Thursday the 25th of February

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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Christian Heritage Centre in hunt for first director

Trustees of the Christian Heritage Centre (CHC) at Stonyhurst, Lancashire, are searching for a pioneer to become a major part of the centre’s history, as its first director.

“This is a truly exciting opportunity,” Lord David Alton of Liverpool, chairman of the Christian Heritage Centre Trust, told The Universe.

“Building Theodore House has been a classic a labour of love and the Christian Heritage Centre’s pioneering first director has the opportunity to ensure that it becomes an asset for Christian renewal and re-evangelisation. At a time when bishops have rightly expressed dismay at the arbitrary closure of centres for retreat, study and prayer, their encouragement to press on with this project has been crucial.”

Lord Alton explained that the CHC was established as an independent registered charity to increase access to the unique collections held in trust at Stonyhurst on behalf of the whole Catholic community – not least for the 2,200 Catholic schools and 3000 British parishes; but also to use these collections to challenge and inspire.

“Month by month The Universe has beautifully documented the construction of Theodore House, the flagship £4 million project, nearing completion in a ruined mill building, set in stunning woodland grounds, and which will be open for retreats, Christian leadership formation, visits by school parties, parishes, scholar and visitors wanting to walk trails in the beautiful Ribble Valley countryside familiar to J.R.R. Tolkien and Gerard Manley Hopkins,” he said.

With 34 bedrooms, lecture theatre, seminar rooms, atrium, refectory, library and oratory the trustees hope that Theodore House – named for the Syrian Christian who became the eighth Archbishop of Canterbury – will be a gift to the whole Church.

“We now need to raise the remaining £300,000 to equip the building and complete the family annexe but have the funding in place for three years for a director to move this hugely important project forward,” said Lord Alton.

The CHC has already appointed Fran Ahearn as guest master and the project has a royal patron and other patrons include Cardinal Vincent Nichols; the Bishop of Salford, John Arnold; Ann Widdecombe; Baroness Cox; Sir Edward Leigh MP; and Field Marshall Guthrie.

Trustees, Dr Caroline Hull and Ryan Day have responsibility for retreats and the Christian leadership programme, while another trustee, Dominican Brother, Sam Burke OP, has responsibility for religious oversight.

Br Burke explained that the director would help put the CHC on the map.

“Reflecting on the lessons of our own history, we want Theodore House to be a place that focuses on the scourge of religious hatred; that opens eyes to the scale of these horrors – from ISIS to Boko Haram, from Pakistan to North Korea – and opens minds to the collective failure to recognise the indifference that repeatedly fails to respond to horrors ranging from the Holocaust to the Armenian Genocide. In short, we want to form Christian consciences of an entire generation to avert such tragedies in the future,” Br Burke told The Universe.

Meanwhile, Mr Day pointed out that the CHC has a unique vocation in offering the riches of the Stonyhurst collection to new generations of Christians in the United Kingdom and beyond.

“The Christian Heritage Centre will not fulfil that vocation by simply facilitating access to a museum, but rather as a living focal point of prayer, study and social life that embodies gospel values, the same values that animated St Edmund Campion and his ilk,” Mr Day told The Universe.

Appointed initially on a three year fixed term contract and subject to a probationary period of six months, the director will be responsible to the trustees and will set an inspirational leadership, proactively creating a schedule and the structuring of the busy annual programme of the centre’s activities.

For more information see: www.christianheritagecentre.com or contact Anton de Piro: anton@christianheritagecentre.com

Picture: Theodore House.