Do you remember the days of “The Parish Mission”? If you are under 50 then probably not, as they seem to have largely gone out of fashion. They were often a week-long affair where a non-diocesan priest would come into the parish and as well as preaching at Sunday mass would preach during the week (sometimes every evening!). The principal message was about personal ‘renewal’ – renewal of our commitment to Jesus and to the Church as individuals.

I love my planet motifTo me, the Live Simply award seems to come from the same place but with a subtle and significant difference. Partly, this award is a way of getting across the messages of Laudato Si to a wider audience. However, the whole point about the Live Simply Award is that in order to obtain it you have to undertake a process of discernment and action within your parish setting over an extended time period – typically one or two years (or longer). In so doing, the potential is to end up changing far more than people’s recycling habits.

The 3 pillars of the award are about :

  • Living Simply – moving from a ‘more is better’ view of consumption to an ‘enough is sufficient’ view
  • Living in solidarity with the poor.
  • Living Sustainably – being aware of and taking action about our impact on the environment

Whichever way you look at it, this is all about ‘renewal’ – which is the same as the parish missions of old. The difference is that it is not just about a ‘personal’ renewal but about ‘community’ renewal as well. This was one of the key messages in Laudato Si that came across strongly to me. We can all do our bit for the environment by changing to low energy lightbulbs and recycling more. However, Climate Change is a problem that also demands community solutions – whether those are at a parish level or at a national government or global level. Equally, we can all individually give money or food to poor people-but what are we doing as a parish community?

Many parishes within the Leeds Diocese are already doing things that align with the ideals of the award (for instance, if your parish has a Live Simply Awared logoCAFOD group or an SVP conference). Actually signing up to work towards the award provides an impetus to involve many more people in thinking about what goes on not only in their own lives but in their parish as well, discerning where there are gaps and developing plans to address those gaps. I think that for many ‘living in solidarity with the poor’ will also mean living more in solidarity with the rest of their parish community – what an opportunity for renewal that is!

Why aren’t all the parishes in the Leeds Diocese signed up to it?

Joe Burns