Parish Social Action: What an inspirational day!

Over 150 parish delegates from all over the Diocese of Salford filled Holy Cross College, Bury, on Saturday, 6th July to celebrate Hope in the Future. Hope in the Future is the parish-based programme re-energising the Diocese of Salford and encouraging the faithful to become ‘missionary disciples’ by reaching out to their local communities and putting faith into action.

In addition to the great turn out, many voluntary organisations set out stands to promote their unique services; these ranged from Aid to the Church in Need to the YCW Impact group. As well as the stalls there was the interactive refugee experience designed, developed and supported by Lee House and the Modern Day Slavery bus raising awareness with young people as it transports children to schools everyday around East Lancashire.

Everyone commented on the quality of the speakers that included John Battle, Andy Burnham and Peter Fahy. John Battle, chair of the Leeds Justice and Peace group and Leeds Citizens, opened the conference by inviting delegates to respond to the cry of the poor by joining organisations and groups that addressed poverty, saying that “even in small ways we can and do make a difference.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, shared the problems of people who were in full time employment on zero hour contracts and due to the “epidemic of stress” and insecurity this caused could not put down a deposit to be a home owner, so rented from private landlords and still needed the services of a food back to get by. Andy also shared the findings of a survey amongst young people in which 40% said they had little or no hope in their futures.

Sir Peter Fahy, formerly the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester and a trustee of Caritas, spoke passionately about the importance of supporting church and faith-based communities that can reach to the grassroots of society and can work with the local community. He said, “you can’t subcontract care and compassion – no amount of government spending or statutory services can substitute for a good neighbour in the community.”

Workshops followed in the afternoon, focusing on current issues including refugees and the environment, the need to promote Catholic Social Teaching and encourage fostering-friendly parishes. The Caritas organisers received very positive feedback from everyone involved – 63% of delegates reported that they would take the ‘Call to Action’ back to their parishes or organisations, and a similar percentage would be interested in a follow-up day.

The many ‘calls to action’ linked to the Hope in the Future programme and Caritas will shortly be circulating a copy of the slides and the calls to action from each workshop. The day was indeed a launch pad for new social outreach opportunities and there was a consensus that action should focus on:
• Community Sponsorship programmes to resettle refugees
• Fostering-Friendly Parishes & Schools
• Laudato Si – Care for the Common Home
• Catholic Social Teaching
• Involving Young People
• Reaching out to the wider community and those on the margins
• The use of parish buildings for social action and community outreach

The day was topped and tailed by the beautifully simple prayers and reflections led by Sr Joan and supported by the uplifting live music provided by members of the team that helped to plan the day

Look out for news in the Beacon newsletter and in parish bulletins for forthcoming events that will be following up on this inspirational day.