Catholic graduates head for Westminster

 Three young Catholic graduates are heading for Westminster in September, to work for a year as interns, alongside three Christian MPs in Parliament. The group were the first to be selected from more than 50 applicants, to take part in an innovative new scheme backed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, with the Bishops' Conference, the Speaker of the House of Commons and Heythrop College. Helen Longsworth, 21, from Bury near Manchester will be working with Andy King, Labour MP for Rugby and Kenilworth. Louise Kift, 21, from Waterlooville near Portsmouth has been assigned to John Battle, Labour MP for Leeds West; and Clare Coffey, 23 from Wilmslow in Cheshire is going to work with John Gummer, Conservative MP for the Suffolk Coast. Living in accommodation near Heythrop, the three will assist their MPs with a number of tasks, including research and administration. They will spend a day a week at the Catholic Bishops Conference to learn about its work and the work of its agencies. Joining other part-time MA students at Heythrop they will study modules in Christian Ethics and Social Teaching. The year will also involve visits abroad to EU offices in Brussels and the Vatican. Helen, Louise and Clare will each have a spiritual companion from Heythrop and take part in a guided retreat at the end of the year. The interns come from a range of academic disciplines. Helen Longworth studied English at Swansea. Clare Coffey. who took Politics at Edinburgh, has already worked for the SNP and said she is interested in a career at the Foreign Office. Louise Kift, who studied History at Exeter and is currently working on her MA in Mediaeval Studies said she felt politics and faith were inseparable. "I am very interested to see how people with different political views reconcile these with their faith." A keen ecumenist, she was very involved in Christian societies as an undergraduate and said she might consider some kind of work promoting ecumenism in future. Archbishop Peter Smith, who chairs the Bishops Conference Department for Christian Responsibility and Citizenship said: "This is an excellent initiative introducing young Catholics to the realities of public life in the context of Catholic social teaching." The Catholic Parliamentary Internship scheme will run for three years. For more information e-mail Suzanne McDougall at

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