By: Ellen Teague
The Walthamstow parish of Our Lady of the Rosary and St Patrick, in the care of the Society of African Mission (SMA) was given the livesimply parish award yesterday at its 11.30am Mass. The wooden plaque, made from a recycled church pew, was presented by award assessor Ellen Teague to parish priest Fr Kevin Conway, Chair of the parish Faith in Action group Colm Gallagher, and Dympna Mallon, Laity Coordinator for the SMA. Ellen applauded the initiatives undertaken by the parish, recognising the concerted efforts made to engage parishioners in behavioural change through innovation and simple initiatives.
Local MP Stella Creasy attended and, speaking at a Fairtrade tea after the service, said she felt "very proud that a Walthamstow parish is heading the way, showing the power of a local community to seek a better future". She felt the Livesimply award programme showed that, "the faith commitment is not just about Sunday observance; it is about how we live our lives every day".
The parish has become the second parish in Brentwood Diocese and the 24th parish in England and Wales to achieve the livesimply parish award for its commitment to live more simply and sustainably and to stand in solidarity with the world's poor. The award is a national prize for Catholic parishes putting their faith into action. Dympna Mallon spoke of the parish being a beacon SMA parish for its initiatives for social justice and care of God's creation.
The SMA priests of the parish - Fr Kevin Conway and Fr Angelo Lafferty - are prime movers, along with a highly motivated lay team of around 15 people, chaired by Colm Gallagher. The parish has opened its hall to the homeless and a parish rota of volunteers is always speedily filled up. The parish initiated an annual Walk to Mass Sunday last year, which was preceeded by a survey of the transport use of parishioners and an on-going push afterwards for walking or cycling to church. To work towards 'live sustainably' the parish has banned the use of disposable crockery and cutlery in its parish hall and insists on the use of eco-detergents.
Numerous other initiatives include soup lunches in the hall, linked to the local action Christian Kitchen, marking Homeless Sunday, tea on the parish lawn using fairly traded products, outreach to projects in Calais, Bethlehem and China. Education work on climate change was initiated last year by Dympna Mallon.
The parish newsletter has given regular feedback on the activities of the Faith in Action group, explaining the importance of Creation Care and linking the action to parish liturgies. After yesterday's Mass the congregation were given shower water timers, in order to reduce their water consumption. The award plaque, which applauds 'Living simply, sustainably, and in solidarity with the poor', was supplied by CAFOD and a collection for CAFOD's Lent appeal was made at the Mass.
Fr Kevin Conway SMA, in congratulating the parishioners, encouraged the parish to continue to strengthen what has already been done and initiate new measures saying, "It is my hope that this great achievement will be a stepping stone to ongoing efforts by this parish to promote more harmonious relationships with the earth on which we depend and those with whom we share it". In the future the parish hopes to get more involved in advocacy work on climate change inspired by Pope Francis' invitation in Laudato Si' to "work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us."
Bishop Alan Williams of Brentwood, in a letter of congratulations to the parish, reiterated his hope "that both priests and people of the parish continue to be inspiring examples of the commitment to Living Simply, Living Sustainably and Living in Solidarity with People in Poverty". In his message of congratulations Fr. Michael McCabe, Leader of the SMA Irish Province, urged the Walthamstow Parish Community to continue to be witnesses to the "integral Christian spirituality" articulated by Pope Francis in Laudato Si'.
For information about the livesimply award see: http://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/How-to-campaign/Livesimply-award