Living the Call to Missionary DiscipleshipTuesday 14th March 2023
A parish community has won special recognition after striving to respond to Christ’s command to “love one another” in a very practical way.
As we head towards our third and final Hope in the Future deanery day this month, we’re delighted to share two inspiring projects from a parish community that is living out our call to missionary discipleship.
St Mary’s Parish in Horwich is celebrating a recent award from Age UK after years of providing fraternity and companionship for the local community through its popular Lunch Club Service.
The parish Lunch Club began in 2016 after former parish priest Fr Barry O’Sullivan spoke about Pope Francis’ call for parishes to take on a spirit of mission to engage with and respond to the needs of their communities.
Over the years, the Lunch Club has grown and developed to welcome more than 30 guests each week to enjoy a two-course meal with tea and coffee, a raffle, a game of bingo, and a sing song.
The club also has special celebrations for Christmas and various feasts, welcoming as many as 50 people from across the wider community on these wonderful occasions.
Recently, the club received a number of visits from a representative from Bolton Age UK, who found out a little more about the club and the wonderful impact it has on the Horwich community.
Joe Shepherd, one of the organisers of the Lunch Club – along with Ron and Liz Adamson and Maureen Morrisey – was thrilled when the group received an invitation to attend the Age UK AGM.
He said: “We received an invitation to attend Age UK AGM and I suggested we send two volunteers along, as they had shown so much interest in us. At the end of the meeting, the CEO gave a short speech praising our Lunch Club and presented us with the award. It was a complete surprise to us and we were shocked and delighted.”
Although led by the parish of St Mary’s, the Lunch Club is open to all within the Horwich community, helping to spread the joy and hope of Christ’s love to people beyond the pews.
Joe said: “Lunch clubs are important to our parishes because it gives people who are alone an opportunity to get out and meet others and enjoy some social life and make friends.
“We don’t push the fact that we are a Catholic organisation because we don’t have to – our club is held in The Rosary Room, which is immediately next door to St Mary’s church, and of course Fr Richard is a great supporter of our Lunch Club.”
Currently serving as parish priest of St Mary’s, Fr Richard is eager to encourage a very practical response to the Gospel by living out Christ’s call to “love one another”.
He said: “When we reflect on the Gospel and the example Christ set us during His ministry, our mission becomes clear: we are called to love one another.
“Throughout His ministry, Jesus never stopped drawing people to Himself, building a community of people that extended outside the walls of the temple or the synagogue to show love and service in a very practical way.
“Here at St Mary’s, I’m delighted to see how parish projects are responding to that command Christ gave by echoing His pattern of love and service in our own community.”
The Lunch Club is not the only parish project seeking to reach out to members of the community.
St Mary’s YCW (Young Christian Workers) Group is currently undertaking a special project to research how loneliness may be affecting people in the community and how the parish can help provide support and friendship to those feeling isolated and alone.
Leah Rowlinson, a member of the parish YCW, explained: “Loneliness was an issue that I was particularly passionate about, having experienced loneliness myself, and I have also seen others suffering without hope and in complete isolation.
“It is an issue which I think carries a lot of stigma that can make people feel reluctant to open up when they feel isolated and alone, thereby worsening the issue itself.
“As a group, we discussed loneliness and its origins together and soon came to realise that it is much more complex than just being on one’s own.”
The YCW Group then enlisted the help of Caritas Diocese of Salford to find out more about the particular needs and challenges of their community and how best to deliver our Christian mission of love and service to those around us.
Leah said: “It’s about linking what we read in the Bible to real-life action and how we should use our understanding of Biblical texts to change the way we live and help improve the lives of others.
Sharing the Hope
The work of both projects demonstrates the powerful impact parishes can have on the day-to-day lives of people in our communities.
Inspired by the practical response Jesus had during His own ministry, our diocesan Hope in the Future programme invites parishes to respond to this call by being true witnesses of our faith and beacons of hope for all.
Our fifth and final stage is a call to respond to Christ’s command to “love one another” in a very tangible way.
Through our series of deanery days, parishes are invited to work with our Department for Formation and Caritas Diocese of Salford to learn more about the needs of their community and prayerfully discern how best to respond with the resources available to them.
So far, our deanery days have brought together almost 100 people from across the diocese for a day of prayer, reflection, and a guided social activism planning activity to learn more about how parishes can respond to the call of missionary discipleship.
Our third and final deanery day is taking place on Saturday 18 March at St Peter’s RC High School in Manchester.
To find out more about the day and how to get involved, please click here.