Walk of Witness

Friday 6th July 2018

Ahead of this weekend Madonna del Rosario walk Fr Pual Daly writes on the place of walk of witnesses in today’s world:

Recently I was watching footage of the St. Joseph’s, Heywood, May Sunday Walks, 1949-1973. Somethings didn’t change over those years – the route walked – the bands taking part – the May Queen and her attendants – the statues carried by the men of the parish, the Children of Mary.

It was interesting, though, to note the changes on fashion over those decades, even when it came to Sunday best! Interesting too that whereas in the 1950s the children and young people were walking in line and in step, maybe as a legacy of the war generation, by the late 1960s they were much less regimented.

1973 was the last parish Walks, although the Churches did unite for a walk of witness in 2000. Are such public manifestations of religious faith best consigned to a former generation? I am not so sure.

This weekend (Sunday 8th July) is the Manchester Italian Association Madonna del Rosario walk in the City Centre. On the recent Spring Bank Holiday Monday the Manchester and Salford Whit Walks took place again in the City Centre. Time was when the Anglicans walked on Whit Monday and the Catholics on Whit Friday. For the first time this year an invitation was extended by the Anglican Diocese of Manchester to the Catholic Diocese of Salford and our Bishop to walk with them.  It is hoped that this walk of shared witness will grow year by year.

Both of those occasions are, for sure, religious, but that doesn’t mean they are overly solemn. The sight of Christians, or people of any faith, taking to the streets with smiles on their faces should be a challenge to any idea that faith is somehow sombre and life-inhibiting.

There is something about faith, properly understood, that excites us so much that we want to share it with others. I am not sure how many people stop and listen to street-corner preachers. Maybe crowds of joy filled people of faith simply celebrating that faith is the more powerful witness?

After all people take to the streets to protest; people take to the streets to welcome their winning team back to their home city; people take to the streets for all sorts of reasons. All of these add variety to the life of the city. Surely there is still a place in twenty first century Manchester for celebrations of religious identity and faith.

Fr. Paul Daly is Parish Priest of Our Lady and St. Joseph’s, Heywood, and Episcopal Vicar for Formation 

This article was first written for publication in the Manchester Weekly News on 5th July 2018.

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