Two weeks in the life of our Justice, Peace and Ecology Co-ordinator

Our Justice, Peace and Ecology Co-ordinator James Trewby is here there and everywhere leading workshops and retreat days, attending marches and prayer vigils. He provides a snapshot of his work and what it this that makes him love his job so much!

I often say I have the best job in the world, as I’m paid to do what I think I’m called to do. My role for the Columbans sits in the intersection between organiser, educator and activist, filled with chances for me to learn and be inspired, and to hear and respond creatively to God’s call in the ‘signs of the times’. I enjoy people, and this job involves working with all ages, from 4-year olds to 80-somethings. I believe passionately in expanding people’s ‘repertoires of action’, in the call from Catholic Social Teaching for us to go ‘beyond charity’, to, for example, encounter, participation and work for justice. I see our collective failure to respond adequately to the commands to care for creation and welcome the stranger as being the greatest shames of our era – and am encouraged by the Columbans’ commitments in these areas. I appreciate all the invitation and accompaniment that has brought me to this point in my vocation, and my work allows me to offer this to others in turn. As I stop to reflect on the last couple of weeks, I look back in gratitude …

Saturday 8th June: Church of Sanctuary Conference, Birmingham

I presented a workshop with a colleague from Restore. The keynote speakers were thought-provoking and encouraging. Particularly challenged by Prof. Robert Beckford’s comment that there are not enough hymns about welcoming refugees, and by Dr. Jayme Reaves reminding us of the need for prophetic responsibility. It was wonderful to stop and reflect on why we, the Columbans, do what we do in the area of ‘Welcoming the Stranger’.

Sunday 9th June: Day off!

Monday 10th June: Prep day

Tuesday 11th June: Confirmation Retreat at St. Columbans and City of Sanctuary event, Birmingham

I led a day retreat for confirmation candidates from St. Augustine’s primary school, including an activity looking for the ‘signs of the times’ in the news and a beautiful mass celebrated by Fr. Bernie, our Vice-Director in Britain.

In the evening, I attended an excellent public meeting about the legislation passed by this government over the last few years concerning refugees and asylum seekers.

Wednesday 12th June: A 6th form retreat – Catholic Social Teaching and the election, Our Lady’s Catholic College, Lancaster

I was able to make good use of our election-themed edition of Vocation for Justice! I was able to help young adults look at political manifestos and pledges through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching.

Thursday 13th June: Care for Creation Day of Action, Corpus Christi Primary

Following a twilight training for all staff a couple of weeks ago, I led a day of action for the whole school. Every class explored the issues through see-judge-act. What a day! I facilitated the year 6s meeting Marj Engcoy, a Columban colleague in the Philippines which went  very well – but the unquestionable highlight of the day was a performance of a re-written Taylor Swift song – ‘Shake it off’ which became ‘Save our world’!

After this, I joined a Zoom training session with A Rocha, as we prepare to join their ‘Partners in Action’ rewilding programme. During this call we discussed the Big Butterfly Count, which we’ll be doing with the 7 schools who will be visiting the gardens at St. Columbans for eco-retreats during July.

Friday 14th June: Welcoming the Stranger-themed day for Year 10s, St. Mary’s Chesterfield

My voice was a little croaky following all the chatting from the previous day! Hannah, this year’s wonderful Columban Faith in Action Volunteer, stepped up and led the main sessions. Engaged and thoughtful young people give me hope.

Saturday 15th June: Refugee Week march and events, Birmingham

I attended a very soggy walk of solidarity, carrying a banner made by students at St. Dunstan’s school. I watched performances, including from our friends at ‘Stories of Hope and Home’ – a charity I’m proud to support as a trustee as part of my work.

Sunday 16th June: Fathers’ Day – especially poignant during refugee week. Day off!

Monday 17th June: Refugee Prayer Vigil outside the Home Office, London
Hannah led a school group from St. George’s School in Maida Vale. We took part in the monthly vigil, and were joined by 3 other members of the Columban Justice, Peace and Ecology Team to remember those who have died seeking safety in Europe. One banner held by a Religious Sister stays with me – ‘1 person dying in the sea is an accident, 1000s is foreign policy’.

Tuesday 18th June: St. Mary’s Seminary, Oscott

I planted seeds for a dream for the future – a collaborative Laudato Si’-themed education programme for the Archdiocese, making use of the beautiful grounds at the seminary and St. Columbans.

Wednesday 19th June: Refugee week workshops, Our Lady’s Catholic High School, Preston

I ran workshops for lovely young people today! This included making greetings cards for people seeking safety in Britain. This school is a ‘School of Sanctuary’, witnessing to Catholic Social Teaching in action.

Thursday 20th June: Newman Day at Newman College, Preston

Today I ran election-themed workshops for 17 and 18 year old students. It was interesting to hear their priorities for the next government. Issues related to mental health, the climate, university fees and peace all came up multiple times.

Friday 21st June – Off sick

I was supposed to have been interviewing candidates for next year’s Columban Faith in Action Volunteer Programme today. Happily, Hannah and Mauricio, our Inter Religious Dialogue Co-ordinator, were able to go ahead without me. This formation programme has been such a blessing. So far we’ve had the privilege of accompanying 8 young adults as they explore the relationship between faith and action.

Saturday 22nd June: Restore Nature Now service and march, London

Our group of 10 ‘Columbans and friends’ joined over 60, 000 others to stand up for nature, calling on leaders to do the same. It was incredible to see the range of organisations taking part, from across the political spectrum.

All the above gives a taste of the Columban’s commitment to Justice, Peace and Ecology in Britain. Partnership is ‘our way of being on mission’ (2012 Columban General Assembly) so we’d be happy to hear from schools, parishes and others that are interested in exploring working together. Please email me at

Interested in finding out more about our JPE priorities?

Explore the Justice, Peace and Ecology pages on our website.

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