The retirement of Ann Kelly, the administrator of the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales (NJPN) for the past 12 years, was celebrated last Saturday by Network members at CAFOD's offices in London.
There were warm tributes to her wide-ranging work - arranging meetings; networking with members and partner organisations; developing effective communications between members and the wider public; coordinating the annual conference, and producing a newsletter and e-bulletins regularly - all guided and supported by the Executive Committee of NJPN. In addition, she is active in Justice and Peace in her own diocese of Birmingham.
Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi described her as "a wonderful NJPN worker and Pax Christi supporter over many years". Eddie Slawinski of the Mill Hill Missionaries said Ann "lives and breathes what she preaches". Other tributes were paid by Maggie McSherry from Lancaster, representing J&P fieldworkers, Maria Elena Arana of CAFOD, Bernard Shaw of the NJPN Environment Group, and Anne Peacey and Kevin Burr of the NJPN Executive.
Julian Filochowski, a patron of NJPN, thanked Ann for her "leadership from below in the style of Pope Francis" and, acknowledging her pilgrimage to El Salvador, gave Ann a plaque of Archbishop Romero ascending into heaven. It was produced by Fernando Llort, whose large Romero Cross stands in Southwark Cathedral.
The new administrator was welcomed. Geoff Thompson is active in the Faith and Justice Group of St Wilfred's Jesuit Parish in Preston. His experience includes being part of a Benedictine lay community, CAFOD volunteering and annual olive picking in Palestine. Ann Kelly said: "I give a warm welcome to Geoff as he struggles to do the job in half the time", a reference to reduced hours, due to reduced finance available.
The speaker in the morning was Phil Kingston of Christian Climate Action and Extinction Rebellion. He has been arrested several times recently for nonviolent direct action highlighting inadequate action on climate change and the link between environmental destruction and the global economy. He expressed admiration for the leadership offered by Pope Francis in Laudato Si' to hear "the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor". His feeling was that only a widespread movement of civil disobedience will force politicians and leaders of corporations to meet the challenges of our times.
In questions, Bruce Kent of the Movement for the Abolition of War, said that militarism should not be left out of the problems of our times, particularly that Britain is spending £200 billion plus on more nuclear weapons. He would like to see more explicit mention of the militarism/climate causal link, for "up to 10% of the CO2 emissions are military related and that must have negative effects". He felt that charitable status of many non-governmental organisations limits the radical action needed to address serious challenges.
The rest of the day was the NJPN quarterly network meeting, and around 30 representatives of dioceses, religious orders and Catholic agencies shared their work in the areas of justice, peace and care for creation. Dioceses represented included Arundel and Brighton, Clifton, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, and Southwark. Religious included the Columban missionaries and Assumption Sisters. Agencies present included the Archbishop Romero Trust, CAFOD and Pax Christi.
There was feedback on plans for the 2019 annual conference 26-28 July. The Conference will be titled: 'Forgotten People, Forgotten Places', to be chaired by John Battle. It will hear from people working with vulnerable people at the margins of society in UK and seek responses from the Churches in Britain.
The 2020 conference is being planned by the Northern Dioceses Environmental Group, the NJPN Environment Group, Nottingham Diocese J&P and Green Christian. It aims to update Christian witness for justice and peace in the light of recent developments in papal teaching, thinking on integral ecology, movements such as 'Extinction Rebellion' and scientific advice to policy makers. Systemic change to address economic-ecological crises will be explored and inspirational initiatives which lower carbon footprints and build a sustainable future.
A round-the-room opportunity for sharing information highlighted that 52 parishes in England and Wales have now achieved the Livesimply award, the latest being Harpenden in Westminster diocese; the Columban Schools Journalism Competition on 'The Challenge of Climate Change' has received more than 100 article and video entries between Britain and Ireland which are now being judged; CAFOD is planning a mass climate lobby of MPs, in partnership with the Climate Coalition, on 29 June, and its 'Our Common Home' campaign begins soon. Clifton Diocese is running an event on 24 February in Bath on the Autumn Synod on Amazonia at the Vatican.
Read more about NJPN: www.justice-and-peace.org.uk/
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