St Joseph's Catholic Church
Bishop Thornton, Harrogate
I would like to thank all who have made this booklet possible. A special thank you to Mgr. John Dunne for his history of the parish over more than 500 years. It brings home to us the many heartbreaks and joys of those involved in the making and growth of the parish we have today.
This booklet has come into being because this year we are celebrating the opening of our church 200 years ago. It has claims to being the oldest church building in the Diocese. It was built at a time in the life of our Catholic community in this country when, as a result of the passing of the Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791, the Penal Laws were no longer enforced and Catholics were able to practise their faith openly. Our church was built against that background. One can imagine the joy of Fr. Charles Saul when he greeted his congregation on the first day the church doors were opened to the faithful. For them at least it was a joyful come-down from the low beamed attic to their new ground floor church. Truly it was a proud day for them. When you think of what their ancestors had to endure – persecution, deprivation and even in some cases martyrdom – they surely had good reason to rejoice and be proud. Even then they had to wait another 20 years for full Catholic emancipation.
What has changed since those days of 1809? In the church structure itself very little. Of course the years have seen new Stations of the Cross, a new altar and other changes to conform with changes in the liturgy. But what has not changed is the dedication of our parishioners. They in 1809 were chiefly agricultural people but in 2009 they are mainly from an urban background, with a mixture of farmers. But they all have one thing in common – they still give of their talents, their energy and their finance in making this church a place to be proud of, and not just the building but also the surrounding garden and cemetery. And all this has been cemented together by the prayer life of those who have gone before us and those here today. For all of this we thank you and may God reward you.
We look back at much of the past 200 years in black and white. May we with God’s help see the future in colour.
Fr Patrick Waldron