The Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission Day on Pope Francis’ World Day for the Poor was a great success, reports Dominik Kocbuch, Newsletter Editor on the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission.
There was no doubting that the year was moving on and the seasons changing as visitors made their way to reach the Blessed Trinity Church in Wickersley, Rotherham. It is here that the Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission hosted its annual conference which focused on poverty and especially on the Holy Father’s first World Day for the Poor, which took place on 19 November, 2017.
The day began at 10am, with refreshments and registration. The ominous and overcast skies outside were a stark contrast to the warmth and joviality of the parish hall in Blessed Trinity, where seats very soon filled up. The clattering of teacups and shuffling of chairs made for a pleasant hubbub, as conversations soon subsided for Helen Donlan, the chair of the Commission, to open proceedings and welcome the thirty visitors present (pictured left, photograph: Tony Singleton).
She introduced the conference and read out the letter from Bishop Ralph who, unfortunately, was unable to attend in person. The bishop’s letter highlighted and encouraged a true “encounter” with the poor rather than a passing “appeasement of conscience”; the bishop drew on the papal letter which announced the World Day for the Poor.
After the letter was read out and everyone welcomed, Helen gave way to Greg Ryan, who invited the assembly to reflect upon a couple of very fundamental questions, one of them relating to how we waste one of our most precious commodities, namely time. Answers ranged from puzzles and reading the news to gazing at trams and making lists. The exercise allowed those present to see that very often, “poverty” could take several forms and sharing in “wealth” could be as simple as giving someone a bit of our time.
Input was also provided by the Commission’s Tony Singleton, who shared his fascinating experiences during a research trip to Bangladesh in 1998, and Anne Peacey, who provided the audience with an in-depth consideration of “the poor” and “poverty”. The former exposed the horrendous conditions which face workers in Bangladesh – a plight tackled head-on by Catholic social teaching as early as 1891 when Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum was penned. Anne’s presentation exposed the damaging effects of labelling and the dehumanising quality of the temptation to organise, order and categorise people according to labels which actually tell us very little about the intricacies of the human person.
Offering a fresh insight on Pope Francis’ works – Laudato Si and Evangelii Gaudium, was Sheena Field, who opened up discussion on the key concepts in papal teaching enshrined in Laudato Si, namely the interconnection of caring for nature, providing justice for the poor, committing to improving society and resultantly, achieving internal peace.
The Day concluded with a commitment for participants to return to parishes with a fresh will to revisit their local Covenants with the Poor, taking into consideration the challenges and changes that came about since the century began.
Following a brief liturgy, the day ended. Everyone departed with the desire to act upon the urgent need to not only recognise but also approach poverty, in whatever form it might take, in our parishes, communities and families.