People of faith in our diocese and beyond are being invited to play a part in helping to preserve and promote the Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Grace at Osmotherley.
New members are being sought for the Friends of the Lady Chapel, which was launched by Bishop Terry in 2016.
As well as raising money for maintenance and development, the organisation also aims to increase interest in the Marian shrine within the local community and further afield.
Now the steering group, which meets every six months, are hoping to build on an encouraging start by holding a fresh recruitment drive to help ensure future generations can continue to enjoy the rich spiritual benefits the Lady Chapel offers.
“All the money we raise goes into a separate account completely dedicated to the Lady Chapel and helps pay for promoting and maintaining the shrine,” said Peter Scrope, whose family was involved in the redevelopment of the Lady Chapel.
“The chapel itself is in good order but the roof of the second chapel at the back and the adjoining cottage is starting to leak.”
The shrine is of national religious and architectural significance, with a licence for Mass to be celebrated in the Lady Chapel having been granted as long ago as 1397.
“Although the Lady Chapel resonates most with those who live in the Diocese of Middlesbrough and those around it, we also have members from all over the country and even overseas,” said Mr Scrope.
“People from neighbouring dioceses often come, especially from the Diocese of Leeds, because Bishop Gordon Wheeler had a close affinity with the Lady Chapel and when he went from Middlesbrough to Leeds he took that with him. We’d love them to join as well as people from the local area.
“Schools and organisations can also join. Many schools make an annual visit and there’s a retreat here most weeks. As well as Catholic schools there are also Anglican ones and we’ve also had a Muslim group because the tradition of honouring Mary exists across several faiths.”
The chapel, which was probably built after Mount Grace Priory, the ruined Carthusian monastery nearby, has a fascinating history.
“The chapel was never really lost but it was rediscovered during the war,” said Mr Scrope. “Maurice Bell, the brother of adventurer Gertrude Bell, owned the land and when he died in 1944 it was left to his nephew, Sir Hugh Bell.
“My parents, Ralph and Lady Beatrice Scrope, and Lord and Lady Eldon, the current Lord Eldon’s grandparents, managed to buy Chapel Farm, which included the Lady Chapel and later they sold off the farm but retained the Lady Chapel.
“They renovated the chapel, building up the walls using stone from a cottage in Rosedale that had itself been built out of stone from Rosedale Abbey, and it was then donated to the diocese.”
During the renovation, workers uncovered bones that were initially thought to be those of St Margaret Clitherow, but it’s since been proved that they probably weren’t.
In 1958 the Lady Chapel was scheduled as a national monument and the Knights of St Columba and the Legion of Mary organised the first diocesan pilgrimage on the Feast of the Assumption, which has continued ever since.
On September 8 1961, the Feast of Our Lady’s birthday, Cardinal William Godfrey celebrated Mass and rededicated the chapel in the presence of Bishop of Middlesbrough George Brunner, Ralph and Lady Beatrice Scrope and Lord and Lady Eldon.
The shrine is now serviced from St Mary’s Cathedral in Middlesbrough and the 4pm Saturday afternoon Mass is the first one celebrated in the diocese each weekend.
Friends of the Lady Chapel members are united in the spirituality of the Lady Chapel through an annual Mass and daily prayers and also receive newsletters and invitations to events. A suggested membership donation is £10 a year for an individual or a family group.
Father Anthony Storey’s beautiful booklet describing the history of the Lady Chapel has been updated by Father Neil McNicholas and is available from the Curial Office, St Mary’s Cathedral or the Lady Chapel itself, priced £1.
Visit ladychapel.org.uk to find out more about the Lady Chapel and keep up to date with events.
Click this link to download a Friends of the Lady Chapel application form.