January

“As with gladness, men of old, did the guiding star behold”.

On the 6th of this month we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, the arrival of the Three Wise Men to greet and to worship the Christ Child – God made Man. This story is here in the Gospels for a purpose – the Wise Men came from “country far”, they were foreigners, we are being told very clearly that  Jesus came into the world to save all mankind.

They brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh for the new arrival. There is a lovely folk tale that Jesus ignored the gold, liked the aroma from the incense and touched the myrrh.

What is the message in this story? Just how important is money  in our lives? Do we let it dominate us or is it in its rightful place, just a means to an end? Incense is a part of our acts of worship, the fragrant smoke represents our prayers as they rise towards the Lord.  The Myrrh reminds us of how we must all endure difficulties  and sorrows as we go through life and  at the appointed time, leave this world behind.

We stand on the threshold of the New Year; we are leaving behind a very difficult year. Let us pray that the love and joy brought in to the world those two thousand years ago will give us the strength to endure all that 2021 will bring.

God Bless


We are now into the season of Advent, the four weeks of waiting and of preparation for the momentous event that we celebrate on the 25th December, the birth of Our Saviour..

During Advent the church encourages us to take a long hard look at ourselves to see whether we are in a fit state to welcome the Christ Child into our hearts.

We mark the passing of the four weeks in church with an Advent Wreath; its five candles lit one by one as each week passes with the last one in the centre being lit on Christmas Day.

As I write this the national lockdown is due to end on 2nd December; let us pray that this is allowed to happen so that we can come together in person for Holy Mass on the remaining three Advent Sundays and on Christmas Day.

We will hold our Christmas Mass at 10.00am (an hour earlier than usual) on Christmas Day itself.  This year there will be no service on Christmas Eve. How we will miss the Carols and being able to wish friends a Happy Christmas with a hug, but the priority must be to keep safe!

I wish you all a very happy and holy Christmas and a healthy and joyous New Year.

Fr Croft

As the year winds down through autumn into winter this is a month of fog, dark nights and bonfires. It is also however the month in which we commemorate the Saints and the Faithful Departed. Many people have been declared Saints by the church and have their own particular feast-day but on 1st November we remember all those other ordinary folk who have no particular claim to fame yet who have been safely welcomed into the bliss of heaven.

We usually celebrate All Souls Day on the 2nd but as it is not possible to open the church on two consecutive days, we will be reading a list of the names of all our dear departed immediately after the Mass on Sunday 1st.

On Sunday 8th, Remembrance Day, we shall come together to commemorate all those who have given their lives in so many conflicts; “sacrificing their today for our tomorrow”. We should also remember on this day all those in the NHS and Care Communities who have lost their lives in the fight against Covid 19. We will be holding a Requiem Mass at 10.55.

We are celebrating the feast-day of our Patroness, Saint Hilda at the Sunday Mass on 15th.

The church’s year is drawing to a close with the New Year starting on the 29th with the First Sunday of Advent

Keep safe and keep well.

God Bless.

Fr Croft

As the year winds down through autumn into winter this is a month of fog, dark nights and bonfires. It is also however the month in which we commemorate the Saints and the Faithful Departed. Many people have been declared Saints by the church and have their own particular feast-day but on 1st November we remember all those other ordinary folk who have no particular claim to fame yet who have been safely welcomed into the bliss of heaven.

We usually celebrate All Souls Day on the 2nd but as it is not possible to open the church on two consecutive days, we will be reading a list of the names of all our dear departed immediately after the Mass on Sunday 1st.

On Sunday 8th, Remembrance Day, we shall come together to commemorate all those who have given their lives in so many conflicts; “sacrificing their today for our tomorrow”. We should also remember on this day all those in the NHS and Care Communities who have lost their lives in the fight against Covid 19. We will be holding a Requiem Mass at 10.55.

We are celebrating the feast-day of our Patroness, Saint Hilda at the Sunday Mass on 15th.

The church’s year is drawing to a close with the New Year starting on the 29th with the First Sunday of Advent

Keep safe and keep well.

God Bless.

We are now into the “Month of the Rosary”; the Rosary is a series of prayers in which we reflect on the main events in the lives of Our Saviour and His Blessed Mother.  There are fifteen Mysteries or events for us to contemplate as we focus our minds by reciting an Our Father, ten Hail Marys and a Glory Be for each one. We use a set of Rosary Beads to help us along. It is a wonderful way to meditate.

October is a special month for St Hilda’s – on St Luke’s Feast Day, 18th Oct 1904 Bishop Knox came to Heaton Park to bless the new church and dedicate it to the Glory of God and to St Hilda.   Since that time our little church has been continuously a centre for the worshipping community around Whittaker Lane, through two World Wars and now a global Pandemic.  

Now that we are out of the Lock Down what a delight it is to be able to celebrate the Holy Mass and receive the Sacrament in person. Let us pray that it won’t be too long before we can once again come together on the Sunday in a High Mass with hymns and incense, a return to the daily midweek masses and welcoming the children back in to share the life of St Hilda’s.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all in this most difficult of times; stay well and keep safe!

God Bless.

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September

September is the month when so much starts afresh. For me, in September 1950, I came out of the RAF following my National Service; in September 1963 I was ordained a Deacon and went to serve as a Curate at St Michael and All Angels in Wythenshawe.

This was very appropriate as September is the month of the angels. What do we know about angels? They are there, in heaven,  around the throne of God giving him constant praise but they also have a role in the lives of all those on earth. We each of us have a Guardian Angel for support and comfort in times of trouble. The angels act as messengers from God, like Gabriel at the Annunciation. In the Old Testament Jacob, in his dream, sees a constant procession of angels going up and down the ladder leading from earth to heaven.

As we come out of the Lock-down we are all having to make fresh starts in so many ways. Let us pray that the children all over the country and in particular in our own school make a safe and successful start to their new term.

As Autumn reminds us that Winter is not far off and we see around us the early signs of nature dying away, let us resist any air of gloom and think of the fresh starts that we are all having to make.

God Bless

We are now in August, the month that we always associate with holidays. I wish everybody well for whatever type of break you have planned, whether staying at home, going away somewhere in this country or even flying off to an exotic location. We all need a break.

This month we celebrate a number of the major feast days in the church’s calendar. On Sunday 16th we hold the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin.  This feast is very important in the Travelers’ community; in normal times they would be gathering in their hundreds, coming from all over the country to Our Lady’s shrine at Walsingham but sadly are unable to do so this year due to the virus.

On the 4th we remember St John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, who is the patron saint of priests and four days later St Dominic, the founder of the preaching order of the Dominicans and who introduced the use of praying the Rosary.

On the 6th we remember the Transfiguration when Jesus was revealed in all His glory to a group of his faithful apostles.

Let us pray for one another in this most difficult of times that after this holiday period we are able to pick up again the threads of everyday life physically and spiritually refreshed. 

God Bless

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How wonderful it is to be back in Mother Church after so many weeks of ‘lockdown’ with all the uncertainties, concerns and fears that have come into our lives in recent months.  I think we take the church for granted until it is no longer available to us and so I hope we will return with thanksgiving in our hearts and give honour to Almighty God.  Sadly we will not be able to have our usual ‘diet’ of incense, music and the theatre of the Mass but it is right to start slowly until we are certain that all is well. 

Please keep in your prayers all who are separated from loved ones by this terrible virus.  Pray particularly for those in hospital or in the community who are suffering the effects of COVID-19, giving thanks for the NHS, Care Home staff, GPs and many more who are doing a marvellous job and coping in very difficult circumstances.

I have missed seeing you all and I look forward to being with you again and praising God in the place we love best.

With every blessing

Fr Croft

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Here we are once again into the season of Lent. Forty Days of waiting, of preparation. The Forty Days come to a glorious climax with the celebration of Easter – the Feast that expresses the real meaning of our belief as Christians.

We hear stories so often that there is a tendency to switch off, to forget exactly what it is that we are commemorating.  At the end of Lent, Good Friday, in the solemn ritual at 2pm we will remember how Jesus was put to death by being nailed to a cross. Yet two days later on Easter Sunday we remember how he rose triumphant over death. He had suffered the torment of the Passion and such an horrific death to atone for the sin of all mankind yet by overcoming death, through his Resurrection we know that the pathway to heaven is clear and open to all those who choose to follow it.

In Lent we are  getting ourselves ready to join all churches throughout the world in the Paschal celebrations. We need at this time to take a hard look at ourselves; no-one is spiritually perfect. How can we improve? There is a tradition that we improve by giving something up during Lent. That is one way but another way is to do something extra. We are so well off, we have much more than we need. How can we share our good fortune with somebody else who is in need of help?

As part of your Lenten preparation why not join us in the service of Stations of the Cross on Sundays at 6pm (not March 22nd).  Please take home a Lent collection box to donate money for charity.

God bless.

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February

Spring is upon us! The days are getting longer.  When I was in Oldham at St James the ladies always commented that from the second Sunday in February you could eat your Tea without lighting the Gas.

On 2nd Feb we celebrate the Presentation of the baby Jesus in the Temple; the Jewish custom was to bring a new baby to be presented in the Temple forty days after the birth.  On the same day we celebrate the Feast of Candlemas – light is being restored in the world; darkness has been overcome.  Candles are blessed and taken home; in the past they would have been the only evening light in the house.

In the Temple Mary and Joseph meet Simeon, a very old man who had been promised by the Lord that he would see the Messiah before he died. He holds the child and recites the beautiful words of the Nunc Dimittis – we repeat his words each month at our service of Compline.

We are almost in Lent – Ash Wednesday is on the 26th Feb.  Let us make a resolution that this will be a time of prayer and preparation; it doesn’t have to be a time of “giving up” but should be a time for doing something extra as we prepare ourselves for the momentous events of Holy Week and Easter.

God Bless

Here we are on the threshold of another New Year!  We stepped into the Church’s New Year with Advent and now for the Calendar Year 2020! 

Christ has been born, but in a stable in a remote corner of Palestine. On 6th January, the Feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate the revelation of this wondrous event to the world outside; represented by Three Wise Men from “country far”, who have been called, each one separately, to make the perilous journey together, following a star, to welcome and bring gifts to the Saviour of Mankind.

Like so much in the Bible the story is full of symbolism.  The Gold recognizes the kingship of Jesus, the Frankincense that he is the Son of God and the Myrrh as a message that he is going to have to suffer and die to redeem mankind.

There is a part of this story that has particular relevance to what is happening in so many countries today.  Joseph had been warned that as Herod was intending to kill all children under the age of two, he should take Mary and Jesus and  run away to Egypt; the Holy Family  was to become a refugee family.

How often is this happening today? Whole families are having to flee for their lives to escape death. Let us ask ourselves just how much we are doing to help these poor souls and let us pray that governments come to their senses and stop this senseless bloodshed! 

Fr Croft

December

“Who is he in yonder stall, at whose feet the shepherds fall?”

We are now approaching one of the two most important festivals in the church’s year. (the other one is Easter). Christmas is a time of celebration, of families getting together, of giving and receiving presents. I trust that all of you are looking forward to the festivities, but hope that in the midst of all the fun you save some time to think about the reason for all this jollity.

We are celebrating the momentous occasion when God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, was born in a stable. He came on earth with a message of peace and love.When you read this, we will be into Advent – the time of preparation leading up to Christmas. It is a time to reflect, to decide whether we are in a fit state to welcome the arrival of that very special baby, and if not, to do something about it!

On Sunday at 6pm we are holding a service of Compline, followed by Benediction. This is a quiet, end of the day short service, followed by a blessing that will be taking place on the first Sunday of each month.    Please come along.

We must remember however that for so many people Christmas is most definitely not a happy event – those who have lost family members and are living on their own, those living in abusive situations, those who are forced to live on the streets.   Let us remember all of these in our prayers and if we can, try to bring a measure of Christmas cheer into their lives. 

November

As we move into November our lives are dominated by the days getting shorter and the nights longer. Winter coats, scarves and gloves are brought out of the wardrobe, but it isn’t a month of all doom and gloom, just rather chilly.

We start with All Saints Day on 1st November.

Who are the Saints? They are everyone who has found their resting place in heaven. 

Certain ones from among their number are given the title Saint because it is felt that there is something about them, some aspect of their life on earth that set us an example to follow.  However these are the exceptional ones; on 1st November we celebrate all those others, the ordinary folk, including deceased members of our own families, who have joined the heavenly family.

On the 2nd  the Feast of All Souls we pray for all those whom we have loved and who have passed away; that their souls may find rest in heaven.

Sunday 10th is Remembrance Sunday, when we bring to mind all those who have given their lives in war to preserve our freedom.

A Saint that we remember particularly, on the 17th November  is our patron St Hilda. Her contribution to the Church in this country was huge; she presided over the Meeting (the Synod) in Whitby in 664 that united the Roman and Celtic churches into one body.  Please come and join us in our celebrations on that day.

November brings the church’s year to a close with the Feast of Christ the King on 24th  as we then embark on the following Sunday into a new year with the beginning of Advent.

God Bless

“My House will be a House of Prayer”

October is a special month for St Hilda’s.  In October 1904 the Bishop of Manchester dedicated the newly built church on Whittaker Lane to “the glory of God” and in the name of St Hilda of Whitby.

On the 20th of the month we will be celebrating the anniversary of this Dedication and will be offering prayers of Thanksgiving for 115 years of service in the community in Prestwich.

A church is just a building – the real strength of St Hilda’s is the community of the faithful – the hundreds, and perhaps thousands, who have come into this beautiful building during all those years to worship together in celebration of the Holy Mass.

This continues today as Holy Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on five other days every week.

However, the motto of St Hilda’s is “Faith and Fun” as we come together not only in prayer but also in Friendship in our wide range of social activities.

As we start a month that is scheduled to have a momentous conclusion for the whole country let us pray that those in power receive and act upon the Gift of Wisdom in all their decision making.

God Bless

“Lift High the Cross – the love of Christ proclaim”.

On September 14thwe hold the Feast of the Holy Cross.  A wooden cross – under the oppressive rule of the Romans this was a symbol of a cruel and humiliating death but which in Christian times has become for us a symbol of hope and redemption. 

How often do we see and use this sign?  We are baptized in it, we cross ourselves when we pray, we are blessed with the sign of the cross at Mass and as the priest in the sacrament of confession makes the sign of the cross so we are forgiven for our sins.

The Roman Emperor Constantine, preparing for battle at Milvian Bridge saw a vision of a cross in the sky with the words “In this sign you will conquer”.  He had a cross inscribed on the shields of his army and won a convincing victory. At his command Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire – in other words throughout the known world.

Constantine’s mother, Helena, already a devout Christian, discovered in Jerusalem the remains of the cross on which Jesus had been crucified, the True Cross.  The relics were shown to be genuine as a man’s leprosy was cured when he touched the wood.

We have the cross with us constantly; I have one over my bed and also at my front door and another on a chain around my neck.

Next time that we dip our finger in the Holy Water and trace the sign of the Passion of Jesus on our forehead, chest and shoulders let us take a moment to think about just what we are doing and why we are doing it

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. 

Fr. Croft 

“Glory be to Jesus, who in bitter pains, poured for me the life-blood from his sacred veins.”

July is the month in the Church’s year when we reflect on how Jesus shed his blood for us – allowing himself to suffer a cruel death to atone for all the sins of mankind.

We are now in High Summer, (though it seems difficult to believe with the recent weather), and so many are setting off on holidays. The temptation is, during this time away, to let our spiritual life become less of a priority but we should really make the effort to keep up our observance, to try to get to church at least once a week. We need that contact with the Lord just as much in foreign climes as when we are back home with friends and family at St Hilda’s.

We are so lucky to have such a successful and welcoming school as part of our community. The children will be counting the days to the end of term and the start of the long holiday. At St Hilda’s we look forward to sharing in the celebrations as we say goodbye and wish good luck to all those making the huge step into secondary school.

I wish you all well for the Summer – may the sun shine both in the sky and in our hearts.  This is the time when we take the chance to recharge our batteries as we store up the energy to help us face up to whatever September will bring.

God Bless

“O thou, most light so pure and blest, shine within the inmost breast”.

On Sunday 9thJune we celebrate the lovely Feast of Pentecost. This is the day when we celebrate the founding of the Church – when the Holy Spirit came down on the apostles and gave them the strength to go out and spread the Word.

I remember with nostalgia my younger days, when we walked in procession at Whitsun – if you were privileged you were given the honour of holding one of the ribbons attached to the banner.  This was for the well-behaved; naughty boys had to walk at the back!

I have wonderful memories of those processions; I can picture them still as we paraded through the streets led by Britannia. The city bedecked in yellow and green; the Bishop giving his blessing in the centre of Piccadilly.

I am sad that that so much of that pageantry has disappeared as it served as a reminder to us of the momentous event that occurred in that upper room so long ago.

So, let us all, each one of us, as we go forward into “flaming June” pray that the Holy Spirit will come down into our hearts and kindle in them the desire to serve others. One of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is Wisdom; let us pray that we will be guided towards and helped to always follow the right path towards our final destination where St Peter will be waiting to welcome us.God Bless                               

Fr Croft