JRS Volunteer Marguerite recounts her enjoyment of attending a special event for migrants this month.
‘The Mass for Migrants has been celebrated every May bank holiday since 2006, when it was first introduced by the then Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor; at the suggestion of London Citizens. The Cardinal’s call at that Mass is for a more just treatment of migrants rooted in Catholic Social Teaching. Each year since then the event has reminded London of the invaluable contribution of so many migrants to the city’s society and economy. It offers a profound witness to the Church’s insistence that the dignity of the human person is God-given and never withdrawn and reminds us of the deep resonance with refugee and asylum seekers.’ (Extract from introduction in Mass booklet)
It was my privilege to be able to be there yesterday at a packed Westminster Cathedral. Before the Mass commenced the colourful and joyful procession of different migrant communities with their banners, music and dressed in their national clothes was indeed an Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia celebration. Bishop Patrick Lynch, one of the auxiliary bishops of Southwark, concelebrated with approximately fifty priests from Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood dioceses. It was noticeable that almost a third of the priests were from outside Europe. A blessing for our Church here in England and Wales today. VIPs included mayors/mayoresses from different boroughs of London, MPs, ambassadors of various countries and representatives from other faiths and Christian denominations. But THE VIPs were the migrants, each and everyone present from all over the world not only in this great city of London but in UK. Bidding prayers were in Polish, Mandarin, Swahili, French, Portuguese, Tagalog and English, a wee taste of the languages spoken in London churches. When the Our Father was prayed each according to their own native tongue, it did remind me of Pentecost! Poignantly, given recent events in his country, the Communion anthem was performed by a Ukranian soloist.
It would not do justice to Patrick Lynch’s profound homily to try to share what he said and I wish I had a copy to write it here. He quoted strongly from Evangelii Gaudium. He highlighted two main areas: Human Trafficking and Children of undocumented migrant workers, ‘no way in and no way out’ in their plight. Hopefully those present who have the clout to do something will not turn a deaf ear. As a volunteer at L’Arche and Jesuit Refugee Services, I have no clout, but that does not exempt me from not turning a deaf ear to God’s message for me. I found myself inspired, challenged, disturbed and consoled, all at the same time as I left the Cathedral and made my way to Colnbrook detention center for my weekly visit there.