TOM WELSH looks back 54 years today when thousands of Catholics held a rally in Preston to recognise those martyrs persecuted in the 1600s.
It was 54 years ago today that more than 20,000 Catholics converged on Deepdale for High Mass and a pageant of the martyrs.
With three huge processions walking from St Joseph’s, St Ignatious and St Gregory’s, the thousands made their way with banners and bands to the home of Preston North End, all supporting a campaign for the canonisation of the 40 martyrs of England and Wales.
The morning rain made way for sunshine by the time the event started, where the vast crowds of young and old bridged 400 years in the history of their faith to rally for the martyrs.
The names of the seven martyrs from Lancashire, an area once described as ‘obstinate and contemptuous’ when efforts were being made to kill the faith, were honoured at the start of proceedings.
Emerging from the tunnel to the hymn ‘Martyrs of England,’ teachers and members of local Catholic societies performed a solemn pageant around the ground dressed in caps and doublet cloaks, each individual representing one of the 40 martyrs, before reaching the altar located in the terraces of the Town End.
Two more processions followed, with representatives of the Catholic church from across the North West making their way past the hundreds of Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies that lined the track.
From the altar, upon which stood a 15th century chalice beside relics from some of the martyrs, Father James Walsh delivered a sermon to the thousands in attendance, offering that the martyrs “must be filled with wonder and admiration that, after 400 years, thousands of people can gather in this way to honour the faith.”
Nine years later, canonisation was achieved when Pope Paul VI granted permission for the 40 names to be recognised as saints, with a ceremony taking place in Rome on October 25 1970.