By: Ellen Teague
A Columban team led the first Catholic People's Weeks event of 2018 on the theme 'Sharing Gospel Joy'. It was held 16-18 February at Boars Hill Carmelite Priory near Oxford, a beautiful setting with the first snowdrops and daffodils appearing, and a welcoming monastic community. Around 22 participants attended, and four were at their first Catholic People's Weeks event.
'Sharing Gospel Joy' is the theme of the centenary of the Columban Missionary Society, being celebrated this year. In the Pontificate of Pope Francis the call to change, to transformation, to renewal, to reform has been reaffirmed as central to being Church, especially underlined in the 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium - the Joy of the Gospel. Mission is about promoting God's Kingdom - tuning into and co-operating with God's liberating and transforming activity in our world. By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to be a missionary community, constantly reaching out beyond the borders of the Church in service of the Kingdom of God.
The weekend used stories of inspirational people who have crossed boundaries to share Gospel joy, and help participants reflect on their own mission in today's world.
Columban Father Jim Fleming spoke on interreligious dialogue, having worked in Pakistan and in outreach to asylum seekers in Birmingham. He underlined the imperative since Vatican ll in Nostra Aetate to cross boundaries to engage with people of other religions. In Birmingham he often accompanies asylum seeks to appointments at courts and elsewhere. Ellen Teague and Julia Corcoran are part of the Columban Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Team, looked at responding to the plea of Pope Francis in Laudato Si to heed "the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor" and to engaging with young people.
Married couple Virginia Moffatt and Chris Cole, who live in Oxford, told their stories about peacemaking in today's world. Virginia has recently edited 'Reclaiming the Common Good: How Christians can rebuild our broken world', and written 'Echo Hall', about three generations of women experiencing love, loss and conflict in times of war. Chris is founder of Drone Wars UK, which keeps a critical eye on the increasing use of military drones, and has been active in civil disobedience against war and the arms trade for more than 25 years. He has spent time in prison for his ploughshares actions, but was recently acquitted, after being arrested last Autumn for blocking a road at the Defence Sales and Equipment Exhibition in East London. The judge said the actions of Chris and other defendants "were reasonable in the circumstances".
The participants in the weekend helped with group work, prepared liturgies and even painted tiles on the theme of 'Sharing Gospel Joy'.
Further information about Catholic Peoples Weeks events at: www.catholicpeoplesweeks.org.uk/