Mission to me has always been about empowering and enabling. After working in Nigeria as a lay missionary in the early 1980s and becoming aware of issues of justice and ecology, I returned to Britain to work for CAFOD’s development education campaign. This adult education programme and its training events were supported by the Columbans, particularly Ed O’Connell, Mike Kelly and Sean McDonagh. I always remember a sung prayer in Spanish which Mike translated into English – it was a prayer that we “may never become indifferent” to suffering, oppression and structural injustice. Groups around the country in the National Justice and Peace Network used the pastoral cycle to dedicate themselves to advocacy for justice and peace, living simpler lifestyles, bringing issues into the Liturgy, and educating others.
Columban Justice, Peace and Ecology has been about raising awareness, and as a member of this team i have helped to produce study materials, particularly focusing on the themes of Laudato Si’, and understanding the destruction of the environment as destroying God’s creation. Our team has changed over the years – I particularly work now alongside Fr. Peter Hughes and James Trewby – but Columbans have responded to any invitation to work with Church groups and provide resource personnel and materials. My particular work has been to with adult education groups and over the past 18 months I have spoken at a number of webinars on the Columban priority areas of Migration, Environmental Justice, Economic Justice and Peace. I have given Zoom and face to face talks in recent months in Macclesfield, Coventry, Tyneside and Hanwell Parish in West London.
I am an assessor for CAFOD’s Live Simply programme for parishes and schools. Columbans have been a witness at Pax Christi events protesting arms trading and nuclear weapons, and learning about techniques for nonviolence. In July 2021 our team attended the annual conference of the National Justice and Peace Network, alongside 200 others, which took the theme, ‘2021: Moment of Truth – Action for Life on Earth’. In November, I will be part of a Columban team at the COP26 UN Climate Summit in Glasgow, lobbying for serious action to reduce carbon emissions and providing more money to countries facing the worst impacts already.
Vocation for Justice has now passed its 30th anniversary and I applaud the Columbans for keeping up this Justice, Peace and Ecology newsletter. Campaigns to support the vulnerable and live a more sustainable lifestyle go alongside information about Columban mission to “hear the cry of the poor and of the Earth”. Today, we engage with more than 7,000 readers – the empowering and enabling continues.
World Mission Sunday is the one day in the year when the entire global Church comes together in support of mission. This year’s theme is: ‘We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20). In his message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis explains how ‘Once we experience the power of God’s love we cannot help but proclaim and share what we have seen and heard. Jesus’ relationship with his disciples and his humanity shows us the extent to which God loves our humanity and makes his own our joys and sufferings, our hopes and our concerns’.