The Diocese of Salford comprises the Hundreds of Salford and Blackburn, in Lancashire, England, and was erected 29 Sept., 1850. It covers the east and south-eastern portions of Lancashire and embraces the manufacturing towns of Manchester, Salford, Blackburn, Oldham, Bury, Burnley, Rochdale, etc. Its area is practically coextensive with that of the ancient Catholic deanery of Manchester, which was under the jurisdiction of the rector or dean, but its title was taken from Salford instead of Manchester to avoid offending Protestant susceptibilities, as an Anglican See of Manchester had been erected in 1847. The Apostolic Letter of Pius IX, which divided the Lancashire District into the two Sees of Liverpool and Salford, allotted to Salford the Hundred of Leyland in addition to those of Blackburn and Salford, but a papal Briefdated 27 June, 1851, transferred to Liverpool the Hundred of Leyland which included the important Catholic town of Preston.
The Hundred of Blackburn, covering the north-western portion of the diocese, extends twenty-four miles east to west, and fourteen miles north to south. In the chequered history of the Church following on the religious changes of the sixteenth century it had, with Salford, a long roll of recusants and martyrs for the Faith. The ruins of Whalley Abbey, a thirteenth-century Cistercian foundation, still bear their silent witness. Its abbot, John Paslew, was hanged outside its walls in 1537 for taking part in the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536; and the property was seized for the use of Henry VIII. The first post-Reformation chapel in Blackburn was opened in 1773, and in Manchester in 1774. In 1843 the Rev. James Sharples, rector of St. Alban's, Blackburn, was consecrated Bishop of Samaria and appointed coadjutor to Bishop Brown, the first vicar Apostolic for the Lancashire District. He built at Salford St. John's Church, which was opened in 1848 and which subsequently became the cathedral for the diocese. Dr. Sharples died 16 Aug., 1850, and the first Bishop of Salford in the restored hierarchy was Rt. Rev. William Turner (1790-1872). He was succeeded in 1872 by the Rt. Rev. Herbert Vaughan (1832-1903), whose episcopate was remarkable for its energy, organizing ability and initiation of works to meet the rapid grown and development of the diocese. On his transference to Westminster in 1892, the Rt. Rev. John Bilsborrow (1836-1903) was consecrated third bishop. The Rt. Rev. Louis Charles Casartelli, D.D., M.A., Litt.Or.D., the fourth bishop, was born in 1852, and ordained priest in 1876. He was closely associated with Cardinal Vaughan in the foundation of St. Bede's College, Manchester, in 1876, and was rector of it when he was nominated bishop in 1903. Bishop Casartelli is widely known as a writer on Oriental subjects, was a professor at Louvain, and has always been very active in the theologico-literary field. The Rt. Rev. John S. Vaughan, D.D., Bishop of Sebastopolis, was elected auxiliary bishop in 1909.
The Catholic population is estimated at about 300,000, and this is largely a growth of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Although Catholic memories and traditions lingered in Lancashire long after the Reformation, in 1690 only two Catholics were enrolled on the Manchester Poll Book. Ten years later, thirteen Catholic families, according to the returns of the Bishop of Chester, existed in the parish of Manchester with its area of sixty square miles. In 1775 the number of Catholic baptisms in Manchester was thirty-two, whilst the congregation of St. Chad's Catholic Chapel, which had been opened in 1774, was estimated at 500. A survey made for the statistical society of the various Sunday schools in Manchester and Salford in 1836 returned the number of Catholic schools as ten, with an attendance of 4295 scholars. Similar small beginnings were witnessed it the Blackburn Hundred. In 1793 there is record of twenty-six Catholic baptisms for Blackburn. The number of Catholics in the town in 1804 was estimated at 745, and in 1819 the number had increased to 1200 for the town and district.
At the present time there are in the diocese 138 public churches and chapels, 48 convents and private chapels, and 10 chapels of institutions in which Mass is said. The secular clergy number 235, and in addition there are 86 regulars belonging to the Benedictines, Friars Minor, Dominicans, Premonstratensians, Jesuits, Missionary Fathers of St. Joseph, and the Congregation of the Divine Pastor.
A chain of efficient Catholic elementary schools links up the compulsory secular instruction with the Catholic religious teaching given in them. 55,000 children are on the rolls of the 140 Catholic schools, with their 263 departments and a teaching staff of 1591 Catholic teachers. A training college for residential female teachers, conducted by the Order of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, adds to the completeness of the organization for elementary education. For secondary or higher education there are 18 schools and colleges. Stonyhurst, the great Jesuit college, is the successor of the College of St. Omer, which was founded by Father Robert Parsons, S.J., in 1592 and transferred to Lancashire on 29 Aug., 1794.
One of the great works of Cardinal Vaughan during his Salford episcopate was the founding of the Catholic Protection and Rescue Society in July, 1886. The object was to protect and save the destitute Catholic child whose Faith was in danger. 6569 boys and girls have passed through its homes during the years 1886-1911, and its annual expenditure exceeds x4000. The "Harvest", a monthly publication, is its official organ. Orphanages for girls, institutions for the aged and poor under the Little Sisters of the Poor, night shelters for homeless girls under the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, the Sisters of St. Joseph in connection with the Rescue Society, sisters who nurse the poor in their own homes, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd who seek to reclaim the fallen, Nazareth House, industrial schools for boys under the Brothers of the Christian Schools , and Brothers of Mercy, and for girls under the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul ; all these manifest an untiring activity in ameliorating the lot of the poor, the forlorn, and the sick.
Drastic educational legislation proposed by the government in 1906 and the imperative need for the organization of Catholic forces led to the formation of the Catholic Federation by Bishop Casartelli in 1906. Its primary object is the defence of purely Catholic interests, in which equality of treatment for Catholic schools largely predominates. The official organ is the "Catholic Federationist", which was first issued in Jan., 1910, and is used by the bishop as a vehicle to convey his "message" on current questions.
Other societies are: a local branch of the Catholic Truth Society , the parent society of which was reorganized by Cardinal Vaughan when Bishop of Salford in 1884; the School of Social Science ; the Society of St. Vincent de Paul ; the Ladies of Charity; the Catholic Needlework Guild ; the Catholic Boys' Brigade; the Catholic Philharmonic Society ; and the Catholic Women's League, with its notable offshoot "The Mothers' and Babes' Welcome".
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