During Refugee Week (20-26 June), St Wilfrid’s parishioners in Preston honoured refugees by writing messages of hope.
Handmade crosses carved by an Italian carpenter from the driftwood of capsized refugee boats are being shared with Catholic communities in Lancaster diocese through CAFOD.
The Lampedusa crosses will now act as a symbol for communities in England and Wales as they respond to the refugee crisis.
The Refugee and Migrant Week service was a collaborative effort between various groups at St Wilfrid’s parish – St. Vincent de Paul Society, Faith and Justice Group, CAFOD, Ascent Group, Choir and Little Church.
The service at St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Church, Preston was open to anyone to attend, to reflect or pray on this issue.
Joseph Cooper, CAFOD parish volunteer and parishioner at St. Wilfrid’s RC Church, Preston said:
“This service was a reminder of the horror of the refugee situation in Europe and expresses our solidarity with all those worldwide who suffer and are fleeing violent situations to find safety and sanctuary.
“We had an opportunity to pray and reflect on the situation in Europe and people caught up in other conflict and oppressive situations worldwide. In particular, we focussed on the theme of children caught up in situations of conflict and unrest, especially those who travel unaccompanied.”
A cross made from shipwrecked boats in Lampedusa provided a focus for the reflections alongside Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament providing a sign of hope and solidarity with all refugee and migrant peoples. Messages of hope were composed and shared through CAFOD to Refugee communities in the UK and in Europe.
Patrick Gardner, CAFOD representative for Lancaster said:
“Through this service, organised by local volunteers, a feeling of welcoming refugees arriving in the UK and acting in solidarity, is created, as well praying for those far from our shores. As a community, I feel we are answering the call of Pope Francis to show our love for those who are suffering.”
As part of a campaign led by the Catholic charities CAFOD, CSAN and the Jesuit Refugee Service, Catholics of all ages in schools, churches and communities in Preston are also sharing messages of welcome, hope and love, which will be shared with refugees in the UK as an act of solidarity and dedicated at a special event to take place in November.
CAFOD’s representative in Preston, Patrick Gardner, said:
“The compassion shown by the people in Preston for those suffering is extraordinary. This is a very real way of showing solidarity and letting those who have been forced from their homes know that we do care.”
CAFOD is working with local partner organisations in Europe and beyond to provide practical help to those fleeing their homes, calling on the UK government to take a fair and proportionate share of refugees – from both within and outside the European Union – and pushing for the establishment of safe and legal routes to enable refugees to reach safety.
The three Catholic charities have together produced a pilgrimage reflection, featuring seven stages where communities can consider the plight of refugees and reflect on Scripture and the recent teachings of Pope Francis. The reflection can be used by the many dioceses that are planning pilgrimages as part of the Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis.
Want to understand more? Read our question & answer pages on the Year of Mercy and therefugee crisis, and find a short talk and newsletter announcement to introduce the issue and the action to your parish, school or group.