In June our parish CAFOD contact person suggested at a meeting of the Pastoral Council that we take up the campaign ‘Care for our Common Home’. A Group was set up to plan. It was asked to ensure that the voices of young people be heard. One meeting and a flurry of emails later, together with visits to Schools to encourage them to get involved – and a week of events began to emerge. We launched on the first Sunday of September, the Season of Creation, with an enthusiastic speaker from CAFOD and an attractive programme flyer, designed by a Sixth Form student and distributed to all. Quotes from Laudato Si came through September; leaflets were distributed locally to ecumenical partners and to deanery parishes; parishioners were encouraged to sign up for events in the week ending with the feast of St Francis, October 4th; 70 folk signed the CAFOD petition to the Prime Minister; a pledge board for suggestions for change of lifestyle filled with post-its.
The Youth Creation Mass on September 29th found a packed church. Our schools and all the parish youth groups rose to the occasion. – an art-work banner produced by Youth for Christ adorned the sanctuary; children sang their own songs of creation as they processed in; young people read readings and bidding prayers. Mass closed with an a cappella group of sixth formers singing of the need to love all creation and seek climate justice. This was composed by a gifted parent who also choreographed the whole mass. The atmosphere was of a joyful eucharist and communion of thanksgiving and hope for change. It led into the week’s varied events:
Tuesday: a guided tour round our local conservation area; in the evening thirty parishioners celebrated Creation with poetry, wine and nibbles;
Wednesday Fr Gerry Hanlon of the parish told his stories, entertaining but sobering, of his over 50 years experiences in Peru, many of them spent observing the growing destruction of the forests by commercial interests (logging, cattle and oil);
Thursday Paul Rogers, formerly of the Bradford University School of Peace Studies kept an audience of over 40 absorbed in his description of why politicians and world governments have been so slow to address the threats of climate change;
Friday our week concluded with a final creation mass to celebrate the feast of St Francis and an excellent Italian meal.
What was achieved? The voices of the young (literally!) have begun to be heard; young people working with ‘wise elders’ together. The process empowers our community to heed Jesus’s command to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ by linking that search directly to the call for climate justice. The idea is slowly dawning that they are not different. Folk took small steps to walk together as companions.
Talking must lead to further action. Parishioners are making suggestions. A small campaign group aims to take these forward into proposals. One World Week in October and then Advent gives us opportunities to invite parishioners to view the Bishops’ two films: ‘Global Healing’ and ‘Global Caring’. The Year of Scripture will provide opportunities to read the Scriptures with new eyes as the source of ‘seeking first the kingdom’. We do not know whether our parish will move to reduce its climate footprint, or create a vegetable area, or cut single use plastic, or find ways to reduce its use of fossil fuels in its plans for new heating and lighting?
But it might!