On Saturday, 1 February, parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, received the CAFOD Live Simply Award for championing sustainable living. Their efforts focused on promoting a simpler, greener lifestyle in solidarity with the world's poorest communities. Our Lady of Lourdes is only the sixth church to gain the award in the Westminster diocese and the 52nd in England and Wales.
Just over a year ago, a Live Simply group was established in the parish in response to Pope Francis' invitation in Laudato Si' to "work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted us." The group of 22 active members split into five groups (Liturgy; Environment; Practical/Resources; Communications and Justice and Care for Creation) to encourage a range of initiatives. These included a Celebration Mass in praise of creation; several bring and share lunches with inspirational guest speakers; a 'share the journey' walk in solidarity with refugees and milk collections for the local food bank.
Suggestions on how to live a simpler life are posted in the parish newsletters twice a month and a walking group has been established to enjoy the beauty of nature in the local Rothamstead Park. There was a Fairtrade stall at the recent Christmas Fair and parishioners are actively encouraged to buy Fairtrade goods and to stop buying single-use plastic items. Several pedal bikes have been recycled and given to Saudi refugee families living in the local area. An environmental audit of the parish buildings has been undertaken and steps to reduce energy consumption are being taken.
To celebrate the fact that Our Lady of Lourdes is now a 'Live Simply' parish there is going to be a celebratory Mass on 10 March where the prestigious Live Simply plaque will be officially presented and a memorial tree will be planted at the front of the church. The group is very aware that there is still plenty to do and that just because the award has been achieved they cannot rest on their laurels. "It is essential to keep the momentum going in the spirit of Laudato Si'", said Graham Ryan, the parish Live Simply Co-ordinator. And that is just what the Live Simply group intends to do!
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