Our Hallam Pastoral Centre has often been the venue for many significant gatherings but surely none more significant or inspirational than on Saturday, 28 September, the 105th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. A participant describes the day.
Thanks to Sue Tym and Stuart Hanlon of our own Caritas Hallam, friends from around the diocese gathered to consider our response to migrants and refugees amongst us and those beyond our shores. We experienced a most inspirational, moving and hugely challenging day!
The key note speaker was Sean Ryan MBE, Caritas National Coordinator for Community Sponsorship of Refugees. Sean, a parishioner at St Monica’s parish in Salford Diocese, had led the parish team who welcomed the first Syrian family to be resettled in the UK by a parish under the Government’s Community Sponsorship scheme.
Sean shared details of this superb scheme which allows Catholic parishes and community groups to welcome, house and support refugee families looking to rebuild their lives in the UK. “This ground breaking scheme allows us to answer the call of Pope Francis to welcome refugees as friends, neighbours and valued members of our communities. Over 190 refugees have now been supported by this scheme with over a third of this number to Catholic parishes. We have immense experience, excellent relationships with the Home Office Team and will be delighted to help you here in Hallam.”
Sean was followed by a series of short uplifting and inspiring presentations beginning with Lilian Hollidge’s account of her two visits as a volunteer to the vast Moria Refugee Centre on Lesbos Island Greece, ‘home’ for some of the most vulnerable refugees in Europe. Lilian spoke from the heart with tales of this camp built for 2,000 which now houses over 12,000 refugees! 450 new arrivals had to be turned away just last week.
Lilian’s harrowing yet hopeful tale was followed by Anne Peacey, who strongly argued the need for prophetic Justice and Peace groups co-existing with Caritas in all dioceses. Angela Powell, our Diocesan CAFOD Coordinator spoke powerfully of the way CAFOD and CSAN (Caritas Social Action Network) were committed to collaborating and working together to have the greatest impact possible to serve the poor and promote charity and justice throughout the world.
Mike Baldwin, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Assumption, Stainforth, along with Lilian, painted an exciting picture of a typical session of the Doncaster Conversation Club. Here several hundred asylum seekers and refugees are welcomed and supported in the most incredible ways. Using only words, we were presented with a kaleidoscopic vision of the Club and the amazing support it gives to some of the most vulnerable human beings in South Yorkshire.
The inspirational tales and images rolled on as Mike Murphy, Trustee of the diocese, directed us in the need for a clear understanding of the huge number and amazing range and quality of social action projects currently taking place across the diocese. All present acknowledged the value of his work in creating a directory of this provision, one which could be electronically easily accessible enabling cross parish and cross agency collaboration; meeting the needs of the vulnerable in our midst. This huge project will hopefully be completed and launched in time for the 40th anniversary of our diocese.
Our morning was completed by Sean Ryan returning to front a most powerful, evocative and moving video, creating the haunting sound of his recorder reflecting the disturbing images. But hope shines eternal as the tragic scenes of struggling refugees slowly transitioned to show images of happy refugee families welcomed, protected, affirmed and integrated into parish communities around the country. Sean delighted those gathered as the recorder was changed for a tambourine and his voice sang out with joy and praise!
In thanking Sean and all present for such an important morning Bishop Ralph encouraged each of us to continue to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable within our communities in cooperation, in collaboration and in prayer. His final words summed up our morning so well: “Continue to Do it; Continue to Pray it; Continue to Live it”.