Our new Director of Caritas Brentwood talks about her ‘passion for social action’

Fr Dominic Howarth has written to parishes to announce that the Diocese has appointed Siân Thomas-Cullinan as the first Director of Caritas Diocese of Brentwood.

He says: “Our work in serving the poorest in our communities is a vital part of our Catholic life and mission, and is ever more urgent in the Diocese.”

“Siân was appointed as Caritas Co-ordinator in January 2021, and you have seen the fruits of her work over the last two years with Advent and Lent resources, support for parishioners housing Ukrainian refugees, work on Laudato Si’, and much else besides.”

Prior to her 2021 appointment Siân worked for the De La Salle brothers, in their youth retreat house at St Cassian’s, Kintbury, and until the end of 2022 she continued volunteering at a global level, bringing young Lasallians together from across the world, including formation of teachers and those working within the Lasallian network. In 2022 Siân became co-chair of the national Environmental Leads network for England and Wales.

Siân herself says: “Over the last two years my role as coordinator has adapted and a clear pathway has been formed in the diocese as to what the needs are and how the role of Caritas Brentwood would be implemented. This is a positive step forward in terms of the social action and justice work of Caritas.”

She adds: “I feel very privileged to be directing Caritas Brentwood and proud to be doing the work I’m doing. My own passion and enthusiasm for social action will help me with the role. Basically, I am a bridge between those in need and charities within the diocese.” This includes working with food banks and looking at the needs of the homeless across Essex and East London, for example, and appealing for volunteers to help Calais Light in its work with refugees in North Essex. “I have also been working with BCYS to organise a sponsored sleepout for young people to raise funds and awareness of the plight of the homeless. And we are considering how the work of the SVP Centre in Southend with refugees and homeless people could be replicated elsewhere.”

Siân is currently doing a lot of work nationally as well, on the environment and refugees and how that can be implemented across the diocese at a local level.

Fr Dominic concludes: “Siân’s promotion to Director is a sign not only of her gifts and talents, but also reflects the priority within the Diocese of this essential aspect of our mission. On 10 June  there will be a Caritas networking day, full of inspiration, and a chance for those who volunteer in your parish to meet others engaged in similar projects, to share ideas, contacts and hope. ”

If there is a group within your parish (or parish partnership) that is seeking inspiration and ideas about charitable work, or has a good news story to share, please email Siân on [email protected]

Listen to Siân on BBC Essex