On Sunday, 23rd April, a group of Columban missionaries attended the Mass of Blessing of Tabor Living Project at St Catherine’s of Siena in Birmingham. The Mass was presided by Archbishop Bernard Longley, who in his welcoming words, included a word of appreciation to the Columbans, lay and ordained, for their contributions to the Parish in the past, and to the church in Birmingham today. There were representatives from Father Hudson’s Care, the charity in charge of social outreach in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. They are also in partnership with the Columbans delivering Fatima House. There were also representatives and staff from Tabor Living, people from the community and other parishes and organisations. The church was packed, and the music was multicultural and vibrant.
Tabor House Living is a project which serves the needs of homeless people in the city. The project, in partnership with other organisations and generous funders, refurbished the presbytery and converted it into 9 rooms for homeless people who have moved off the streets. There are additional 10 rooms, the move-on rooms, and lots of space for relaxation and dining, as well as meeting rooms and offices.
Teresa, a Columban lay missionary, who volunteers at Tabor Living said, “I am delighted to see the presbytery being converted into a shelter for those who experience homelessness.” She also said, “The occasion was a reminder that Pope Francis invites all people of faith ‘to be a welcoming church, which reaches out to those in need’”.
Columbans served at St. Catherine’s for six years from 2005. During that time, former Columban lay missionary Mauricio Silva, together with fathers Ray Collier and Jim Fleming ran a hospitality scheme for refugee men. Mauricio said, ‘During the mass I was reflecting on how wonderful it was to see a former beneficiary of that scheme, who has now rebuilt his life, settled in the community, and was actively volunteering in this parish. Fr. Ray Collier, who lived at St. Catherine’s said, “Today at St Catherine’s, we were given a tangible sign, that the challenging prophetic voice of those living on the edges and margins of power are being listened to and are having their human rights responded to. They are the witnesses of God present among us in a world of poverty and exclusion.” That’s the difference that the church’s outreach can make in vulnerable people’s lives. It was heart warming to see that today this Parish continues to reach out to those on the margins of society.
Fr. Michael White, who heads Caritas in the Archdiocese, spoke at the end of the service stating, “There is no authentic preaching of the Gospel without putting it into action, as Popes Benedict XVI and Francis have said”. We wish Tabor Living and the parish of St Catherine’s of Siena every blessing in their service to the homeless in the city.