By: Anne Peacey
Anne Peacey was re-elected to serve as chair of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales (NJPN) at Saturday's meeting in London. Here is her report on NJPN's 40th anniversary Network meeting.
...Thank you for being present to Justice and Peace every day, in your lives. Thank you for being prophets in this time and space, for your activities in all the places you find yourselves, when a voice of hope is needed for so many, in our Church and in our world. Thank you for your support for NJPN
Thank you to Ann Kelly, our administrator, for the tremendous work she does for the network. We appreciate all that she does and it is right that we acknowledge just how much she takes on. Thank you Ann, for preparing the annual report which provides a summary of the activities of the past year.
Thank you to the members of NJPN executive for their commitment and patience and for keeping me grounded.
Thank you to members of our Working Parties, who contribute so much to the Network: the Environment working party for their commitment and sharing their knowledge and experience, the Media and Marketing Working party for their hard work and commitment, Conference Planning Groups, Ann's management support group.
Thank you to all those who support the Network by their encouragement and affirmation as well as financial support - we would not exist without such support. It is difficult to start naming names but must include our Patrons, CAFOD, Columbans, CBCEW, Mill Hill Missionaries JPIC Desk, all agencies, Religious Congregations, dioceses, Bishops and ecumenical groups. I would like to acknowledge all those who we may never meet, who engage with us via our facebook and Twitter pages.
As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of NJPN it is right that we look back at our history, rediscover and acknowledge our roots. Our past has brought us to this point in our story and it is truly fitting that we remember with gratitude and deep affection those whose passion for justice and peace has helped sustain and nurture our lives and our network over so many years. So, thank you to all our story tellers for your contributions to this celebration.
In taking this opportunity to look back over the years, in addition to the many wonderful individuals and groups who are part of the NJPN story, I want to mention a key event from my J&P story, the National Pastoral Council way back in May 1980. Having the opportunity to be a part of the justice sector was an amazing and exhilarating experience, the memories of that weekend in Liverpool have sustained me through many difficult times when issues of justice and peace have appeared to be side-lined by members of our Church community.
I consider myself to have been very lucky, for whilst many of those early hopes have not been realised, having caught a glimpse of the possibilities, I believed that here was a real vision for the future progress of our Catholic communities and whilst there have been many other over the years this early experience remains special.
Others will have their own special moments to cling to when times are troubled and they feel dispirited. Rich encounters with special people, times and events will have impacted on all of us in our Justice and Peace journey.
The riches of Scripture and of Catholic Social Teaching are gifted to us and provide a firm foundation and authenticity in our commitment to strive for a more just and peaceful world for all God's people. We dare to proclaim 'Jesus is Lord' and we know with certainty that we are called to recognise his presence in the faces of those we encounter in the challenges of our daily lives and we give an overwhelming 'YES' to Cain's question 'am I my brother's keeper?' (Gen. 4. 9)
So, where does that loud 'YES' leave us now? We certainly don't need to replay the great Bob Dylan anthem to remind us that indeed 'the times they are a-changing'. Twas ever thus, although somewhat frighteningly, change seems to be happening at an ever increasing rate, environmentally, socially, technologically, educationally and in every which way we can imagine, often beyond our control. How then are we to 'read the signs of the times' in the light of the Gospel, how to discern what are the 'joys and hopes' of all God's people, how to work for 'the common good', how to work for peace? (Gaudium et Spes: 1065)
Do we really intend to commit to the huge challenge presented to us as individuals and as members of the Catholic community and of NJPN in our own space and time?
In order discern the signs of our time, here and now, we must first of all take time to reflect, to look and to listen, in order to allow our senses to recognise what is happening around us and to consider how our network must continue to change and grow, in order to respond to identified needs. In fact using the Pastoral Cycle.
Membership of NJPN is open to all who share its vision and values, aiming to become more effective facilitators and communicators of the Gospel of justice, peace and love, to be an authentic witness, listening to and in solidarity with those on the margins, working with identified allies, and seeking further collaboration with both faith and secular groups, communicating ideas, articulating alternative narrative and values. Four areas of priority identified in September 2016 remain and response to these issues continues to form the basis of our planning:
Movement of people, Environment, Inequality, Peace and non-violence.
The challenge for each of us is discern how best to work with members of diocesan, parish and local J&P groups, with those searching for a more just and peaceful world and hoping to find solidarity and support at our conference and/or networking days, how to hold out a hand of friendship to those who feel isolated and powerless, how to effect change in our society, globally and domestically where many feel that the voice of the Church is not speaking out with sufficient clarity and force on matters which concern all people of good will.
Religious and secular structures are changing rapidly and the old certainties can no longer be taken for granted, with instant communication the world is getting smaller and information available at the click of a button. This is the reality of our world, a world where many suffer as a result of the actions of a few.
At this moment in time where do issues of justice and peace sit within our Catholic dioceses and parishes; how are those who feel alienated, disillusioned or excluded to be reached and served? How are the voices of lay men and women heard? Do we reach out to and nurture our young people and do we really want to hear what they say to us?
How can we feel again the hope, the possibilities, the real experience of what our Church could be, that feeling of journeying together, of barriers being broken down ensuring that we really are brothers and sisters in Christ, sharing a common home, real 'Resurrection moments'.