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Christian Heritage Centre – Theodore House – April 2018

Building work on Theodore House began on May Day 2017.

This is the ruined Victorian mill in the heart of Lancashire’s Ribble Valley now being transformed into a residential centre for families, individuals, pilgrims, scholars, parishes, schools, groups, retreatants, and visitors to England’s Sacred County.

A building that once fed bodies will now feed souls and minds.

Theodore House is a free standing charity, at the heart of the Christian Heritage Centre project at Stonyhurst. The Trustees have successfully raised £3 million towards the building costs and borrowed a further million to be repaid over the next eight years. They are within shouting distance of the finishing line.

To complete the project this year, the Trustees are tantalisingly close to raising the remaining £400,000 – which they hope to do, with one more heave.

The project is a registered charity – so gifts can be increased via Gift Aid and by legacies.

Theodore House will have accommodation for 34 people – and include a refectory, library, lecture theatre, two seminar rooms, an atrium and an Oratory dedicated to two of the great saints of the past century, Saints Teresa of Calcutta and St.John Paul II.

Bishops and Catholic lay leaders have been deeply committed to the project – and have pointed out that the arbitrary closure and sale of retreat houses and other facilities has deprived the Catholic community of places geared to personal and communal renewal.

To help remedy this, Liverpool Archdiocese has generously contributed to the project – and has also gifted some beautiful stained glass depicting the Baptism of Jesus – originally commissioned in 1923 by Fr.John McKinley for his Toxteth church of St.Malachy which was built in 1904 and closed in 2001.

In the Greek, the name Theodore means “gift from God” and the charity’s Trustees firmly believe that in our increasingly secular society Theodore House will be a wonderful gift to the Church in England and beyond.

A Syrian Christian who escaped the fall of his town to Islam, St.Theodore was sent to England by the Pope and became the eighth Archbishop of Canterbury. Even the account of his remarkable life is itself a gift to contemporary Christians who take so many of today’s freedoms, liberties and opportunities for granted.

The plight of the worldwide persecuted church will have a special place in the work of Theodore House while Christian Leadership courses will be run to equip Catholics to become “servant leaders.” Retreats can be parish led and a team from the Catholic charity, Aid to the Church In Need, will be involved in leading school retreats.

Theodore House will mark the notable, and sometimes courageous, Christian contribution to society through the naming of rooms – sponsored by benefactors and donors to honour family members or great figures from our Christian story.

Stonyhurst’ s celebrated archivist, David Knight, has been preparing short biographical details.

Among the rooms will be one named for Shahbaz Bhatti the CatholicMinister for Minority Affairs in Pakistan, shot dead by the Taliban in March 2011 as he left his home in Islamabad; one for St.Maximilian Kolbe and Dietrich Bonhoeffer who both died in Nazi concentration camps; others for St Margaret Clitherow, married with three children and pregnant with her fourth child who was crushed to death for harbouring a Catholic priest; St Josephine Bakhitaa Sudanese former slave, born in Darfur, she lived and worked as a Canossian Religious Sister from 1896 until her death in 1947; William Wilberforcebest known as the leader of the movement to stop the slave trade; the celebrated Christian writers, G K Chesterton, C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien; Dame Cicely Saunders the English Anglican nurse, social worker, physician and writer, best known for her role in the birth of the hospice movement and for promoting the importance of palliative care in modern medicine;Phyllis Bowman Jewish by birth, becoming a Catholic after seeing the effects of abortion on women and unborn children leading her to become a life-long campaigner for the pro-life cause. Other rooms are being dedicated to the memories of Baroness Sue Ryder and her husband Lord Leonard Cheshire;Cardinal Basil Hume OSB; Blessed John Henry Newman; Matteo Ricci SJ,an Italian Jesuit missionary who introduced mathematical and astronomical knowledge to China, and the theologian,Hans Urs von Balthasar.

The UK-US special relationship will be celebrated in rooms named forJohn & Charles Carroll, the Leo Family, and the Knights of Columbus– the world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organisation, founded in the USA in 1882, named after Christopher Columbus, and dedicated to many good works including providing charitable services, including war and disaster relief, and promoting Catholic education.

Other bedrooms are being sponsored, among others, by the King Family, the Cowdall Family and theBrinkley Family.

One of the two seminar rooms is named for Lancashire’sBowland Trust; the lecture theatre forBen and Kim Chang; the library for the late Bridget and Peter Hardwick –kindly funded byMark Thompson of theNew York Times, who was taught by Peter Hardwick; and the Oratory, which will include the work of Aidan Hart, is being generously supported by Graham Hutton, chairman of Aid to the Church in Need.

There are still naming opportunities available for the family annexe, a seminar room and some of the bedrooms. Potential benefactors should contact Anton’ de Piro: Tel: +44 7748272908

Among the very first of the groups to be booked into Theodore House, later this year, are some young Catholics working in Washington – some in the US Congress. They will link up with some of their British counterparts – a great investment for the future.

Those staying at Theodore House will be able to visit the historic libraries and see the unique Stonyhurst Collections, providing access, for the first time, to the 850,000 children in 2,200 British Catholic schools. These inspiring Collections – which are featured on the charity’s web site – belong to the whole of the Catholic community.

Objects can tell the old story in a challenging and fresh way, reminding us who we are and challenging us to renew the Faith as others have done before us.

Frances Ahearne is organising bookings and may be reached at 01254

Nor will physical needs be neglected.

J.R.R.Tolkien and the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins both had direct connections and there will be access for visitors to our Tolkien Trail and Hopkins Trail – with walks by the beautiful Rivers Ribble and Hodder and onto the Lancashire fells – along with separate access to the Stonyhurst campus sports facilities, swimming pool, and golf course, which has a direct link with George Walker (forebear of President Bush and Walker Cup fame). Walking and cycling in the area will add to the perfect holiday or short break.

The charity’s web site – – contains details of the Christian Heritage Centre Trustees and Patrons – including its Royal Patrons, Lord and Lady Nicholas Windsor; Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Bishop john Arnold.

Other Patrons include public figures such as Ann Widdecombe, Baroness Caroline Cox, Sir Edward Leigh MP, Frank Field MP, and Field Marshall Lord (Charles) Guthrie. The web site also enables you to read previous feature articles detailing the project’s activities and story.

To help complete this labour of love the Trustees’ immediate need is to raise £400,000.

If you are in a position to give any help or would like further details please email the charity’s Chairman, (Lord) David Alton or Anton’ de Piroat: Tel: +44 7748272908.

About Lord David Alton of Liverpool

For 18 years David Alton was a Member of the House of Commons and today is an Independent Crossbench Life Peer. He began his career as a teacher and, in 1972, while still a student, he was elected to Liverpool City Council as Britain’s youngest City Councillor. In 1979 he became the youngest member of the House of Commons and, in 1997, and when he stood down from the Commons, he was appointed a Life Peer. His motto on his Coat of Arms is taken from the Book of Deuteronomy: Choose Life.

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