Thursday, 29 January 2015


Once again, the Order of St Lazarus is organising a Sponsored walk for members and friends this Sunday. The walk will place in Lancashire where members and friends - including the Chaplain General - will walk through Cuerden Valley.   If you would like to join us, or make your own walk locally, please do, starting at 2pm from St Catherine's Church. Alternatively, you can sponsor our Chaplain General or any of the walkers.

I don't think it will be as green as the photo above but the forecast is that it will be cold but sunny.  Thank goodness for the soup rolls awaiting us on our return!

All funds raised will go to SUROL, our partner charity in Sri Lanka which cares for those suffering from leprosy.

If you would like to support our fundraising efforts please contact us.

During the walk we will pass by Cuerdan Hall.  The original house on the site, dating from the 17th century, no longer exists. The Charnock family of Charnock Richard, owned the estates until 1521, when Richard Charnock of Cuerden and Leyland sold his manor to Thomas Langton, Lord Newton. In 1605 Henry Banastre of Bank Hall bought the Cuerden Hall Estate from the Langton Family, (Barons of Newton-in-Makerfield) Henrys daughter Alice, wife of Sir Thomas Haggerston Bt, held ownership in 1641. 

The present building dates from 1717 and was erected by Banastre Parker, son of Robert Parker, the former High Sheriff of Lancashire for 1710, when he moved the Parker family from Extwistle Hall. Upon his death in 1738 the estate passed to his son Robert Parker (1727–1779) and in turn to his grandchildren Banastre Parker (1758–1788) and Thomas Towneley Parker (1760–1794).

After the death of Capt. Robert Townley Parker (1823–1894) and later his brother Thomas Towneley Parker (1822–1906) the estate passed to their nephew Reginald Arthur Tatton (1857–1926) who re-designed the gardens, introducing a pergola and gazebo, a walled garden and pond.

During the First World War Tatton adapted the Hall for use as an infirmary for troops, and between 1 May 1915 and 8 June 1917 it was known as Cuerden Hall Auxiliary Hospital. The drawing rooms, with the Tatton family’s collection of old masters and portraits still adorning the walls, were turned into wards and furnished with beds, bed linen and equipment, whilst the parkland and gardens provided an area for convalescence for the soldiers, enjoying such activities as boating on the lake, haymaking, and picnicking. 

During the Second World War, the estate was requisitioned by the Ministry of Defence and converted into an Army Education Centre and later became the British Army Divisional Headquarters of the Anti-Aircraft Command. By the late 1950s the Hall had been in use by the Army intermittently for a number of years and in 1958, after nearly 250 years of private family ownership, the Hall was finally sold by the Tatton family to the Ministry of Defence and it became the Army's Headquarters North West District.

In 1977 the Central Lancashire Development Corporation took over the Hall from the Ministry of Defence and established its own Headquarters there, in the process constructing new offices and car parks in the grounds. By 1978, the parkland and wider estate had been developed into Cuerden Valley Park and in 1986, following vacation of the building by the Corporation, work had started on converting the Hall into a Sue Ryder Care Home, its present occupiers.

There is an interesting bit of religious history to it as well.  Thomas Woodcock died at Cuerden in 1602 holding 'the capital messuage called Lostock' in Cuerden—no doubt the house later called Woodcock Hall (nearby but demolished in the late 20th century) —with lands in Cuerden and nearby Walton-le-Dale. This 'Lostock' had belonged to the Hospitallers - although I cannot find any record of which "Hospitallers" 

The above named Thomas left a son and heir John, aged nineteen. But another of the same name, born about 1603, is of more note—the Blessed John Woodcock. He became a student at St. Omer's and afterwards in 1629 proceeded to the English College in Rome. Next year he joined the English Franciscans at Douay and was sent to England for a time. On a later mission he was arrested soon after his arrival in Lancashire and was barbarously executed at Lancaster for his priesthood, 7 August 1646. 

This detailed account of his life comes from Josie Bolton.

John Woodcock was born in 1603 at Woodcock Hall. His father conformed to save his estate which had been in the family for 400 years but his mother (born Anderton) kept firm to the Catholic faith. John would have known the Burgess family as they leased Lower Woodend from his relative John Anderton.

John became a Catholic in his late teens, which displeased his father so much ,that he went to live with his Anderton relatives until he was sent abroad to study for the priesthood. He became a Franciscan .He served in England for a time in 1640 and then returned to France but he was very keen to return to England to serve his people. He sailed to Newcastle and making his way from one safe house to the next, he eventually arrived at his family home in August 1644. This was at the height of the Civil War, and a dangerous time especially for Catholics, who mostly supported the Royalist cause.


When he arrived , he arranged to say Mass during the night of the feast of the Assumption(August 15th) on the Missionary Altar at Woodend for his relations, the Burgess family and neighbouring Catholics. But just as he had finished hearing confessions and was standing in his vestments waiting for the clock to strike twelve when he could start to say Mass, one of the neighbours came rushing in to beg all to disperse immediately, as the pursuivants were coming! Fr Woodcock immediately took off his vestments, closed up the altar and got into the priest’s hiding -hole, before the pursuivants arrived.

When they came up to the room, Mrs Burgess, who was sitting in her rocking chair, protested against their rude intrusion into a sick woman’s room at that time of night. But they said they had come with a warrant to apprehend a popish priest. She said “You will not find a man in my room at this time of night” They asked “What are all these people assembled here for, if it be not to meet this popish priest?” She answered “ They are some neighbours who have come to sit up with me”
I had quite forgotten. There is a hiding hole in that house.
They searched the farmhouse , but happily could find no trace of the hidden priest, and left disappointed. As soon as the pursuivants had gone, Fr Woodcock came out from his place of concealment and , the few Catholics in the immediate neighbourhood returning , he said Mass, gave them Holy Communion and then hastened away before daybreak to his father’s house nearby.


Early the next morning the traitor who had summoned the pursuivants, went back to them and said “I had quite forgotten. There is a hiding hole in that house, for I once went there courting the servant maid when the mistress was absent , but when she came back earlier than was expected

I was put into the hiding place. I think I can find it again, behind a certain panel.” The pursuivants returned with the traitor to the house at Woodend, and he went immediately to the hiding place and withdrew the panel, but found the place empty.

Mr Woodcock, hearing of this, was afraid if his son the priest was caught in the mansion he would lose his estate, and therefore gave his son his breakfast and ordered him out of the house as quickly as possible. Fr John had not got a mile away from Woodcock Hall, when the traitor and the pursuivants overtook him on Bamber Bridge, arrested him, and brought him before the magistrates who ordered them to convey him to Lancaster Castle.
The pursuivants were coming!


There he was kept in prison for two years and was finally put to the cruel death of hanging drawing and quartering with two other priests Fr Edward Bamber and Fr Thomas Whitaker on August 7th 1646. Their deaths are recorded, with other martyrs, on a plaque in St Peter’s Cathedral, East Rd, Lancaster.

The vestments, which Blessed John Woodcock wore at his last Mass, are much worn with age, but are preserved with the Burgess altar at Ladyewell.

The Burgess altar is still to be seen at Ladyewell, the Lancaster Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady and the Martyrs, Fernyhalgh Lane, Fulwood, Preston PR2 5ST

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Cardinal Ranjith welcomes Pope Francis to Sri Lanka

Pope Francis arrived in Sri Lanka to be greeted by elephants in procession! He was also met by friend of the Order of St Lazarus, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, who last year was created Prelate Grand Cross of the Order of Merit, in a presentation by the Grand Prior of Great Britain, Baron Thacker of Fetternear. Our congrtulations to Cardinal Ranjith on the raising of Sri Lanks's first Saint to the altar, Blessed Joseph Vaz, whom Pope Francis declared a saint at Holy Mass at Galle face green park on Wednesday, ending a long wait for the canonization of the 17th century Goan priest.

Church bells rang and people clapped as Pope Francis said, "We declare and define Blessed Joseph Vaz to be Saint and we enrol him among the Saints, decreeing that he is to be venerated as such by the whole Church."

The Pope arrived at the venue on the sea front at 8am and went round the packed ground waving to the crowd. Later, around 9am, he conferred sainthood on the deeply respected priest, as Sri Lankans grateful for their faith, Goans and others who had travelled to the venue and camping since late evening on Tuesday, braving the cold reacted with joy.

Ordained a priest in 1676 in Goa, he arrived in the island nation in 1687 and is known to have founded several churches and chapels, helping revive the faith amidst persecution of Catholics by Calvinists at that time.

Monday, 12 January 2015


We are planning to celebrate Burns’ Night again this coming year - for practical reasons, a little after the actual date -
ours will take place on Friday 13th February
starting at 7.30pm. 
The evening is hosted by The Grand Prior, 
H.E. the Much Honoured Baron of Fetternear, MBE GCLJ GCMlJ JP 
This has been an excellent evening over the past two years with a cocktail on arrival, full three course meal with wine and whisky and Scottish entertainments - though you don’t need to be Scots to come along!  Tickets are just £29 per head - which is terrific value considering all you get.
The event is to raise funds for the Order’s charitable work, so come along and support it whilst having a great evening’s fun.

Traditional  Piping in o’ the Haggis.
A Tartan sash for each of the Ladies.
 A cocktail on arrival.
Three-course traditional Burns’ Night Fare consisting of:
Scotch Broth
Haggis wi’ Bashit Neeps & Champit Tatties
Pudding of Clootie Dumpling.
Wine with the meal  -  Whisky for the various toasts
 - The address to the Haggis -
 - The Toast to the Lassies -
  - The Reply from the Lassies -
“Entertainments” in song & verse in keeping with the evening. 
Tickets available from Fr Simon Henry at St Catherine's. 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Blessed Peter Donders

This is the first of an  occasional series on saints and blesseds connected to the Order or associated with the relief of leprosy.  I will try to post them a few days before the actual feast or memorial.

Blessed Peter Donders. Feast 14th January.

A priest who spent his life ministering to lepers in South America.

Peter Donders was born in Tilburg, Holland, on 27th October 1809. Because the family was poor, the two sons could be given little schooling but had to work for the support of the home. From an early age, however, Peter had formed the desire of becoming a priest. Eventually, with the assistance of the clergy of his parish he was able at the age of twenty two to commence study at the Minor Seminary.

In due time he was ordained priest on 5th June 1841. While still engaged in his theological studies he had been guided by his superiors in the seminary towards the missions of the Dutch colony of Surinam in the Guianas. He arrived in Paramaribo, the principal city of the colony, on 16th September 1842 and applied himself at once to the pastoral works that were to occupy him until his death. His first duties included regular visits to the plantations along the rivers of the colony, where he preached and ministered the Sacraments mainly to slaves. His letters express his indignation at the harsh treatment of the African peoples forced to work on the plantations. In 1856 he was sent to the leper station of Batavia; and this was to be, with very few interruptions, the scene of his labours for the rest of his life. In his charity he not only provided the benefits of religion to the patients, but even tended them personally until he was able to persuade the authorities to provide adequate nursing services. In many ways he was able to improve the conditions of the lepers through his energy in bringing their needs to the attention of the colonial authorities.

When the Redemptorists arrived in 1866 to take charge of the mission of Surinam, Father Donders and one of his fellow priests applied for admission into the Congregation. The two candidates made their novitiate under the Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Johan Baptist Winkels, and they took their vows on 24th June 1867. Father Donders returned at once to Batavia. Because of the assistance he now had with the lepers, he was able to devote time to a work he had long wished to undertake. As a Redemptorist he now turned his attention to the Indian peoples of Surinam. He continued with this work, previously neglected through lack of manpower, almost until his death. He began to learn the native languages and to instruct the Indians in the Christian faith, until failing strength compelled him to leave to others what he had begun.

In 1883 the Vicar Apostolic, wishing to spare him the heavy burdens he had so long carried, transferred him to Paramaribo and later to Coronie. He returned, however, to Batavia in November of 1885. He resumed his previous occupations until weakening health finally confined him to bed in December of 1886. He lingered for two weeks until his death on 14th January 1887. The fame of his sanctity spreading beyond Surinam and his native Holland, his cause was introduced in Rome. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 23rd May 1982.