Reimagining CARITAS – Love in Action in a Post-Coronavirus Society

On Wednesday, 29th April John Quinton-Barber, founder and Managing Director of Social Place chaired an online webinar Reimagining CARITAS – Love in Action in a Post-Coronavirus Society, on behalf of Caritas Diocese of Salford.
149 people attended to listen to and ask questions of a panel including Sr Judith Russi, Director of EducareM; Mark Wiggin, Director of Caritas Diocese of Salford; Philip McCarthy, CEO of Caritas Social Action Network; Sir Peter Fahy, Caritas and Diocese of Salford Trustee; Mike Kane, MP; and Rt Rev. John Arnold, Bishop of Salford.

The webinar was an opportunity for participants to explore how Catholic charities like Caritas Salford should continue the social mission of the Church in a “new normal” once lockdown has ended.

Speaking about Caritas Salford’s role Mark Wiggin said, “As a Catholic charity in the Diocese of Salford we believe in changing people’s lives, we are concerned about poverty and vulnerability, and we want to redress the balance between rich and poor. We want to look at the common good and protect the world, which is our common home. All these things bring us together in one way or another.”

Reflecting on the grass roots example of the earliest Christians, Sir Peter Fahy encouraged consideration of an “asset-based community development” approach and how the way in which communities have galvanised since this lockdown as an example of how local people are best placed to know what their community needs. Oftentimes, Sir Peter explained public services see volunteers as people who are “suffered” rather than as collaborators in knowing their communities and contributing to resolving the same problems.

As the Director of the national Caritas Social Action Network, Philip McCarthy explained their role as to encourage every Catholic and parish to see the works of justice and mercy as equal a part of their individual vocation and mission of their parish, as equal a part of liturgy and sacraments. Commenting on the entirely different scape of the current pandemic CSAN’s work is to ‘animate and co-ordinate’ the Church’s charitable works in England and Wales and through their collaboration with the Society of St Vincent de Paul, they have published a helpful toolkit for parishes (available online)
Sr Judith Russi echoed the thoughts of many when she talked about how for some they were experiencing precious family time but at the considered the wider health challenges and benefits for children and young people. Quoting Pope Francis’ message on the role of young people was to make noise in the Church, Sr Judith emphasised the importance of harnessing the energy of young people as Gospel activists and adapting structures to ensure the their voice and enthusiasm can be heard.

Mike Kane MP shared how his father has sustained his resilience during this pandemic, but that how that faith compels us to “build back better” for everyone in society once the coronavirus is over. Reciting the experience in his own parish, Mike explained how his parish priest had relayed to him that around 50% of parishioners do not have access to the internet, making them unable to participate in online Masses but how internet poverty reinforces socially isolation and access to public services.

Emphasising the central importance of prayer, Bishop John reminded participants of Pope Francis’s call to be outward-looking, even during this lockdown, to see everyone as our brothers and sisters, not solely caring for our own families, and not expecting the government to fix society’s issues, requiring our own “generosity of thought.” While unable to attend public worship Bishop John reminded everyone of those who “live in remote places and have no church buildings so that we can be in solidarity with them.” While attending Mass and the Sacraments is integral to our Faith, the Church is not confined to buildings and he reminded that “wherever we are, we are Church. How wonderful it is that we can meet in public buildings and share the sacraments and liturgy but the fact that we cannot do that at this moment puts us in solidarity with many people around the world who have no churches” and how as St Paul reminds us to become ‘Ambassadors for Christ’ or as Pope Francis says ‘missionary disciples’.

Frequently asked questions we were unable to fit into the webinar will be published separately on the Caritas Diocese of Salford Website
Liz Bitakaramire is the Fundraising & Community Services Administration Officer for Caritas Diocese of Salford, a member of CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network), the Church’s social action network in England and Wales. For further details contact info@caritassalford.org.uk www.caritassalford.org.uk

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