences the mass deportations of these ‘enemies of the people’ brought a new wave of Catholics to Siberia, the parents and grandparents of the people I was now kneeling next to in this church in Irkutsk.

I tried to learn from those parishioners how their faith had remained alive over all those years. Many remembered learning prayers from their grandparents, but in many cases it was just a vague recollection… One parishioner, Margarita, told me of how she had come to the Faith after discovering a medal with the image of St Benedict. She was curious enough to research the saint, leading her to discover more about the Catholic Church until she was finally baptised.


Her husband gave me his collection of magazines entitled the ‘Siberian Catholic Gazette’ dating back to 1999. Its articles contain so many testimonies to the bravery of Catholics under communist persecution. One figure in particular stands out: that of Fr Bukovinski (1904-74). The ‘Gazette’ has published excerpts from his memoirs that tell of his work as an underground priest throughout the Soviet Union. He was imprisoned on several occasions by the Communists and came close to death in 1941 and 1949. He is now buried in the grounds of the newly opened Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Fatima in his native town of Karaganda in Kazakhstan.

In one of Fr Bukovinski’s articles he recalls a young Latvian student from a family of deportees in Siberia. A Catholic, he secretly attended Mass offered by a Latvian priest who was conducting his mission clandestinely. The student’s professor got to know about this and ordered a meeting of students to conduct a public recantation of his anti-Soviet activities. However, once the professor had finished accusing him of going to Mass and believing in God, the student stood up and, rather than recanting, announced
, ‘I hereby state that I do believe in God and will do so till the day I die.’


There was a long moment of silence in the group and then all the other students broke out into applause. His courage and defiance had impressed them although there was not a single Catholic amongst them.


In the September 2002 edition of the ‘Gazette’ there is a letter which echoes of Dostoyevsky. It is from a prisoner serving a life sentence in Solikamsk Prison Camp in the Ural Mountains. He speaks of how he recently converted to Catholicism thanks to a certain Brother Dionysus. But his mentor had since returned to Poland, leaving him in a spiritual vacuum, the only Catholic in the prison. He appeals simply for readers to write to him to break his isolation and help his spiritual development. He signs his letter, Yuri, The Sinner.

I also read Sister Aloysius’s account of her vocation. Living in the small town of Prokopyevsk, south-east of Novosibirsk, her mother chanced upon a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and started to attend secret meetings with a small group of local Catholics. The young girl, curious about where her mother disappeared to each week, began to ‘spy’ on her and found out where the meetings were being held. She was invited to join the group, and, in her turn, was converted. She was particularly attracted to praying the Rosary in front of the two icons in the family home, one of the Sacred Heart and one of the Virgin Mary. Her schoolmates found out about her Catholicism and taunted and harassed her. But she remained firm in her faith and, after the fall of Communism, became a nun with the Sisters of St Joseph. It was only then that her mother told her that she had wanted to abort her, but on the two occasions she set out for the doctor’s surgery, fortuitous events stopped her in her steps.


It was in 1991 that the Church celebrated its first Christmas Mass in Irkutsk after the government had lifted the ban on public worship for the first time in decades. In the same year, Caritas opened its first centre in Novosibirsk and it continues to work along with other Catholic organisations such as St Vincent de Paul. Siberia has its own pre-seminary in Novosibirsk, opened in 1993, from where postulants graduate to the seminary in Moscow or St Petersburg.


However, persecution and harassment continued. The first bishop of St Joseph’s diocese in Irkutsk, Bishop Jerzy Mazur, was denied re-entry into Russia in 2002 on his return from Warsaw and was declared persona non grata by the Putin government. The Russian Duma on several occasions has discussed ways to stop the growth of the Catholic Church in Russia and there was strong official opposition to John Paul II’s visit to Ukraine in 2001. (It was during that visit that he beatified 27 Catholic martyrs, many from Siberia.) In 1992 the Catholic parish in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (on Sakhalin island off the Far East coast of Russia) was re-opened thanks to aid from South Korean missionaries, but five years later those same missionaries were forced to leave by the authorities in Moscow…


Fr Bukovinski wrote that, ‘In the Soviet Union, everything is at the service of atheism: the press, cinema, schools, theatre, radio and TV. Atheism, in one way or another addresses the people, while believers, although there are more of them, remain silent.’ He could well be describing our own society. As this aggressive atheism unfurls, how many of us will have the courage of that Latvian student in deepest Siberia and risk all by asserting our Catholic faith?”
– This article by Paul McGregor entitled “Glimpsing a miracle in Siberia” was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue August 23 2013. For subscriptions please visit (external link).

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Posted by on September 25, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time


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Born in Tuscany, elected pope in 523, John was sent to Constantinople by king Theodoric, to persuade the emperor, Justin I, to desist from the persecution of Arians. Constantinople welcomed the pope with great honour; neither he, nor the emperor, obeyed the wishes of the king, and on John’s return to Rome he was exiled to Ravenna, where he died in 526.


God our Father,
rewarder of all who believe,
hear our prayers
as we celebrate the martyrdom of Pope John.
Help us to follow him in loyalty to the faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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St Athanasius was born at Alexandria in 295. He attended the Council of Nicaea, in 325, which had been called to rebut the heresy of Arius, which denied the divinity of Christ. Arius was also an Alexandrian. Athanasius became bishop of Alexandria in 328, and was tireless in combatting the heresy. He was exiled five times for his persistence. He wrote brilliantly, both in defence of doctrine, and on spiritual matters.


you raised up Saint Athanasius
to be an outstanding defender
of the truth of Christ’s divinity.
By his teaching and protection
may we grow in your knowledge and love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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Cyril, born in 315, became Bishop of Jerusalem in 348 when the Arian controversy was at its height, and he was exiled several times. In his ‘Catecheses’ he set out the true teaching of Christianity and scripture and the tradition of the Church. He died in 386.


through Cyril of Jerusalem
you led your Church to a deeper understanding
of the mysteries of salvation.
Let his prayers help us to know your Son better
and to have eternal life in all its fullness.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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