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Pilgrims’ Mass’ on Sunday 29 August at 3.00 pm at St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith Church, Ashton-in-Makerfield


by Paul Hurst


Father John Gorman is the Parish Priest at the church of St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith in Ashton-in-Makerfield and as we approach the feast day of St Edmund, Father John spoke about this year’s celebration Mass and why he thinks we’ve still got so much to learn from the lives of the Saints.


‘It’s easy to see Sainthood as the end of a journey’ Father John told us ‘but really it’s just the beginning.  In the lives of the Saints, we see someone who, by the grace of God, has endured and run the race set before them, and we can all receive great comfort that these Saints continue to offer their prayers with ours today.


‘Sainthood may seem like the end of things to us but we mustn’t forget this, the Saints continue their ministry, the Church is not separated by death.  We can be comforted by this.  Not only by their example, but also by their continued prayers too.  This is particularly powerful when we consider the lives of local Saints such as Edmund Arrowsmith who endured martyrdom for his ministry as a Catholic Priest’.


Edmund Arrowsmith was born in Haydock in 1585 and was ordained to the Priesthood in 1612 in France.


He returned to north-west England and served as a priest to Catholics living in Lancashire.  The work was difficult and dangerous as Catholics were living under persecution from the Protestant-led monarchy.  Father Edmund was initially detained in 1622 and questioned by the Bishop of Chester before being released.  He continued with his ministry and joined the Jesuit Order in 1624 serving as an ‘underground’ Priest until his capture in August 1628.


After his second arrest, Father Edmund was imprisoned at Lancaster Castle.  His trial before the assizes Judge Henry Yelverton took place on 26 August 1628 and by all accounts, the matter was concluded speedily.  Father Edmund Arrowsmith was found guilty of being a Catholic Priest (and by extension, High Treason) and his sentence was death.  He was taken back to the smallest cell in the castle to await his execution.


Around lunchtime on 28 August 1628.  Father Edmund Arrowsmith was drawn through the streets of Lancaster from the castle up to the hill where the sentence was to be carried out.  Father Edmund refused to turn from his faith and, after giving a statement outlining this, he was hanged and quartered.  His family secured the return of his right hand as the rest of his mortal remains would not be granted a Christian burial.


On the 25 October 1970, Pope St Paul VI canonised St Edmund Arrowsmith along with 39 other Catholic Martyrs from England and Wales and the ‘Holy Hand’ of St Edmund Arrowsmith continues to be venerated at the Church of St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith to this day.

Father John picks up the story: 'For many years after the canonisation of St Edmund, pilgrims would visit the church here in Ashton.  On the feast day Mass, we could expect hundreds to visit from all over the country and it’s only in more recent years where the numbers aren’t at that same level.  That’s something I’d like to see change.


‘There are so many lessons we can learn from the witness of St. Edmund on resilience, faithfulness and determination.  Although the trials and challenges we face today as Catholics are completely different, it’s all too easy for us to be tempted to sideline our faith especially given what’s going on around us in these difficult times.  I’d really like to encourage us all to learn from the example of St Edmund and also to seek his intercession and that’s why I’m trying to encourage people to take a look once again at his example.


Father John will celebrate a ‘Pilgrims’ Mass’ on Sunday 29 August at 3.00 pm at St Oswald and St Edmund Arrowsmith Church, Ashton-in-Makerfield.


Father John has also been working on a special mini documentary which will be available via the Church’s YouTube Channel (rcchurchesashton).  The documentary visits most of the locations from the life of St Edmund Arrowsmith and offers an in-depth look at his life and example.

Sainthood: not the end but just the beginning

Edmund Arrowsmith was born in Haydock in 1585 and was ordained to the Priesthood in 1612 in France