Chelmsford parishioners walk in solidarity with the world’s refugees

Last Saturday 33 parishioners (and a few dogs too!) from the Blessed Sacrament Church in Chelmsford walked in solidarity with refugees and migrants across the world by participating in a Share the Journey walk.

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All set to Share the Journey

The Share the Journey campaign aims to inspire people to walk 24,900 miles (the distance around the world) in solidarity with those who have been forced to flee their homes through war, persecution, natural disasters and poverty.

The walk was 1 mile around Melbourne Park so the 33 parishioners clocked up 33 miles which were added to CAFOD’s totaliser. At the time of writing an amazing 20,434 miles had already been walked by CAFOD supporters across the country.

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Eileen leading the walk with the Lampedusa Cross

CAFOD parish volunteers Eileen and Peter Webster, who organised the walk, thought the Share the Journey campaign was a great way of raising awareness of the plight of refugees. ‘It highlights the injustices that are suffered by so many people in their own countries. In preparation for September 2018 when world leaders meet in New York, it will remind those who govern, the extent to which we are all aware of the refugee situation and want something done to rectify it.

Listening to comments from participants on the significance of the walk, Eileen learned that:

  • there was also an renewed appetite to do something practical to help refugees and enthusiasm to support local initiatives such as Calais Light which helps refugees in Calais & Dunkirk by helping to cook hot meals
  • explaining the background to the Lampedusa cross and being able to carry one on the walk made the walk all the more significant.
  • reading the 5 refugee stories at various stages of the walk drew attention to firstly, the plight of various refugees and secondly, but more importantly, the ways in which CAFOD has been able to give these people hope and a fresh start in life.

“it will remind those who govern, the extent to which we are all aware of the refugee situation and want something done to rectify it”.

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Prayer and reflection on the stories of refugees across the world

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Learning how CAFOD is giving displaced people hope and a fresh start in life

At the end of the walk people signed petition cards to send to the Prime Minister appealing for her to work with other world leaders when they meet in September to ensure justice for migrants and refugees.

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Walkers signing petition cards

Share the Journey : the kindness of strangers

Last weekend CAFOD Brentwood’s Chris Driscoll caught up with Ann Milner on her way around the London LOOP as she walked through the Brentwood Diocese in support of the Share the Journey campaign. 

A CAFOD parish volunteer from Hertfordshire has been recounting her experience of travelling through the Brentwood Diocese after a 35 mile walk from Enfield Lock to Purfleet in support of the Share the Journey campaign.

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Ann, Alison and Ian set forth from Enfield Lock to Chingford

Ann Milner, from the parish of Our Lady & St Andrew in Hitchin, walked with parishioners and CAFOD supporters from inside and outside the diocese to complete the Brentwood leg of the London LOOP route in the sweltering heat on Sunday afternoon.

Travelling through Chingford, Chigwell, Havering-atte-Bower, Harold Hill, Upminster, Rainham and finally Purfleet, Ann met several interesting and welcoming people, all sharing the desire to express solidarity with those who have been displaced across the world.

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Ann sets off from Most Holy Redeemer in Harold Hill

I met Ann outside the Most Holy Redeemer Church in Harold Hill following her 11 mile walk from Chigwell. Having walked the LOOP twice before she knew what she was getting herself into. She had carefully planned the places on the route which could be ideal for ‘prayer stops’ or moments for the walkers to pray and reflect on the often perilous journeys that refugees are forced to undertake.

“the idea of ‘pilgrimage’ has greater significance in that it provides meaning, purpose and opportunities for personal transformation”.

I was interested to find out why she would consider undertaking such a huge challengeas this, especially given that she had told me that she wasn’t even that keen on walking! Ilearned that the idea of ‘pilgrimage’ has greater significance for her, that it provides meaning, purpose and opportunities for personal transformation. Reflecting on a walking holiday she took with her son, she feels that sharing the journey with others can be a great way to understand each other more deeply.

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Ann, Alison and Ian are welcomed by Fr Francis Coveney at Our Lady of Grace in Chingford

Among the many highlights was a stop at Our Lady of Grace & St Teresa of Avila Church in Chingford where the walkers learned were given a tour of the church and heard how the church building in fact owes its existence to the generosity of a refugee.

Ann picks up the story: ‘Fr Francis (Coveney) was very keen to point out the link between this CAFOD campaign and the origins of his church. When the German army marched into Belgium in 1914 it caused a significant number of refugees to flee to Britain. One such refugee was Claire Coemans who arrived with her father, a professor of Ghent University, and subsequently, she having done well in England, donated the money that enabled land to be bought and eventually the church at Chingford to be built. “.

“One such refugee was Claire Coemans who donated money that enabled land to be bought and eventually the church at Chingford to be built”.

Recollecting on her journey from Chigwell, Ann alluded to the serenity of God’s creation, “There was a very pleasant interlude though Hainault Forest Country Park consisting of open meadow, lovely sheltered wooded walks and a lake with a family of geese. There were also interesting wood sculptures to be seen, arranged in a circle as though for some ancient pagan ritual.

Ann also recalls a ‘guardian angel’ who put her on the right track again after she lost her way just outside Upminster:  “Just as I was deciding which way to go (there were no waymarkers and the instructions were a little ambiguous) God sent along a guardian angel to help me in the form of Jim who was walking his two dogs. We exchanged a couple of pleasantries and I mentioned I was walking the LOOP. “Oh” he said, “You want to come this way”. Jim was also kind enough to recommend a local hostelry which provided some much needed refreshment after walking for miles in the hot sun. The kindness of strangers.

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Walkers set off from St Joseph’s church in Upminster

The following day Ann set off on a 10 mile journey to Rainham and then onto to Purfleet with some new walking companions: members from Pax Christi and parish volunteers from St Joseph’s and Our Lady of La Salette. On another extremely hot and sunny day, the walkers ended enjoyed a picnic near Rainham marshes and then found some much needed relief from the sun with a prayer stop at Our Lady of Salette Church before finishing the Brentwood tour with a stop at the Anglican church of St Stephen’s in Purfleet.

As for Ann, she was back on her way again the following day when she crossed over the Thames and into the Southwark Diocese.

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Ann chooses to walk the road less travelled in solidarity with refugees who do not have the choice

 

What does a campaigner look like?

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Sam who has recently joined the Campaigns Team at CAFOD. lives in the Brentwood diocese and is a member of a Catholic parish in east London. Read below about her journey into campaigning and how she aims to engage members of her parish with the ‘Share the Journey’ campaign.

My name is Sam and I’m the new Campaigns Engagement Manager at  CAFOD. Campaigning has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I put this down to three main reasons: One – I’ve grown up in strongly Catholic campaigning environments. Two – I’m aware that campaigning is a right not everyone in this world has freely. Three –  I am committed to addressing this.

Actually, there’s a fourth reason.

There aren’t many campaigners I’ve encountered who look like me. As a British born, working class, black female with Ghanaian parentage, I’m not sure I fit the mould of ‘traditional campaigners’ in the UK.

Is that a problem? Yes, because it doesn’t reflect what really happens in our churches. It doesn’t really reflect the face of the church today. It neglects a large proportion of active Catholics with voices and with power.

My parish in East London for example, is mostly attended by people from diaspora communities – West Africa, East Africa, South Africa! India, Malaysia, The Philippines, Poland… Two of our priests are from India. Our main priest speaks his Homilies with a strong East Coast accent, a native of Boston in the US. You might attend a parish that is similar. With decreased vocations to the priesthood in Europe and rising mass numbers from international communities, it’s likely.

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Members of the Fairtrade tea team at St Thomas of Canterbury in South Woodford joined CAFOD’s recent ‘Don’t ditch Fairtrade’ campaign

Catholic communities of all kinds are committed to addressing issues that affect their communities. This is something to be celebrated and recognised.

Campaigning with CAFOD
I was drawn to working for CAFOD because I’ve grown up with CAFOD. I always felt I could be a part of their campaigns. I felt that my voice was also being called out for.

I have a lot of favourite CAFOD campaigns, but at the moment, I’m glued to Share the Journey. I can’t wait to see us wrack up the mileage on the totaliser. I’m inspired by the stories of solidarity and perseverance – of people completing walks in the UK and of refugees and migrants undertaking journeys of survival worldwide.

Put your faith into action
We know there is power in campaigning. We know that campaigning works. We might be shocked by how much power we actually have! Putting faith into action can be for everyone, no matter how little or how much time we have.

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Romford parishioners Geraldine and Mary at a march for refugees in London 

I pledge to put my faith into action by engaging with ‘non-traditional campaigners’ in my church. I am going to organise a Share the Journey walk with members of my church choir, 100% of whom are from, or descended from diaspora communities. We will keep it simple and just walk around our church, but this will add to our 24,900 mile goal.

Have you thought about how you can put your faith into action? Why not begin by signing up to receive our campaign e-newsletter?

Sign up now to campaign with CAFOD