CAFOD have developed the Livesimply award for Catholic communities – parishes, schools, religious orders and chaplaincies to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation in his encyclical Laudato Si’ to “work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us”. Successful completion of the programme leads to the Livesimply award, which is given to Catholic communities that can demonstrate that they have taken significant steps to respond to the Church’s call “to live simply so that others may simply live”. The key criteria are Living simply: Living in solidarity with people in poverty; and Living sustainably with creation.
In the context of Pope Francis’ encyclical, Bishop Terence has written: ‘Let us give particular support to CAFOD in its One Climate One World campaign, its support for refugees and in encouraging parishes to become Livesimply parishes’.With Monsignor Gerard’s approval, the Justice & Peace Group of St Mary’s Cathedral registered for the Livesimply programme in the autumn of 2017. Following CAFOD’s guidance and template, the Group devised a wide-ranging action plan that included inviting Rev David Cross to give a Parish talk on Laudato Si, displaying selected quotations from Laudato Si’ on the Justice and Peace noticeboard, organizing a family walk with refugees, encouraging parishioners to walk to Church, promoting Fair trade products, planting bulbs in the Cathedral’s peace garden, supporting a number of charitable causes both at home and abroad through the parish’s ‘Ten pence bowl’ and other fund-raising events, organizing food collections for the John Paul Centre, and encouraging volunteer work through promotion of the World Day of the Poor.
Some of the sections were on a large scale. For example, the family walk, which was followed by afternoon tea at the Cathedral, welcomed over seventy refugees.
Although organized by the Justice and Peace Group, the planned actions were successfully implemented only because of generous support from across the parish, as evidenced by the sum in excess of £29,000 that has to date been raised to help the Padre Pio Rehabilitation Centre at Ahotokurom to buy a bus to replace the existing old and unreliable one, which often breaks down and is so small and uncomfortable that children and leprosy patients often have to stand or sit on each other’s knees. The bus is essential as it is the only provision of transport for children and adults who attend the day centre, as well as many staff. Fund-raising for this project continues, as a total of £50,000 is required.
On 29 October 2018, Joe Burns and Trish Sand Bach, two CAFOD assessors from the Leeds Diocese, came to evaluate the implementation of the action plan, and granted the award to the Cathedral, which thereby became the first parish in the Middlesbrough Diocese to be designated a Livesimply parish.
All parishes are committed to their good works, so what are the advantages of taking part in a programme such as Livesimply? First, there is much to be said for drawing up a specific plan rather than working on an ad hoc basis. There is nothing like setting targets to provide the motivation to meet them! Second, the aims of Livesimply are wide-ranging and that can mean that the individuals involved can find it an enriching experience by being taken out of their comfort zone. Finally, so many parishes do such good charitable work, and Livesimply provides an opportunity to acknowledge formally what they do.
The award is, of course, not an end in itself, but rather a challenge to sustain and develop further how, as a parish,we can respond to the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged.