St Joseph's Catholic Church
Bishop Thornton, Harrogate
Past, Present and Future
It has been a long journey. We joined John Walworth and his companions in their procession that day in June 1481 as they traced the boundaries of the old Minster parish. We saw something of religious life there when it was informed by the full Catholic faith and celebrated full Catholic worship. Profound changes were imposed but we met some of the recusants who refused to accept the new religion and who, in spite of persecution, maintained the faith their ancestors had known.
In the eighteenth century we found the Catholic community establishing a new home in the mission based on Raventofts Hall and later in their inconspicuous upper room in Bishop Thornton. Eventually, in the beginning of the next century they were able openly to gather and to worship in their new chapel. The nineteenth century saw periods of stability and also unsettled years of change. Towards the end of the century a new parish priest would serve the parish for over 50 years and his successor would also remain there for a notable time. Finally we saw how, after remaining much the same for some 75 years, the interior of the church was re-ordered as we know it today.
It has indeed been a long journey. But it has been a story well worth telling. It speaks of faithfulness and of perseverance by priests and people. It tells how the faith professed by John Walworth and his companions was preserved and how its heart, the sacrifice of the Mass, continued to be celebrated. The parishioners of St Joseph’s, Bishop Thornton, are indeed the successors of many worthy generations. May they pass on to those who succeed them what they received from the faithful labours of those who went before.