Our Lady of the Rosary and St. Patrick’s Church, Walthamstow, a parish in the care of the Society of African Missions (SMA), has become the second parish in Brentwood Diocese and the 24th in England and Wales to attain the LiveSimply parish award. The awards were established to help parishes, schools and communities to live more simply, sustainably and live in solidarity with the poor.
Emerging from a climate justice awareness-raising initiative delivered by SMA Laity Coordinator Dympna Mallon in the parish in November 2015, an invitation was extended to parishioners to take responsibility as a community to care for creation and the poor of the earth. From that invitation a Faith in Action group was formed in March 2016. Encouraged by their parish priests, Frs John Browne SMA and Kevin Conway SMA, this highly motivated Faith in Action team piloted and coordinated the parish LiveSimply programme through the next 12 months.
To meet the criteria of the award, the parish community engaged in a number of different activities such as reducing pollution by walking and cycling to church, making parish property more energy efficient, eliminating the use of disposable cutlery, cups and plates and creating a vegetable patch. In addition, a number of initiatives with a focus on wider outreach were undertaken including a soup lunch in the hall linked to the local action Christian Kitchen, marking Homeless Sunday, and outreach projects for asylum seekers, refugees and underprivileged in Calais, Bethlehem and China.
The parish newsletter became instrumental in giving regular feedback on the activities of the Faith in Action group, explaining the importance of Creation Care and linking the action to parish liturgies as well as highlighting ways people could take action in their own homes.
The presentation of the LiveSimply plaque was made to Colm Gallagher, Chairperson of the Faith in Action group, Fr. Kevin Conway SMA and Dympna Mallon by Ellen Teague, on behalf of CAFOD/LiveSimply. Ms. Teague said: “I applaud the initiatives undertaken by the parish, recognising the concerted efforts made to engage parishioners in behavioural change through innovation and simple initiatives.“
Fr. Kevin Conway SMA congratulated the parishioners and encouraged the parish to continue to strengthen what has already been done and initiate new measures: “It is my hope that this great achievement will be a stepping stone to ongoing efforts by this parish to promote more harmonious relationships with the earth on which we depend and those with whom we share it.” In the future the parish hopes to get more involved in advocacy work on climate change, inspired by Pope’s Francis’ invitation in Laudato Si’ to “work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us”.
In a letter of congratulations to the parish, Bishop Alan Williams SM, Bishop of Brentwood, reiterated his hope “that both priests and people of the parish continue to be inspiring examples of the commitment to Living Simply, Living Sustainably and Living in Solidarity with People in Poverty”. Fr. Michael McCabe, Leader of the SMA Irish Province, also congratulated the Walthamstow Parish Community and urged them to continue to be witnesses to the “integral Christian spirituality” articulated by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’.
Following the presentation of the award at the 11.30 Mass, there was a celebratory Fair Trade tea on the lawn and the opportunity for parishioners to introduce themselves to the local MP Stella Creasy who joined the gathering and offered her congratulations.