Posted by: catholicrelics | September 28, 2009

A real sign of community

More than 30,000 people came to venerate the relics

More than 30,000 people came to venerate the relics

“I’ve met people whom I’ve not seen for years, who are housebound, but who persuaded someone to bring them along to the Cathedral in a wheelchair, even if only for a few minutes. It’s been so much bigger than anybody could have expected. The volunteers have been wonderful. Many of them were up all night last night and they’ve kept going all through the day.”

Thus spoke Canon Tony McBride, Dean of Salford Cathedral, but one of his parishioners also had something to say. “Someone asked me how I could keep going doing something like this for so many hours and all free of charge, but let me tell you that it’s wonderful! It’s been such an unforgettable privilege. It’s been a real honour!”

Another volunteer had his own comment. “There were several times during the night when I shed tears to see the people who came to venerate the relics. I’ve been so touched to see the difficulties they have faced and the kindness of everyone who has come here. During the night, the queue went right down the road and around the corner, but even at 2 o’clock in the morning, the volunteers were going out and taking them cups of tea and biscuits to keep them going. It was just a small act of kindness, but it meant so much to them – a real sign of community.”

One of those ‘tea ladies’ laughed. “I don’t think I ever want to see a biscuit again! We had to send out three times to one shop, once to Home Bargains and once to Asda for more biscuits. I don’t know how many cups of tea and coffee we made. We couldn’t use the original room because the urns burned out and so we had to move to another room. I knew the two urns there wouldn’t be big enough, so we’ve been boiling pans and kettles of water on the stove…”

As the relics of St Therese left the Cathedral, a man sobbed. The whole experience of so many people coming together to pray – people of all faiths and none – had been an emotional and deeply moving experience. “One young woman came this morning and has already signed up for a course of instruction, wanting to become a Catholic. Another is coming back this evening with the same intention” one of the priests explained.

Yet if the volunteers had spent long hours in the Cathedral, they were undeterred. As the relics headed towards Manchester University Catholic Chaplaincy, they joined the line of more than 300 students who processed in the dark along Oxford Road, carrying blazing torches. “We couldn’t let her go without making the effort to come again. We haven’t had enough of her!”

The journey to the Chaplaincy was impressive. Fr Ian Kelly, the chaplain, had somehow succeeded in persuading Manchester City Council to hang twenty large banners from lamp posts along Oxford Road, one of them, interestingly, at right angles to a massive picture of Charles Darwin, advertising an exhibition on his work. For the past week, the chaplaincy, which stands opposite Europe’s busiest bus stop, has screened the life of St Therese on a huge television monitor, whilst banners almost the height of the building’s first floor announced the time of the visit and of the student Mass.

The chapel in the chaplaincy can hold a maximum of 100 people, but exquisite care had ensured a really beautiful venue, both in the chapel itself and in the exhibition detailing the life of Therese. One of the most important objects in the display was Therese’s own writing desk and pen, allowed out of Lisieux for the first time, to come to Salford and to Manchester University.

The students planned an all-night vigil. It would not only be young people attending. The visit of Therese to Manchester will remain long in many minds and hearts.

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Responses

  1. I was at Salford Cathedral on Saturday morning , about 8.30 . The morning prayer service was an excellent ‘scene setter’ , and the peaceful and prayerful atmosphere around the Relics and displays was a testament to the great regard and love for St Therese .

    That 30,000 people should visit is a sure sign of hope when we live in a society where the secular press are queing up to decry both us and the visit of the relics . 30,000 , both young and old , sending a palpable message that belief , faith , love and hope are the way .

    A massive thank you to the helpers at the Cathedral as well !!

  2. Thank you to everyone who helped at Salford Cathedral on Sat. and Sun.
    It was a funny atmosphere, not a Retreat, not a Pilgrimage, mainly a whispered space where everyone was helping their neighbour.

    Outside, we met folk from Bolton, Oldham, Wigan and the far-reaching parishes of Manchester and exchanged names of Priests who had moved along our Parishes. Plenty of anecdotes and sadness for some who had passed to their rewards.

    The one-and-a-half hours passed quickly until we got to the Cathedral wall,and started the Rosary.

    Thanks to all concerned for bringing St. Therese to Manchester. Theresa


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