On Sunday 18 November, the Second World Day of the Poor, Bishop Alan launched Caritas Diocese of Brentwood, a network which draws together and supports organisations and groups involved in social justice, peace and charitable action across Essex and East London.
He says: “Pope Francis’ words from this day last year continue to inspire us: ‘Blessed are the open hands that embrace the poor and help them: they are hands that bring hope. Blessed are the hands that reach beyond every barrier of culture, religion and nationality, and pour the balm of consolation over the wounds of humanity. Blessed are the open hands that ask nothing in exchange, with no “ifs” or “buts” or “maybes”: they are hands that call down God’s blessing upon their brothers and sisters.'”
The Caritas project is part of the Vision for Renewal in the Diocese and is being facilitated by Fr Dominic Howarth and Steven Webb, Director of Development for the diocese. Since January people from across the diocese have been helping to shape the project. There have been three meetings with a wide range of parish-based, diocesan and national groups and a formal affiliation to a national body, CSAN (Catholic Social Action Network).
Says Fr Dominic: “The word caritas means charity, in the fullest sense of Christian love, and our Diocesan Caritas exists to support and encourage everyone who is working to put Christ’s love into action by supporting the ill, the poor and the marginalised. We have launched a new website (www.caritasbrentwood.org) and this is a great tool for people who want to be volunteers. Type in where you live and the kind of project where you would like to offer help, and the website will show you these projects in your area. Our Caritas is part of a national and international network, and once a year will bring together as many people as possible who are volunteering in the Diocese for a day of networking, sharing good practice, training and celebrating success.”
He continues: “We decided that an initiative that would span many aspects of our work would be to promote the Real Living Wage. On 1st November the Diocese of Brentwood was accredited by the Living Wage Foundation as a Living Wage Employer; the Living Wage is higher than the National Minimum Wage, and set at a level which lifts people out of poverty. If you are an employer, or can influence your company, please look into the Living Wage (www.livingwage.org.uk). Right now, there are many families in Essex and East London where both adults work, but the family still relies on benefits and even food banks because wage rates are so low. Receiving the Living Wage transforms lives and ends the misery of struggling on the breadline.”
Bishop Alan says, “I am delighted to endorse the Living Wage, and I am launching Caritas Diocese of Brentwood today full of hope about the difference it will make to all our work for social justice, in the name of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis asks us to ‘go to the edges’ and Caritas is full of projects which do just that. I encourage every parishioner to look at the website and to get involved in any way that they can.”
Read the full Message to launch Caritas Diocese of Brentwood