CAFOD in Brentwood’s Campaign Volunteer Coordinator, Angela Sparke, shares her reflections after our joint Faith in Action day with volunteers from the East Anglia Diocese at Clare Priory on 17th November.
A group of 24 people involved in campaigning with CAFOD, joined together on 16th November, in the beautiful surroundings of Clare Priory, to explore the theme of ‘Love is Civic and Political -Our Faith and the Common Good’. The day was led by Sarah Croft, from CAFOD’s campaigns team, and during the day, Sarah engaged participants in a number of thought- provoking activities.
Following an opening reflection and short liturgy, we were presented with a selection of values, and an interesting discussion followed as we each selected the ten values that we felt had most to contribute in endorsing the common good for society.
We then looked at the Bishop’s Conference document entitled ‘The Common Good’, and tried to link this with the key values we had just selected. Although written in 1996, a number of key themes quickly resonated with relation to the current political climate, for example the ‘willingness to see others as another self, and so regard injustices committed against another as no less serious than an injustice against oneself’. Many themes from the document were referred to throughout the day, and underpinned most discussions that took place.
A period of personal reflection followed, with the opportunity to read and evaluate two articles. The first, written by Dawn Foster for the Tablet, promoted a discussion focussed on how open we are about our faith, compared with our politics, and we shared our experiences of linking political views with our faith, and how this is received by others.
Tim Stanley, writing in the Guardian, stated that we should ‘engage with politics with no compromise’, and the groups discussed how easy this approach is to follow when campaigning, and engaging in dialogue with people holding very different views.
Lunch followed, and many people took the opportunity to explore the peaceful environment of the Priory, as well as finding out more about each other, and sharing experiences of campaigning.
After lunch, Sarah presented us with the experiences of five campaigners, from a variety of background, and ages. We heard about Leila Bousbaa, who took part in CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme, Cardinal Manning, who was instrumental in settling the London dock strike of 1889, and Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper in 1933.
We also discussed the work of Mother Cabrini, an Italian-American Roman Catholic nun, who was a major support to Italian immigrants to the United States, and Phil Kingston, an octogenarian parishioner of Holy Family Catholic Church in Bristol and a member of Christian Climate Action. Phil has been arrested multiple times for non violent direct action, such as blocking the road outside the Palace of Westminster.
A practical session followed, discussing and sharing strategies to campaign effectively in a number of different ways, including how best to construct a letter to our local MP.
The day finished with a closing liturgy, and a return to the reflection on the link between our faith, and the Common Good.
We left with a sense of renewed affirmation in our role as campaigners, and our place in the vision outlined by Pope Francis in 2015, in his encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ that no one should be excluded from the gifts of creation.