Tag Archives: volunteer

31 December: And a Happy New year!

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I was very taken with this challenge outside one of the local charity shops.

Pope Francis is forever challenging us to ‘live to express’ the love of God for each human being and for all his creation.

So what is your New Year’s resolution? Apply within yourself to find a personal challenge, and give it a go! You might put a smile on your face – or someone else’s.

Happy New Year.

 

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6 July: U is for Upham

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I’d forgotten this alphabetical gazetteer of places around Britain till I turned over the drafts folder. There are fewer places beginning with U than you might expect. Uttoxeter? Horse racing and biscuits. I could tell a story about biscuits from forty years ago, but I’m going back further, to my schooldays, and the village of Upham, unofficially known to us at school as Upper Upham, to distinguish it from nearby Lower Upham.

Both villages are tucked away off main roads in rural Hampshire. As a teenager, I was sent to Upper Upham as a catechist to a young boy preparing for his First Holy Communion; I was following in the footsteps of other boys who had taught his sisters. We were given adult responsibility as teenagers. And I had an early taste of working one to one with children out of school, though this lad was simply receiving some of the religious education he would have been give had he been in a Catholic primary school. He was not a school drop out or throw out.

My lad did not live in the Brushmaker’s Arms, but we sometimes made our way in there. Smaller than this it was, as I recall it, all cool and dark inside, but it is good that it’s still open, and welcoming far more customers than 50 years ago. No doubt we’d have to show ID to get a glass of beer there if we were teenagers today.

Our Church seems as confused about young people as the rest of society. Children or adults? Capable of preparing younger children for the Sacraments? We don’t really trust them, yet catechists are needed and grandparents should not do it all, willing though they may be. Readers, ministers of the Eucharist? They won’t volunteer if they don’t think they fit the picture; and someone has to put them there.

It’s worth recalling that youngsters like Saint Pancras gave their lives for their faith; and for every young Roman man I know of there are many young women, Roman and British: Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Perpetua, Felicity get mentioned in the Roman Canon at Mass, they were considered that important in those days; Tydfil, Winifred, Eanswyth, Mildred among our more local heroines.

Do we think young people in Britain today can have a lively faith, evident in their lives? Just asking.

 

 

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June 8: Above a whisper

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The day after I published the post ‘After all the Shouting’, praising the work of the Samaritans’ listeners, I turned up at Canterbury West Station again. This time there were tables outside the door, and a group of Samaritans, my friend L’s colleagues. Sadly, the electric railway does attract those seeking to end their lives; it’s  a good spot to raise people’s awareness of the Samaritans’ services.

‘Thank you for sharing our work,’ I was told, when I told how I had posted about them here. The woman I spoke to gave me these cards, so feel free to share the telephone number – or whatever your country’s local equivalent might be.

‘And although we have seventy volunteers, we could always use more to maintain our 24 hour service, seven days a week. We can’t manage that at present.’

For myself, I’ve been drawn back into L’Arche  Kent, and could easily find myself involved there 24/7. There’s always something to be done, and a friend or two to do it with, as you’ll appreciate if you’ve followed our recent pilgrimage posts. But where do your gifts and inclinations lie?

Please pray for the Samaritans and for those who turn to them and other helplines in times of need and distress.

 

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11 December: Visitors to Isis Prison.

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Prison ministry can be demanding and discouraging. I remember Fr H telling me how the father of one of my pupils had at first been keen to speak with him, but kept out of H’s way when he returned to prison after being caught offending again. Drugs were a problem for him: and despite that discouraging incident, I think Fr H must have played some part in his rehab. When next I saw my pupil’s dad he was clean and looked 20 years younger.

Our friend Fr Valentine left us for prison chaplaincy. Wisely, he has recruited volunteers, including these university students, to bring a breath of fresh air into the place. On this occasion they spent an evening debating with the prisoners. Read about it here:

  • Where can you exercise a ministry of friendship?
  • Let us pray for all prisoners who will be inside at Christmas, especially those who will receive no messages, or very few, from outside. And let us pray for the prisoners’ families, as well as those affected by their crimes.

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A Message from the leader of the L’Arche Kent Community

Many of you know L’Arche is an international organisation and aims to spread the word about how valued people with learning disabilities are, and how important it is to work with people from all over the world. L’Arche has a core tradition of hospitality and welcome and we believe that having assistants from abroad that live within the community brings an important irreplaceable asset to our Community and to the lives of people with a learning disability.

For over 40 years, L’Arche Kent has welcomed  people from within and outside Europe as assistants on a temporary basis, adding to the richness and diversity of our Community.  Whilst nationally the proportion of international assistants  every year is small, there are seven from outside the EU in L’Arche Kent this year, and they remain a vital element of our Community. L’Arche is both a well-regarded service provider and peace-building network.  By enabling relationships between such a diverse body of people, we evidence the central importance of relationship in the building of understanding, trust and friendship between different human beings.

We are now facing a time when this tradition is being challenged and the future of these “live in assistants” is being threatened and we think you need to know about what is happening.

The benefits these people from abroad bring to us all are now under threat by a recent tightening of the regulations and a more strict interpretation of UKVI guidance which applies to the type of visa which international live-in applicants require to join L’Arche (a Tier 5 Temporary Charity Worker visa). These community assistants  are provided with board and lodging and subsistence; they provide friendship and sustain the life of the Community, whilst also providing care and support to members with learning disabilities. We have operated this way for over 40 years.

Our  assistants who are affected would have to leave prematurely and suddenly in September were our visa sponsorship licence to be revoked. This would cause distress to them and to our Community  and disrupt the support we provide.

These live in assistants, these community members from abroad that are willing to give us a year of their lives to help us, are not a strain on the resources of the UK or the UK taxpayer.  International live-in assistants  have no recourse to public funds. They are not eligible for welfare benefits, and they pay their own way via the Healthcare NHS surcharge, and other costs such as short breaks away during their year.  Any change in their status or whereabouts during the year is reported to UKVI by L’Arche.  Live-in assistants are not paid a salary; they receive free board and lodging and subsistence. L’Arche was awarded an exemption from the National Minimum Wage Act in 1999, in recognition of the Intentional Community nature of shared living, and in pursuit of a religious and spiritual objective (Section 44A of the Minimum Wage legislation).  Live-in assistants receive the same training as live-out assistants, plus additional input tailored to their specific community-building role.  They contribute to the support which Social Workers assess for each person with a learning disability – and add enormous value through the daily life they share living alongside people with learning disabilities.

Why is the UK Government changing our lives? 

Prior to the introduction of the Points Based System for visa awards in 2008, the Home Office guidance contained a concession for charities wishing to invite voluntary workers from outside Europe (chapter 17 section 9 of the Immigration directorate’s instructions in force at the time).  L’Arche was specifically named in Annex B to that section of the guidance, and our live-in assistant roles were described as falling within the concession.

With the introduction of the Points Based System, the guidance was rewritten, and the Annex containing the list of legitimate charities was deleted.  At the time, we understood we had clear agreement from UKVI that our continued Mission would fit with the criteria applied by the new Tier 5 visa rules. This proved to be the case for several years, and our view was affirmed by two inspections in 2012 and 2015.

However our commitment to International live-in assistants  is now jeopardised by the recent UKVI decision on 8/6/18 to suspend L’Arche’s licence to sponsor Tier 5 visas.  Although we have not changed the way we welcome international live-in assistants, these roles are now judged to fall outside the guidance. This decision partly rests on a tightening of the wording of the regulations in late 2015; it had previously been accepted that International live-in assistants were not taking up permanent roles, because they were dependent on a one-year visa. The new wording said that permanent roles could not be filled on a temporary basis, and our arrangements have been judged to fail this test. More generally, UKVI staff are implementing a stricter interpretation of the guidance than had been in place; arguing for example that our subsistence payments are too high, although we are confident that we are operating within our concession under the National Minimum Wage Act.

We have responded challenging these points, but if UKVI are not convinced by our arguments, they will revoke our licence and all of our International assistants will have to leave the country within 60 days. We fear that even should we mount a successful challenge this time, the questions will arise again. We are therefore asking for your help in lobbying the Minister to not revoke our licence, but instead to reinstate the explicit concession for L’Arche (and similar charities) within the guidance, so that our Communities can continue with the life-affirming mission in which we have been engaged for over 40 years.

We hope that you will share our concerns and contact your MP or visit them to help create awareness amongst our politicians as to how this change will affect the L’Arche Communities and the L’Arche Kent Community.

Yours

David Bex

Community Leader

L’Arche Kent

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17 June: News from L’Arche Kent.

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We have just received the latest newsletter from our friends at L’Arche Kent which they have asked us to share. Just click on the link below!

As you can see from this shot a few weeks ago, the Glebe garden is right in the city, thought now that the trees have greened up it is a good deal more private than in winter time. It looks as though Rupert and Mark are busy cutting the osiers (willow stems) for craft work. Where is everyone else?

2018 Spring Newsletter

MB

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June 23, Shared Table VI: Would You Give Him a Stone?

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John had a degree in chemistry and a job that used his skills and experience. His employers were sympathetic to the needs of their employees, and tried hard to accommodate John’s mental ill-health but they parted company when he became unable to do his work and was in a mental hospital under a section.

Around this time John visited and told us he blamed his plight on past drug misuse that had permanently affected the way his brain worked.

His face  comes to mind when I am approached by beggars or homeless people: would giving them money be giving bread or a stone? (Matthew 7:9) Another question: would I give my son money in the near-certain knowledge that it would be spent on mind-altering drugs? (Thank God he has more sense.) But at least I can trust ‘Catching Lives’ to use my donations to provide nourishment, support and shelter.

 

 

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1 April: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: VII – the Human and Christian Vocation.

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Dear BBB,

I’m sure you’ll feel your questions have not been answered this week. Do the crowds on the street, as here in Warsaw, no longer believe? Is the faith dying? Are we looking in or looking out? I was wondering if the Synod preparation document would acknowledge the vast majority of us who are not priests or nuns or ‘official’ Catholics, but trying to live our lives with God.

Well, it does. And it encourages us to look out.

Many Catholic teachers are involved as witnesses in universities and schools in every grade and level. Many are also ardently and competently involved in the workplace. Still other believers are engaged in civil life, attempting to be the leaven for a more just society. Many engaged in volunteer work in society devote their time for the common good and the care of creation. A great many are enthusiastically and generously involved in free-time activities and sports. All of these people bear witness to the human and Christian vocation which is accepted and lived with faithfulness and dedication, arousing in those who see them a desire to do likewise. Consequently, responding generously to one’s proper vocation is the primary way of performing pastoral vocational work.

We must also acknowledge that other people bear witness to the human vocation with faithfulness and dedication. This afternoon I met a group of volunteers clearing rubbish from a path. One is a professed atheist, two never darken the doors of a church, the fourth represents a political party I could never vote for.

And there entered a thought into them, which of them should be greater. But Jesus seeing the thoughts of their heart, took a child and set him by him, And said to them: Whosoever shall receive this child in my name, receiveth me; and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth him that sent me. For he that is the lesser among you all, he is the greater.

And John, answering, said: Master, we saw a certain man casting out devils in thy name, and we forbade him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said to him: Forbid him not; for he that is not against you, is for you.

Luke 9:46-50

We are not greater than others because we call ourselves Christian but we have to take care of how we witness the Gospel in our lives. Preaching in the workplace is likely to be a breach of contract as well as annoying and counter-productive, but hiding our Christian faith is not necessary for survival, as it was not so long ago in much of Europe.

If our pastors are not inspiring us to call others to Christ through living our own vocation, through devoting time to the common good and the (Franciscan)  care of creation, they are letting us down and emptying the pews. Without vision the people perish.

Vision is for the whole people, not just for me or you who may have received it. We hope some of what we share in Agnellus’ Mirror reflects a true Christian vision. And we are not afraid, deep down, of what changes the future may bring to God’s church.

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This is my Son, Listen to him.

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25 September: Mercy is salt and light in Christian Life – Pope Francis.

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There follows an extract from Pope Francis’s homily at the Canonisation of Mother Teresa, 4 September 2016.

We heard in the Gospel: “Large crowds were travelling with Jesus” (Luke 14:25). Today, this “large crowd” is seen in the great number of volunteers who have come together for the Jubilee of Mercy. You are that crowd who follows the Master and who makes visible his concrete love for each person. I repeat to you the words of the Apostle Paul: “I have indeed received much joy and comfort from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (Philemon 1:7). How many hearts have been comforted by volunteers! How many hands they have held; how many tears they have wiped away; how much love has been poured out in hidden, humble and selfless service! This praiseworthy service gives voice to the faith and expresses the mercy of the Father, who draws near to those in need.

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Following Jesus is a serious task, and, at the same time, one filled with joy; it takes a certain daring and courage to recognise the divine Master in the poorest of the poor and to give oneself in their service. In order to do so, volunteers, who out of love of Jesus serve the poor and the needy, do not expect any thanks or recompense; rather they renounce all this because they have discovered true love. Just as the Lord has come to meet me and has stooped down to my level in my hour of need, so too do I go to meet him, bending low before those who have lost faith or who live as though God did not exist, before young people without values or ideals, before families in crisis, before the ill and the imprisoned, before refugees and immigrants, before the weak and defenceless in body and spirit, before abandoned children, before the elderly who are on their own. Wherever someone is reaching out, asking for a helping hand in order to get up, this is where our presence – and the presence of the Church which sustains and offers hope – must be.

Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available for everyone through her welcome and defence of human life, those unborn and those abandoned and discarded. She was committed to defending life, ceaselessly proclaiming that “the unborn are the weakest, the smallest, the most vulnerable”. She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity; she made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created. For Mother Teresa, mercy was the “salt” which gave flavour to her work, it was the “light” which shone in the darkness of the many who no longer had tears to shed for their poverty and suffering.

mercy.carving. (328x640)Her mission to the urban and existential peripheries remains for us today an eloquent witness to God’s closeness to the poorest of the poor. Today, I pass on this emblematic figure of womanhood and of consecrated life to the whole world of volunteers: may she be your model of holiness! May this tireless worker of mercy help us to increasingly understand that our only criterion for action is gratuitous love, free from every ideology and all obligations, offered freely to everyone without distinction of language, culture, race or religion. Mother Teresa loved to say, “Perhaps I don’t speak their language, but I can smile”. Let us carry her smile in our hearts and give it to those whom we meet along our journey, especially those who suffer. In this way, we will open up opportunities of joy and hope for our many brothers and sisters who are discouraged and who stand in need of understanding and tenderness.

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