From the first page of the Bible right through to Pope Francis, human beings are called to be “Stewards of Creation.” In 2015 Pope Francis wrote an Encyclical – a letter to the world – called “Laudato Si’.” This means “Praise be to God” and it is the first line of a prayer of St Francis of Assisi, the Canticle of Creation, where he names the sun as “brother” and the earth as “sister.” All of creation is Divine, all of creation is inter-related.
Listen and respond, says Pope Francis, to “the cry of the earth, the cry of the poor.” You can read or download the full letter here – it is well worth taking time with it.
On 2nd/3rd October 2021 a Diocesan-wide launch of Laudato Si’ Invitations, Commitments and Actions took place, with a Pastoral Letter from Bishop Alan, and a major set of resources to accompany significant commitments by the Diocese. Every Catholic in the Diocese was invited to make three personal lifestyle changes to care more deeply for the planet – God’s creation – and the poorest people living on it. Discover wonderful resources, Bishop Alan’s letter, and the full Diocesan document here.
One of the first things that happened – with the help of our gardener, Jayne, and the 6th Romford cubs and scouts – was the digging and planting of a beautiful heart-shaped flowerbed in front of the parish centre. From January 2021 we had large wooden “hearts of hope” which people added to throughout Lockdowns, in different ways. The natural move to a flowerbed later in 2021 gives us a permanent focus on the love and care shown throughout the pandemic, as well as a wonderful haven for bees and butterflies.
We have also let half of the presbytery garden go wild, to help sustain wildlife and biodiversity.
We have a long-established (from autumn 2020) Food Bank Donation Point within the church, taking donations every week to S.M.I.L.E. and local food banks, to support families in need. For more information about Food Banks, hunger and poverty in the UK, go to the Trussell Trust website: https://www.trusselltrust.org/
In summer 2021 we installed cycle racks in front of the church, and encouraged people to cycle and walk to church, rather than driving, if at all possible.
During 2022 we continued to keep the “Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor” at the forefront of parish life. This included developing ever greater links with S.M.I.L.E. (https://www.smilelondonessex.com/) – the local charity supporting hundreds of families in Havering and beyond.
During 2023 we began the formal process of applying for the Cafod LiveSimply Award – more details at https://cafod.org.uk/Campaign/Livesimply-award. We have passed the first stage of the accreditation process and a dedicated group of parishioners are working on the next steps – including meeting our local MP, and evaluating many different parts of parish life, and how we use resources.
Also during 2023,within the major parish building works, there has been great attentiveness to the environment; solar panels are fitted to the roof of the parish centre, which is immensely well insulated and uses air source heat pumps. In addition close to the church entrance there will be improved, covered cycle racks, again to encourage cycling. The whole site will be step-free, to benefit those who have limited mobility, ensuring welcoming access for all.
To Live Simply includes actions that we can all do – small changes, that gradually make a big difference:
- Pray grace before eating any food or drink, as a reminder that it is all a gift from God
- Take a water bottle when you go out, to avoid buying a single use plastic bottle – saving money, and helping to save precious resources
- Turn the tap off while you are brushing your teeth / shaving – save water
- We welcome suggestions – simple, practical, and cost-free – and will feature them in the newsletter.
We are already accredited (since October 2020) as a Fair Trade Parish, committed to using Fair Trade products (tea, coffee, sugar, juice, biscuits and wine) for parish refreshments and socials. We also use Fair Trade wine for Communion. The Fair Trade mark is a quality assurance, ensuring the people producing the goods get a fair wage, and work in decent conditions. More details at https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/
We will continue to do all we can to “listen and respond to the cry of the earth, the cry of the poor” as part of what it means to live our faith, and serve our community. We will also use ideas from the Diocese of Brentwood Laudato Si’ Invitations, Commitments and Actions to continue to develop this vital part of parish life.