By Trish Sandbach, St Benedict’s parish Garforth.

We have been a Live Simply parish for over two years and the award is something that continues to inspire action in our parish. Most of the activities we undertook in order to achieve the award have continued because they were part of the sustainable structure we developed, albeit in a different form. The one-off events may have changed but support for CAFOD, the work of the Refugee Group – which is Garforth based – not just St Benedict’s, the Allotment Team, the outreach of the UCM and the Lourdes’ group continues.
We have formed an umbrella group, encompassing the groups within the parish who are concerned with social justice and the environment. An advantage of this development is that communication between groups is better and we can support each other by sharing ideas and activities for raising awareness of issues and campaigns.
In Lent we held Ecumenical services in each other’s churches on the theme of togetherness. We focused our liturgy on The Stations of the Forest, a powerful reminder of the destruction of rainforests, their dwellers, flora and fauna. We invited participants to make pledges for change. We met and shared lunch each Wednesday and shared the reflection, prayers and activities from the previous evening’s service. We also had ideas for actions towards sustainability in the bulletin each week. Bulletin notes also brought special days such as Environment Day, Earth Day to people’s attention.
The Fair-Trade stall at the back of church provides the opportunity to support producers and farmers from developing countries.
The allotment continues to flourish thanks to a team of very dedicated men, especially at this time of the year when everything is burgeoning. Various beans, rhubarb, onions, beetroot , flowers are available at the back of the church after the weekend masses and also taken up to Neighbourhood Elders Team and to the SVP centre; all organically grown and the donations are used for keeping it all going. During the summer months the allotment flowers are used in church thus saving air miles, pollution and money!

people gathered near vegetable plants
We continue to be active in raising awareness about the plight of asylum seekers and refugees in our area. June 20th saw a group of walkers setting off on a Walk of Solidarity from Garforth to the Home Office on Kirkstall Road, Leeds with stops at St Theresa’s, Cross Gates and St Vincent’s Centre, with plans developing for the autumn. We also had a speaker from the Medaille Trust on trafficking which is much closer to home than many of us realised.

The UCM invited a speaker from Mary’s Meals resulting in a collection and support for the backpack appeal. They continue to support other charities over the year. The SVP box collects tins and dried food as well as clothing.
Bacon butties after Sunday Mass continue to be popular among parishioners, both raising funds for the Lourdes group and for CAFOD as well as being a social opportunity to build community.
The highlight of a CAFOD coffee morning on Celebrating Creation was a liturgy on that theme which was held in the allotment under a blue sky and surrounded by flourishing greenery, naming also the need for change in our lifestyles. The celebration continued with home-made Fair-Trade cakes We were very pleased to welcome Bronagh Daly,CAFOD Community Participation Coordinator for the Leeds Diocese to this event.

At the Summer School Fair, in addition to the usual games and bouncy castles, we had a Fair-Trade stall with foodstuffs & ecologically-friendly products such as recycled foil, unbleached baking parchment and sandwich bags. We handed out leaflets with tips for “caring for our common home”. The Live Simply school link person had taken great care to ensure that no plastic or polystyrene plates, cups or cutlery were used. Instead, bamboo and cardboard were used in the catering areas. Huge thanks are due!
St Benedict’s was privileged to host the Faith and Light Mass as we have done for a number of years, as ever we were blessed by their presence and had a very joyful liturgy.

In the autumn we will review and plan, conscious of the urgency of climate change and our responsibility to change our lifestyles. We will focus on Creation Time from September to October as an opportunity to celebrate God’s Creation and show our gratitude by finding more ways of changing and developing the virtue of
“Enough-ness”.