It was founded in 1819. For the earier history of the parish see notes on
from which St Mary's developed.
The opening of the church at the beginning of August 1849, was marked by scenes of pageantry and splendour. On every side the church was banked with flowers, even in the pulpit and organ loft. From all over the north-west the clergy had been invited to attend, and there were several bishops present-Bishop Brown and his assistant, Dr. Sharples, representing Lancashire, Bishop Briggs, a native of Barton, representing Yorkshire, and Dr. J. Brown of Wales. Many of the old Catholic families were represented in the Towneley chapel. Pontifical High Mass was celebrated after the singing of Terce, to the gorgeous orchestral and choral settings of Haydn's Grand Mass No. 1. Afterwards, in true traditional style, over a hundred guests were given refreshment at the Bull Inn. The following Sunday was the family festival of the parish, and on this occasion Cardinal Wiseman preached. The opening of a new Catholic church had aroused some very bitter opposition from the Puritan faction, who printed a poster to scoff at the Catholics. It contains gems like the following:
TURF MORE THEATRE
Under the distinguished patronage of His Serene Majesty, the Prince Beelzebub
THE LATIN TRAGIC OPERA OF THE SACRIFICE
The first scene will open with a magnificent representation of the interior of a
Amid clouds of incense Mr. Wiserman will make his appearance on the Stage and display his wonderful feat of
... Absolutions for future, as well as past Transgressions at reduced prices After the close of the Performance, indulges may be had at the Theatre at the following prices: viz. Absolution for Murdering a Layman, 7s 6d; for striking a Priest, 10s 6d; and for a Priest or Clergyman keeping a Concubine, 10s 6d.
During the next 50 years St. Mary's was indebted to the faithful service rendered by three priests, two of whom, Fr. Thomas Flanagan and Canon James Morrissey, worked here all of their priestly life. The other, Canon John Rimmer, was first at Burnley from 1852 to 1861 and then from 1871 to 1891. Canon Rimmer was responsible for the establishment of the Mercy sisters, who have done conspicious work for the Burnley schools. The foundation stone of St. John the Baptist's at Padiham was laid in August 1863. Twenty years later another new mission was begun-St. Mary Magdalen's, Gannow. Canon Morrissey, who succeeded Canon Rimmer, after working hard at St. Mary's as a curate, was greatly loved by the faithful of Burnley and respected by all in the town. His premature death in 1903 deprived the diocese of one who was mentioned as the next bishop. During his term of office the church of St. John's, Burnley, was established with the handsome gift of 1,100 from St. Mary's. During the present century St. Mary's has had a succession of distinguished Rectors, details of whom have been published in the parochial history. They have all held positions of trust in the diocese: Canon Corbishley 1903-1905; Mgr. J. B. Cooke 1905-1913; Mgr. Provost Tynan 1913-1939; Canon J. J. Ingram , 1939-.
Taken from "Salford Diocese and its Catholic past", a survey by Charles A. Bolton, a Priest of the above Diocese. Published 1950 on the First Centenary for the Diocese of Salford.