Dear friends,

 A very New Year to you all!

Only a short time ago we were singing wonderful Christmas Carols and many of us were visited by friends and family, and were enjoying parties, rich food and perhaps the smallest of ‘tipples’ now and again to welcome the joy of that period, to share gifts and to be grateful for small mercies.

As we begin 2024 our hearts must yearn for a better year.  A year without stress and anxiety, concerns about the cost of living and thoughts of war and violence that seem to surround us.  But we should never be downhearted because, as the American novelist, Isaac Marion said: We are where we are, however we got here. What matters is where we go next – and he is right!

Life is very much a journey, and on that journey, we take many different turns, make numerous choices, and meet new people as part of our coming to where we are at the moment.  On January 6th we think of a special journey made by the Magi, who were distinguished foreigners and specifically mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and in the Christian tradition. They were philosophers who travelled for many days following the Star that led them to visit our Lord after his birth in Bethlehem, and they brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Traditionally, the Magi are referred to as the Three Kings, mainly because of the three gifts that were offered to Jesus the King of Kings, but there is no certainty that there were actually three of them.  That said, it does not prevent us enjoying the Epiphany hymn We three Kings of orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar.  This was our Lord’s Epiphany, his showing, his revelation to the gentiles to the whole world and not just to the Jewish nation.

This was the moment that the Son of God came for everyone.

The weather is much colder and we tend to insulate ourselves, wrapping up and wearing scarves but try not to be insular and cut yourselves off from one another.  Why not come to the coffee morning on Tuesdays and spend time with others enjoying a cake or some toast or tea cakes with a hot drink.  Even in such weather, or in times of loneliness, company and having a good chat is of great value.  Try it!

Let us look forward to the New Year with renewed hope and being grateful for the past but always anticipating new challenges and looking to the future to see what is to come in our lives and who might make the difference for us.

Our Lord is here and is with us.  May his peace be with you and may his blessings be upon you.

The Reverend Fr Ronald Croft

Dear friends,

So, we begin the month that commemorates the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, when all of the shops will be filled with tinsel, crackers, fairy lights and trees, all eager to entice you in and buy presents for the family.  Each year I hear people say: ‘too soon, far too soon for Christmas lights and windows with snowmen’.  Well, I used to have a similar view, though now changed a little, but not for the reasons you might expect!

The ‘Cinderella period’ that is eclipsed by early Christmas bargains, is the rather beautiful four weeks of Advent.  Advent is seemingly pushed aside in the rush for the great day on the 25th, but that is a shame.  I feel that the four weeks of Advent, which begins on Sunday 3rd December this year, is very important to all Christians throughout the world. 

‘Advent’, is derived from the Greek word, parousia and means ‘coming’, anticipating the arrival, or ‘advent’, of Jesus of Nazareth, the long-awaited Messiah and King, written about in the Old Testament.  Like many churches, in this country and elsewhere, St Hilda’s adopts the tradition of the Advent Ring.  The ring, as the name implies, is a circular shape and symbolises God’s infinite love for us – it is never-ending, just like the true Light of the World, Jesus, who leads us into eternal life with him.  The materials of the Advent wreath similarly lead us to reflect on the everlasting nature of God; traditionally, Advent wreaths have been made of evergreen leaves, such as pine or fir, which maintain their green colour beyond the season in which they are collected.  

The Ring has four candles placed in it, three are purple and the other pink and there is a centre candle that is white and is lit at Christmas.  The candles are lit progressively each Sunday and these represent Hope (week 1); Prophecy (week 2); Joy (week 3) and Peace (week 4).  Advent, like Lent is a penitential season and both help us to prepare for the great feasts of Easter and Christmas. 

There is enough in the world to be sorry about, not least the continuing battle grounds of the Ukraine, Gaza, and Israel but each of us have things in our own lives for which we are sorry and perhaps need to say so to almighty God and seek his forgiveness.

Christmas will come soon enough but do come to St Hilda’s and share in, not only Christmas Day but in Advent too. 

Like others, I look forward to Christmas Day, to celebrating the joy of Christ’s incarnation, manifest in a stable at Bethlehem, to the joy of the shepherds, and to see the faces of children and hearing about what presents they have received. 

God bless you all, and may you have a happy and prayerful Advent and Joyous Christmas.

The Reverend Fr Ronald Croft

Dear friends,

Each year I look forward to the month of November filled as it is of reminders of our faith and the challenges we face in our daily lives.  

My prayers of late have been focussed on the Palestinian and Israeli people whose continual conflict has escalated to such a level where so many lives are lost each and every day through mass attacks by missiles or aircraft strikes, or from subversive action on the ground, all with devastating consequences.  It’s hard to see where all of this might end and if it is possible for people to sit around a table and find a common, and mutually beneficial solution.  Yet, other wars still rage and people suffer and so our prayers are still needed as the conflict between Russian and Ukrainian troops continues.

Many politicians exchange words of hope and yet have incessant arguments about the right way forward, but arms are still supplied with the sole purpose of making one side stronger than the other.  I find it hard to take sides, rather I prefer to commit all such matters to our Lord and pray that his calming self, might encourage discussion rather than dissention, positivity instead of procrastination, and love instead of loathing.  God’s people, whether we call him Almighty God, or Allah or Elohim or any other name, do not seek war but long for peace, and peace is what we should pray for as we live each day as a pilgrim people, and as God’s children.

As each year passes, I cannot ignore, as none of us can, that age changes us.  We ache that little bit more than we did last week or last year, we forget people’s names or what we went into a room to do, or what it was that we meant to do this morning.  Things that were once very familiar are no longer so.  At the beginning of this month I shall be 93 years of age and I thank God that I have been able to serve as a priest in the church for the majority of my life; I thank him for the people that I have met on my journey of faith and for the parishes in which I have served; I thank him for the friends I have made for the joys brought by kindness and for the privilege of living.  Age, they say, is nothing more than a number and I hope to serve this parish and the people of St Hilda’s for many more years to come.

The 1st November is the feast of All Saints, a day when the church gives thanks for the lives of the many saints who have gone before us and share in that great Communion of all who live in God’s presence.  The 2ndis the feast of All souls, a time to pray for loved ones whose lives on earth have ended and who have begun their journey in Paradise.  As always, we shall pray for individuals at our mass on that day so do come to St Hilda’s, or pass the names of those who have died in your family to me or to the PCC Secretary, Mrs Carole East.

Time may well be passing and wars continue to rage, but God is with us and his love will sustain us through any trial.

Every blessing.

The Reverend Fr Ronald Croft

Dear friends,

Since I last wrote to you, we have said goodbye to three of our church stalwarts. Firstly, Alex Walker who left St Hilda’s to follow his vocation of ordination to the priesthood. Alex will be resident at The College of the Resurrection at Mirfield for the next two years. Alex was a great asset to St Hilda’s serving as a sacristan, thurifer, PCC member and on Deanery Synod. On the 17th September at Alex’s last Holy Mass with us, we presented him with a beautiful sick communion set.  We wish him every blessing as he follows this new path.
Then on Sunday 1st October we said goodbye to Canon Paul Denby and his wife Julie, they are relocating to be nearer their daughter down south.  Both Father Paul and Julie have worked tirelessly for St Hilda’s for the past 16 years. Both being members of the PCC and various committees. Far too many to list here. Their time and talents have shown no bounds.
We had a collection for them as well, to show how much we much we care for them. We presented them with a monetary gift, so when they are settled, they can buy something to remind them of their time here at St Hilda’s.

Alex, Fr Paul and Julie will be greatly missed, so we have now appealed to our congregation to help fulfil some of the gaps that we are now facing.

We are recruiting new Servers in the sanctuary, both male and female; we are looking for new members of the PCC, those to serve on the Croft and Maintenance Committees as we look to bring in new members but above all we are a team, a group of committed individuals that make up the body of Christ in the place.

Next year I shall celebrate my diamond anniversary as a priest, 60 years of faithful service with over 25 of those years spent served in this parish of St Hilda’s.  Over that time there have been many changes, some good and others that cannot be rejoiced, but I truly believe we are on the threshold of becoming a team that will change the face of this church where young and old can coexist and all flourish as we serve of Lord in the best possibly way that we can.

No one is too old to take up a new role and neither is anyone to new to our church to take on a leadership role.  It is time to think about ourselves and to take up the challenge of serving God in a way that is unfamiliar.  Our aim must surely be to prepare for the next generation of worshippers her eat our church, to ensure that the fabric is strong and in good condition, perhaps to encourage one another to think about leading our worship from the choir pews.  There are so many roles that you can do, why not have a go.

To help us we have the saints around us offering prayer for God’s people.

1st St Thérèsa of Lisieux, born in 1873 in a small French town of Alencon.  At 15 years of age she became a Carmelite nun and she had a vision of the baby Jesus, which she believed was a sign from God.  She was a faithful young woman until her death in 1897.  4th St Francis of       Assisi asked his followers to praise God in his Creation in every being, animals, and insects.  9th St John Henry Newman was a respected Anglican priest who became a Catholic in 1845.  He was made a cardinal for his major contribution in spiritual writing.   15th Teresa of Ávila, born in 1515 and considered to be an intelligent woman. She joined a convent at 16 and became a nun 5 years later.  She died in 1582 at the age of 67 and made a saint in 1622.  Named a Doctor of the church because of her writing was an immense honour especially for women of her time; 18th St Luke the Evangelist was most probably what we would call a Vet but is considered to be the Patron Saint od Doctors.  He was the writer of the third gospel and met our Lord.

Every blessing.

The Reverend Fr Ronald Croft

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-5.png

Dear friends,

August is traditionally the month that holidays are taken and enjoyed by thousands of people throughout the land.  Individual’s thoughts are very much occupied with images of sea and sand, ice creams, candy floss, the heat of the sun, sun cream and not least with enjoying food and drink.  I can only wish those of you who have already been away or who are about to go off to foreign climes my very best wishes – you all deserve it!

For the church, August is a very important time too and there are two very special dates, though those dates are surrounded by over 20 Saint’s day. The first date falls on the 6th August, the day of Christ’s Transfiguration.  The Transfiguration commemorates the occasions when our Lord took three of his disciples, Peter, James and John up a mountain, where Moses and Elijah appeared and Jesus was transfigured, his face and clothes becoming dazzlingly bright.  The three disciples witnessed the wonderful event and though they were held in that moment of splendour and awe, they had to come down off the mountain and rejoin their everyday life.  We do not see such splendour but we are constantly dwelling on the light and joy of Christ’s light.

However, that same day the world commemorates the deaths of millions as we reflect on the final days of World War II and the tragic events of Hiroshima when the first of two atom bombs were dropped on that city and three days later another on Nagasaki.  The bombing of those two cities precipitated the end of the conflict with Japan.  

The second important day is that of the Feast of the Assumption on the 15th August.  This feast day marks the belief that when Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, died, her body was ‘assumed’ into heaven to be reunited with her soul, instead of going through the natural process of physical decay upon death.  Mary was and remains  very special in the life of the church because she was chosen, marked out as a young woman to bear the child who would transform the whole world and bring hope and love and joy to all who follow him.

As I write the rain pours down but the sun will return!  

Enjoy this month and as the sun shines, may God’s blessing be upon you and give you peace.

The Reverend Fr Ronald Croft

On the 2nd July in Manchester Cathedral, three men were ordained priest from the Catholic tradition of the Church of England by the Bishop of Beverley.  Fr Mitchell, Fr Thompson, and Fr Oliver-Hemmings-Faye began their priesthood with a life-long commitment to those they will serve.  We pray that Almighty God will bless each one of them, and all those ordained this Petertide: we will pray for them, and for their parishes and those who have been chosen to encourage them on their journey.

Such occasions make all of whom were ordained many years ago to reflect on God’s call and to think about those with whom we shared our own ordination.  Many have gone to glory and now rest in the arms of God in paradise, but others labour on continuing to offer what we can to God’s people.

I truly believe that all of us, whether those ordained or those we serve, are each called to God’s service and to offer the gifts that we have to help others on their journey in life as we all face the challenges that are before us. We still pray for those who face war and violence each and every day in the Ukraine, those who wake each day uncertain where they will find the money to pay for things many take for granted, those who struggle to find food or shelter and so the list goes on.  Our Lord calls each of us into his service and we should listen and respond to that call and bring what little comfort we can to those in need.

Soon, with God’s will, I shall celebrate 60 years as a priest and it has been a privilege to serve many of those years here in Prestwich.  It is a joy to see so many of you as I walk around the parish, and I simply thank God that he called me all those years ago to train and to be ordained and to serve in such a wonderful place.

Pray for those three new priests as they begin their ministries in this diocese and pray too that God calls others to join them and so build up the church for the future.

Finally, I ask your prayers for Alex Walker, a man who serves St Hilda’s as our MC, Thurifer and sub-Deacon as is needed.  Alex has recently been accepted for training for the priesthood and will begin his two-year course of training in September as he moves to the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield.

God bless you all and do listen – God may well be calling you to help others!

The Reverend Fr. Ronald Croft

The month of June hails the traditional beginning of the holiday period with people looking for seaside resorts either here at home or in parts of Europe around the coasts of Spain, Portugal or even further afield.  The world is no longer such a big place and very little of it remains unexplored.

I discovered from my diary that every day of June has special significance in one way or another.  We celebrate, or some do the days of ‘Global parents’ (1st) World Bicycle Day (3rd), National Cheese Day (4th), National Best Friends day (8th), World Blood Donors Day (14th), Father’s Day, International Sushi, and Picnic Day (18th); we even have Global Beatles Day (25th) – the world has gone mad!

In the church we celebrate Trinity Sunday (4th), a time of reflection on the three persons, yet one God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We give thanks for Corpus Christ, the body of Christ on the 8th, giving thanks for him feeding in the Sacraments and heling us in our lives.  But we never lose track of the saints who gave their lives for the faith.  John Fisher, an English academic and Chancellor of the University of Cambridge who refused to succumb to the wishes of Henry VIII and was executed for his faith, and Thomas More who suffered a similar fate for the same reasons (June 22), the Birth of St. John the Baptist (June 24) the Solemnity of Saint Peter and St Paul (June 29), a day when many are made deacons and others ordained priests.

But amidst all of this the world continues in chaos with bombs and rockets exploding in the peaceful cities of the Ukraine with the Russian leader seemingly focussed on nothing else but the destruction of that state.  There seems to be no end in sight and people, in this conflict, and elsewhere, continue to die unnecessarily.  Our economy spirals out of control and money just does not go as far as it once did.  Yet, despite all of this, there remains hope, hope that good will come, hope that people will be free to live and love without fear, and hope that things will change for the better.

God is with us and on the first Sunday in June, as we celebrate the Undivided Trinity, we can give thanks that, in God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that there is real hope through him – for without him there is surely none!

Have a lovely summer and remember that you are loved, always.

May God bless you all.

Reverend Fr. Ronald Croft

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-5.png

The month of May sees the continuation of the Sundays following Easter but it is a month punctuated by Saints as well as a major feast, but this year we celebrate another event of significance to our own country.

On Saturday the 6th May we will share in the Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla at the service held in Westminster Abbey.  It will be splendid though different from that of the late Queen Elizabeth II.  In 1953 her Coronation was televised, though in Black and White, and the Abbey was filled with 8000 guests.  At home many gathered around their television sets though there were very few sets at that time.  We all went to our neighbour’s house eager to see the service.  The TV was so small that it had a magnifying glass in front of the screen but we were there and we saw it all.  Everyone was spellbound by the beauty and splendour of the occasion.

The King has decided on a smaller event with only 2000 fortunate guests invited to attend.  Though the vast majority of the service remains as it was for the late Queen, the King has strived to make the service more inclusive and more reflective of the diverse nation that it has now become.

I certainly hope that you will all enjoy this historic event and offer support to the King and Queen as they take up this great responsibility of service at a time of difficulties in this world and nation.

As we approach the end of May, having celebrated a number of saints and their contribution to the world of faith, we come to Pentecost Sunday, a day we give thanks for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  It is God’s spirit that will guide us, and Guide the King, in our lives and lead us to follow in Christ’s footsteps, helping and praying for one another with the prayers of the saints to strengthen us.

In the week that follows Pentecost we pray for and pray with a woman whose life was changed with the simple word ‘yes’.  The Blessed Virgin Mary heard the word of God from the Archangel on that faithful day that changed the world and it was through her humility that we all have a future, a future Christ has promised to all who come to him.  We pray especially for her on 29th May (Mary, Mother of the Church) and on the 31st May as we think particularly of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

May is traditionally called the ‘Month of Mary’, the Queen of heaven.  She is generous and so we ask her to pray for King Charles III and Queen Camilla on their special day as this nation welcomes their new monarch and mark the next stage in our lives.

May God bless you all.

Reverend Fr. Ronald Croft

The month of April begins with Holy Week and concludes the season of Lent.

Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday as we recall our Lord’s triumphant entry into the city of Jerusalem riding the foal of an Ass.  It was a day of rejoicing, of expectation and of hope at a time of oppression by the Roman authorities.  We think of the disciples and their journey with our Lord as they surely moved from joy to despair and back again.

Maundy Thursday was the day when Christ instituted the Eucharist and shall recall that in our church at 7.30pm.  This will be followed by a Watch as we ‘stay awake’ with Christ a sit in silence as the sacrament is exposed.

Then comes Good Friday, ‘good’ because it led to the Resurrection and to the joy of Easter Day.  Jesus is betrayed, beaten, and made to carry the weight of the Cross, a symbol of his dying for each one of us. This service begins at 2pm.

Holy Saturday is a day of reflection, contemplation and waiting, as we think of Christ in his tomb.  The silence the fear and desolation of his followers, even though he had told them what was to happen.  At 8pm we will light the New Fire, bless the Paschal Candle as light is spread throughout the church to prepare us for the Easter Mass.

And finally, Easter Day.  The joy of the of Christ’s resurrection and the hope for all of us of eternal life.

In a way the week mirrors our lives with its joys and sorrow, feelings of loss and uncertainty, silence and waiting.  Many suffer, and not because they should but because it is part of life.  Pray for one another in our parish, pray for family, friends and neighbours, enjoy an Easter Egg, a reminder of his Tomb.

Do come and join us for all or any of the services.

Fr Paul joins with me in wishing you all a very happy Easter.

May God bless you all.

Reverend Fr. Ronald Croft