Foodbanks, Traidcraft, outreach to the homeless and Climate Change advocacy were among the initiatives of West London Justice and Peace groups meeting in Chiswick parish last Saturday. Representatives from around 10 parishes met in Chiswick parish hall to share information about their activity over the past six months. They were joined by Martha Behan of the Westminster J&P Commission, and were positive about the two meetings in recent months of the Westminster Forum on Social Justice and Peace. Several people present would be going to the National Justice and Peace Network annual conference at the end of the month.
Feltham has picked up on CAFOD campaigning on 'Our Common Home' and the idea of a Creation Mass in the parish to focus on the wonders of creation and the need to act to safeguard them. Parish members attended the 26 June climate change mass lobby of parliament which had an excellent turnout, including many schoolchildren, with "uplifting inter-faith initiatives both before and after the lobby". Hampton Hill parish has a Traidcraft stall every month, and promotes Shared Interest, which is a co-operative bank which offers loans to coops doing important work across the globe. There was considerable interest in ethical investment being promoted throughout the diocese.
Osterley parish is trying to be more environmentally-friendly by allowing part of its gardens to grow wild flowers, and provide a bird 'sanctuary' in its bell tower. Supporting a parish project in Kenya continues, and a recent fundraising event organised by one of the young altar servers with Downs syndrome and his friends was "financially successful and extraordinarily uplifting". Ruislip parish has completed its Fairtrade application and submitted it.
Acton is very active in supporting Acton Homeless Concern - both the Damien Centre (a drop-in centre offering breakfast/tea/human contact every day of the year) and the Emmaus Centre (providing a hot lunchtime meal for nearly 200 people every day along with other essential services). The parish provides donations of clothing, shoes, and supplies volunteers to help out in the centres, whilst also raising money for both enterprises. They also hope soon to be a Fairtrade parish and to be active in CAFOD's 'Our Common Home' climate change campaign. Links with the parish confirmation classes are being built.
White City parish is now applying to be a 'Live Simply' parish as a way to link in a lot of activities that are already underway in the parish. Seven parishioners went to the recent Climate Crisis lobby and one of their number, a 16 year old with exams just completed, had a range of questions ready for their MP - Andy Slaughter - who was there. A creation celebration in September is being planned, and the local school is also considering applying to be a Live Simply school.
West Acton and Hanwell reported initiatives ranging from a regular weekday Mass "in thanksgiving for creation" to a talk on refugee work with a speaker from the Jesuit Refugee Service, and with a local parishioner who has 'hosted' a JRS refugee for a three-month placement. Chiswick parish is very involved in local work with food banks and - in winter - night shelters.
Comboni Sister Maureen Lynch gave a short presentation on the Comboni Centre for Spirituality and Mission in Chiswick, opened in 2016 by the Comboni Missionary Sisters.
The Comboni Centre, run by Sr Graça Almeida and Sr Natalia Gomes, offers a sacred space for quiet prayer and silent reflection individually or in small groups, with the possibility of having one-to-one spiritual direction . The vision of the Comboni Centre is to journey together with lay people who wish to be good yeast in the dough of our society and are ready to be involved in the missionary dimension of the Church. Ways are sought of reaching out to those in the fringes of society, both in London and overseas.
Activities this year include: Monday evening prayer open to anyone; monthly day retreats for young couples; retreats focussing on the spirituality of St Daniel Comboni, the Scriptures and the richness of Pope Francis' teaching. The Cenacle Missionary Prayer Group, a committed group of lay men and women, meet regularly at the Centre for prayer and action.
The sisters from the Centre visit schools in Westminster Diocese, raising awareness of the needs of children throughout Africa and in Sri Lanka, as well as the duty to take care of Creation as our "common home". The Comboni Centre welcomes Chiswick Churches for Justice and Peace for their regular meetings and is willing to welcome others with the same spirit.
The Comboni Centre, through the activities and opportunities offered to individuals and groups, is one of the many ways by which the Comboni Missionary Sisters express their mission in today's world. It was announced that Comboni Sister Gabriella Bottani was recently honoured as one of the US State Department's "heroes" in combatting human trafficking, and urging action to fight the situations that make people, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking.
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