Called to Action: schools launch CST and community organising toolkit

On Tuesday 2 July, over 200 young people, teachers and school leaders from all over England and Wales gathered in the parish hall of The Church of the Holy Apostles, Pimlico to focus on ‘Community Organising’. The event was arranged by a team of teachers and chaplains who work in Catholic schools and are engaged with Citizens UK. The Brentwood schools taking part were St Bonaventure’s, The Palmer Catholic Academy, St Antony’s Primary and Grays Convent.

Andy Lewis, Deputy Headteacher at St Bonaventure’s, East London, said: “We gathered to celebrate the existing community organising work taking place in our schools, and inspire others to get involved through the launch of Called to Action, a new ‘Catholic Social Teaching and Community Organising toolkit for schools and colleges’.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols discussed his previous work with Citizens UK at the event. “I am pleased to see so many young people from our schools across England and Wales putting their faith into action and engaging with Catholic social teaching to serve the common good in their communities,” he said. He reminded everyone that “we are all on a journey guided by our faith, strengthened by hope, and led by our desire for charity and justice”. He offered his prayers and blessing for both Citizens UK’s organising work in Catholic schools and colleges and the new toolkit, and agreed to share it with Pope Francis on his next visit to Rome. It is hoped that a delegation may visit the Vatican to share this work in person.

Raymond Friel OBE (right), chief executive of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), referred to the upcoming year of jubilee and how schools can be ready to make pledges which link to their work with organising. He explained the connection between love and justice, and reminded everyone of Pope Benedict XVI’s call to have “a heart that sees”.

The chief executive of Catholic youth agency Million Minutes, Anita Motha, praised the “inspiring” campaigns that young people had been involved in. The agency’s vision is a world where young people take transformative social action, rooted in the principles of Catholic Social Teaching. “You are the living catalysts for change,” Anita told the more than 100 young people in the audience.

During the afternoon, schools and colleges featured in the toolkit shared some of their work, which involved living out the principles of Catholic Social Teaching through the model of community organising. Andy Lewis (right below) said, “It was a real coming together of so much great work – the achievements of these young people are incredible – securing the Living Wage at large companies, reduced bus fares for a whole region, ensuring greater funding for mental health support in schools. But it felt like just the beginning – we will now be working out next steps with the support of key Catholic organisations and with the blessing of Cardinal Nichols. We look forward, in great hope, to sharing and celebrating this work with the Holy Father in Rome.”

Young people from the Catholic schools involved confidently co-chaired the event and conducted a panel discussion with other young people engaged in community organising within Citizens UK chapters. One said: “Power can feel limited in this country, especially as we cannot vote, but when we work together we can be powerful.” Another commented: “With our energy as young people, there can be a tsunami of change.” One student pointed out that young people are ready to “demolish the divides of our society and rebuild stronger” and said that “every win is a win, big or small; persist, try, try, try and try again”.

Pictures from Citizens UK.

You can download a copy of Called to Action here: Join us as a school – Citizens UK